By ANDY WOLF
Visiting teams rarely go up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and have their way with the host, be it Northern Michigan or Michigan Tech.
The University of Findlay football team did so and then some.
The Oilers opened up a 38-0 halftime edge and led by as much as 52-0 before routing Michigan Tech 59-21 Saturday at Sherman Field in Houghton, Mich.
“You look at Michigan Tech, a team that has won 70 percent of its games in the last six years, nobody goes in and does what we did to them,” UF coach Rob Keys, winless in three previous UP trips, said. “Crossing the (Mackinac) Bridge is a satisfying victory to do it against a quality Tech opponent. It’s very rare to see a team dominate Tech the way we did.”
Findlay finishes at 6-5 overall for the second-straight season. Michigan Tech ends up at 4-6 overall, its first losing season since 2009.
The Oilers also played their final Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game, making an emphatic exit before moving to the Greater Midwest Athletic Conference next season.
“It’s kind of bittersweet moving into the new league,” Keys said. “Finishing 6-5 and the record doesn’t indicate how good this team is. I appreciate seniors and all they’ve done.”
The dominating first half included 234 rushing yards on 37 carries with Chauncey Bridges (103) and Daouda Sylla (123) topping the century mark.
The well was full all game long, as 58 of UF’sr 81 plays were runs, amassing 435 rushing yards — their highest single-game total since 425 in 2013 against Lake Erie.
“I thought we could control the line of scrimmage and we dominated,” Keys said. “We did and were fairly balanced in the first half. The weather was perfect. It was unseasonably warm. When run game started it’s tough to go away from it.”
Sylla led the way with a career-high 169 yards on 22 carries and had scoring runs of 1, 49, 4 and 29 yards, the last two in the third quarter.
Bridges added 161 yards, totaling 1,229 yards for the season.
As productive as the run game was early, the defense set the tone for Findlay’s good fortunes right away.
Michigan Tech fumbled the ball away on its very first offensive play, forced by Justice Jenkins and recovered by Francis Cutchember.
The Oilers proceeded to march 34 yards in 10 plays, capped by Sylla’s 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal.
UF’s next drive was just as long, going 12 plays and 65 yards ending in Jason Moore’s 7-yard touchdown catch from Rhys Gervais.
“We were in control most of the game,” Keys said. “Fast starts are very important … and I like the way the guys kept the foot on the gas.”
A 14-0 edge stood through the rest of the first quarter in which UF held possession for over 11 minutes.
The Oilers tacked on three touchdowns on their next three drives to take a 31-0 lead into the locker room.
Sylla took a 49-yard dash to the house and Moore hauled in his second touchdown from Gervais, this from 3 yards out. Gervais closed out the first half with a 1-yard rushing score.
Moore’s touchdowns, giving him 15 in 2016, broke the UF single-season touchdown receiving mark of 14 set by Rick Hatfield in 1979. Moore also broke the single-season receiving yardage mark at 1,115.
“He didn’t have the huge numbers (today) but over 11 games he is one of the most consistent and dominant receivers in the league,” Keys said of Moore.
Markell McCoy scored his first UF touchdown on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Findlay High product and UF senior Dylan Blunk had three catches for 33 yards, giving him 157 receptions for his career, second-best all-time.
Kevin Miller totaled 158 rushing yards for MTU, scoring in the fourth quarter on runs of 58 and 2 yards.
Myles Alexander led UF with 10 tackles and 11/2 sacks.
“Credit to the defense. The improvement has been consistent from start to finish,” Keys said, complimenting his run defense. “We took out (that) aspect and forced Tech into a passing team, who doesn’t want to throw it that much.”
Findlay 14 24 14 7 — 59
Michigan Tech 0 0 7 14 — 14
UF — Sylla 1 run (Bugeja kick)
UF — Moore 7 pass from Gervais (Bugeja kick)
UF — Bugeja 30 FG
UF — Sylla 49 run (Bugeja kick)
UF — Moore 3 pass from Gervais (Bugeja kick)
UF — Gervais 1 run (Bugeja kick)
UF — Sylla 4 run (Bugeja kick)
UF — Sylla 29 run (Bugeja kick)
MTU — Williams 53 run (King kick)
MTU — Miller 58 run (King kick)
UF — McCoy 5 run (Bugeja kick)
MTU — Miller 2 run (King kick)
First Downs: Findlay, 26; Michigan Tech, 15
Rushes-Yards: Findlay, 58-435; Michigan Tech, 38-257
Passing Yards: Findlay, 155; Michigan Tech, 66
Comp.-Att.-Int.: Findlay, 16-23-0; Michigan Tech, 8-15-0
Punts-Avg.: Findlay, 3-32; Michigan Tech, 4-39.5
Fumbles-Lost: Findlay, 0-0; Michigan Tech, 3-2
Penalties-Yards: Findlay, 3-40; Michigan Tech, 3-13
RUSHING — Findlay, Sylla 22-169, Bridges 20-161, Campbell 7-68, Bertke 2-15, McCoy 3-14, Gervais 4-8. Michigan Tech, Miller 15-158, Williams 9-83, Brown 1-9, Cowie 1-9, Henderson 3-9, VanGoethem 1-1, Hackney 7-(minus-12).
PASSING — Findlay, Gervais 11-17-0-122, Bertke 5-6-0-33. Michigan Tech, Hackney 5-11-0-47, Cowie 1-2-0-10, Brown 2-2-0-9.
RECEIVING — Findlay, Moore 6-38, Blunk 3-33, Kosak 2-39, Federico 2-17, Stuffel 1-16, Merriweather 2-12. Michigan Tech, Walter 3-18, Fischer 2-14, Wenzlick 1-12, Falish 1-11, Wienke 1-11.
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