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Huskies football back home to close out non-conference play

David Archambeau/For the Gazette Michigan Tech wide receiver Ethan Champney looks for a hole to be created by his blockers during a game against Ferris State Saturday, Oct. 21, at Kearly Stadium in Houghton.

HOUGHTON — The Michigan Tech Huskies football team is back within the friendly confines of Kearly Stadium this Saturday to face a relatively unknown opponent in the Minot State Beavers in their final non-conference game of the season. The Huskies come into the weekend fresh off a 44-13 loss to No. 3 Grand Valley State.

The Lakers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Huskies responded with 10 points of their own in the second quarter to trail 21-10 at the half. In the second half, the Huskies had two key turnovers that quickly led to scoring plays for the Lakers, who scored four touchdowns in the half to pull away.

“First of all, GV is as good as advertised in all three phases,” said Huskies coach Dan Mettlach. “Having said that, I thought our guys played well, played hard, physical. Ultimately, what it came down to, even after you watch a film, too many mistakes. Obviously, the turnovers and giving up the fake punt, you can’t ever do that if you’re going to beat that kind of football team.

“(We had) too many missed assignments. I had some issues with (our) tackling in open space. So, all the things that you need to be able to do to win any football game get highlighted. Obviously, when you play the No. 2 team in the country, and with the weapons that they have, we have to play a complete football game to be in that one. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that for four quarters.”

The Huskies have suffered back-to-back losses to two of the best teams in the country in Ferris State and Grand Valley State, but that does not mean that Mettlach and his staff are satisfied with the results.

“I appreciate the fact that people are noticing the effort, the toughness that we play with,” he said. “Having said that, our locker room is not satisfied with just being in a game. We are not at that point yet. But, that is where we would like to get the program to, where we are competing for four quarters with those teams, to ultimately one day be able to beat them, to be able to be GLIAC champs again.

“We’re not there yet. We have to get some depth issues figured out. Our locker room knows that.”

Even though there is still a ways for the Huskies to go, Mettlach likes the fight his team shows week in and week out.

“I felt like our approach to the game, the way we travel, the way we showed up against Ferris, the guys, there’s a belief in the locker room, our leadership, and our culture down there, right now is exactly what we talked about going into the fall,” he said. “We feel like we can play with anybody. We’re not going to back down to anybody. I did not feel like we were overwhelmed at all in the last two weeks.”

At the same time, the Huskies are still making some mistakes that can cost them opportunities.

“Unfortunately, there’s some situations where again, going back two weeks ago, we give up a blocked punt to Ferris, we missed a wide open guy in the first half for a touchdown,” said Mettlach. “There’s just things that in the last two weeks, when you’re playing that caliber team, you cannot leave those opportunities out there, regardless of what phase of the game we’re talking about.”

One player on offense who has grown quite a bit over the past four weeks is freshman receiver Nic Nora. Nora had been used primarily on special teams until he earned his first catch at Wayne State on Oct. 7. He had another catch at Northern Michigan the following Saturday before making two catches against Ferris State, and then leading the Huskies with five catches for 54 yards against Grand Valley State.

“Nic has been great since he got on campus,” Mettlach said. “We saw flashes of it in early camp. So you kind of go through that phase of are you going to use three games, the redshirt rule, are you going to pull the redshirt? Ultimately, we decided to pull the redshirt and let him go.

“He’s been steadily maturing and getting better in our offense. Obviously, his role has increased here over the last couple of weeks, but he’s never, since he’s gotten here, been scared of the moment, whether it be making a play on special teams, or going after a football.”

SCOUTING THE BEAVERS

The Beavers come into Kearly Stadium Saturday with a record of 1-8 overall and 1-8 in NSIC play. Their one win this season came against Concordia-St. Paul on Oct. 14.

They have primarily used two quarterbacks in junior Dawson Macleary and freshman Dondrae Fair. Macleary has gone 29-of-63 for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Fair has gone 16-of-40 for 296 yards.

Freshman running back Myles West leads the ground game with 144 carries for 678 yards and five touchdowns. Junior running back Evan Lovett has rushed 46 times for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Daniel Stokes has been the quarterbacks’ favorite target this season with 14 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns.

GAME TIME

The Huskies and Beavers will face off Saturday at 1 p.m. at Kearly Stadium in Houghton.

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