Senior QB Steve Short and junior halfback Phil Milbrath are hard to stop, let alone contain. After a turnover-prone sophomore season Short had 15 TDs against nine INT in 2008 and he really took ahold of Tom Kearly’s offense. He is at his best on the run, forcing defense’s to come after him or count on their secondary and linebackers to control the passing lanes. Milbrath was All-GLIAC last season averaging 134 yards every time out. They have two senior linemen who were honored by the conference last season, in Josh Frantti and Bill Behling.
They have a lot of size and speed at the right spots, but they have a tendency to give up some big plays.
They return a solid secondary led by a pair of All-GLIAC second-team selections in David Carmody and Drew Vanderlin. John van der Laan is one of the keys to the second level of the Tech defense: the linebackers. In 2008, van der Laan had 65 tackles and 3.5 for loss. Experience will be present on the line for the Huskies. Jake Klingelhutz totaled 24 tackles, including three for loss.
Short is 20-8 as a starter in his career and he has been playing in key contests since his freshman year. Tech is just 8-8 on the road the past three years, including a 37-0 blowout at the hands of the Chargers in 2007. The Huskies made just 30-of-41 extra points in 2008 and they were 2-for-2 on two-point conversions.
Troy Weatherhead looked like a new car fresh off the lot last weekend, with a full tank of premium gas (a.k.a. the offensive line) and a shiny set of wheels (i.e. plenty of talented, athletic wideouts). The junior QB is almost always accurate and a 67.5 percent completion rate last week is solid proof. The trouble is Weatherhead threw for just five TDs and six INT in the Chargers four losses in 2008, as opposed to 16 scores and four picks in wins. Senior back Vinnie Panizzi had 18 carries for just 57 yards last week, but he had 95 yards on 19 carries at Tech last year, close to his season average. The receiving trio of Mike Blanchard, Andre Holmes and A.J. Kegg should intimidate anyone. They had 69, 85 and 64 yards receiving respectively in week one.
The Chargers did give up 39 points to MTU last season. In 2008 they were low risk, low reward in Houghton, as they played the option conservatively and forced the Huskies to limit their mistakes. Freshman Nick Galvan had four tackles and two pass breakups last week — he could be one to watch.
Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the program knows they feel they should’ve been ranked ahead of Tech in the preseason coaches poll. How much extra pressure are they putting on themsevles? Also watch special teams. Last year Hillsdale could’ve tied Tech at 39 with a 43-yard field goal but the snap was botched and the kick never happened.
This is where the seperation of heart and mind takes place. In my heart I know the away team has won just one game in this series since 1996 and I know Hillsdale has been waiting a long time to make amends for last year’s game. Although Tom Kearly and Keith Otterbein share similar philosophies their current rosters seem to dictate that the Huskies take a few more risks. If the Chargers pressure Short consistently and wear down the MTU line I think they could reverse last year’s result. Unfortunately for Charger fans I think Tech is dialed in, experienced and ready for a big year.
MICHIGAN TECH 35, HILLSDALE 31