Story and photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics
- Northern Michigan missed a 52-yard field goal on an untimed down on the game's final play to give Michigan Tech a 21-18 GLIAC football victory today at the Superior Dome. The Huskies (7-4, 6-4 GLIAC) led 21-10 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats (4-7, 3-7 GLIAC) stormed back into the game. Tech was called for roughing the passer as the clock ran to zeros, allowing NMU a chance to tie the game. The field goal fell short, sending the Miner's Cup back to Houghton for another year.
The game will go down as one of the closest in the 85-game series history between the teams.
"I think I lost three years off my life during this one," said head coach Tom Kearly, who completed his sixth season at the helm with a 37-26 record. "It came down to the wire, and (NMU quarterback Carter) Kopach had the ball in his hands. We were fortunate to get out of here with a win."
The game was a tale of two halves. Neither squad could score in the opening half in a defensive struggle. The offenses responded in the second.
NMU struck first with a 42-yard field goal by Rockne Belmonte after the Wildcats had returned the second half's opening kickoff to the Tech 38.
The visitors answered with a 91-yard touchdown drive. Tyler Scarlett hit Steve Worthy on a 58-yard pass on the first play of the drive, then capped it with a 16-yard TD pass to Worthy.
Northern Michigan marched right back with a 55-yard drive. Kopach gained 38 of those yards to set up Prince Young's two-yard scoring play for a 10-7 advantage at the 8:20 mark of the third quarter.
The Huskies regained the lead five minutes later on a trick play. Cedrick Barber received a backward pass from Scarlett, then fluttered one into the endzone to a wide-open Justin Springer. Garrett Mead added the extra point for a four-point advantage.
The score remained 14-10 until Akeem Cason burst through a gaping hole for a 63-yard touchdown run. The eventual game-winning score came with 11:01 remaining in the game.
Tech's defense forced NMU's third straight punt with 10:08 remaining, but couldn't sustain a drive. The hosts then drove 80 yards using a hurry-up offense. Young scored his second TD of the game with 3:01 to play, then added a two-point conversion rush to close the gap to 21-18.
The Huskies picked up a first down on their ensuing drive, but NMU used its three timeouts to eventually get the ball back at its own 20 with 1:01 showing.
Kopach moved the Wildcats to midfield with eight seconds left, then tried to heave one towards the endzone as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The pass was batted down, but Tech linebacker Ian Coughlin was called for roughing the passer. That put the ball at the Tech 35 for an untimed down.
Belmonte attempted a 52-yard field goal, but it missed short and left.
Tech claimed the Miner's Cup as the rivalry game's winner for the seventh time in its 10-year existence. The Huskies' 16 seniors finished with a combined record of 25-17 over the last four years and at least seven wins in three of those seasons
"Our seniors played great today," said Kearly. "I thought Worthy's long catch on our first drive of the second half was the play of the game. He's had a great senior year and been our go-to player."
Worthy tallied eight receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with eight touchdowns-one shy of the school record of nine.
Scarlett was 18-of-27 passing for 192 yards. Cason had a season-high 135 yards on 20 carries.
Tech outgained the Wildcats 395-to-267 in total offense. Senior Kenny Stiger led the defensive effort with 11 tackles. Jesse Vandenberg posted nine tackles in the game, getting the six he needed to become just the fifth player in school history with 300 career tackles.
Defensive end Drew Vanderlin, needing 1.5 sacks to tie that career record, had two tackles but no sacks.
Michigan Tech has wrapped up its 89th season of football.