Tech facing high-tempo Homecoming game

HOUGHTON – Members of the Michigan Tech defense could be forgiven if they indulged in some schadenfreude Thursday night as the Philadelphia Eagles lost a bit of their shine with a turnover-filled loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Because it is due to Chip Kelly – and his Blur offense principles that are sweeping the nation – that Husky defenders have left practice for four straight days seeing double.

You see, Walsh coach Ted Karras is a fan of former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. A big fan. In fact, disciple is probably the more accurate word.

Off to a 1-1 start in his first season at the helm of the Cavaliers, Walsh has averaged 105 plays per game and nearly 500 yards on offense in an attack that stretches the Chip Kelly tempo tenets to the breaking point. For perspective, the Huskies offense saw the field for 85 plays in last Saturday’s win over Tiffin with nearly three more minutes possessing the ball than Walsh.

As a result, the Tech coaches prepared a peculiar practice schedule this week in an effort to prepare for the Walsh sprint. The Huskies No. 1 defense would face the No. 1 offense for one play, and then immediately lineup against the No. 2 offense after the play was blown dead. Rinse, repeat, and possibly curse Kelly under your breath.

“Guys just get gassed when we do that,” Tech defensive coordinator Tim Driscoll said with a wry smile. “Then they have to think on their feet and make adjustments and see different things like that. That is a big part of these high-tempo offenses, is when they extend a drive they think they have the advantage with the defense tired. you have to fight through it.”

“We have worked on that all week, whether it is successful or not we will know on Saturday,” Michigan Tech coach Tom Kearly added.

Along with the hyper-speed tempo, the look of Walsh’s offense greatly mirrors what Kelly has done with the Eagles and Ducks.

Quarterback Paul Kempe leads the team in both passing attempts and rushing attempts per game. Kempe lines up almost exclusively in the shotgun. Read-option, bubble screens and wide receiver sweeps all feature in the Cavaliers game-plan. The emphasis is on getting playmakers the ball in space, and gambling your guys will win the majority of the time.

The goal for Tech will be the same it is for every defense facing a up-tempo offense. Get off the field early before the Cavaliers begin to roll. Tackle soundly and with authority. And most of all, get lined up as soon as the play is blown dead.

“We need to get off the field on our third-downs,” Driscoll said. “But mostly it is focusing on each play, and just getting lined up right. You see guys looking around, saying I should have done this or done that, but there is no time for that against a tempo team. Once a play is done, its done, because they will snap the ball when you are not ready.

“You have to be mentally tough.”

Against Tiffin, the Huskies rediscovered some of the ground-game mojo that has been absent from the offense the past two seasons with junior running back Charlie Leffingwell toting the ball 33 times for 192 yards and a pair of scores in the 40-14 victory.

That success churning out yards will be even more imperative Saturday, with good offense leading to a rested defense.

“Controlling the clock and keeping our defense off the field is crucial,” Leffingwell said. “The defense is going to face a much harder test this week. So as an offense we need to control the clock and the pace of the game.”

From Leffingwell’s point of view, the most impressive part of the 40-point outburst was the way the Huskies controlled the game physically in the second half.

Tech wanted to run the ball. Tiffin knew Tech wanted to run the ball.

The Huskies finished with 259 rushing yards on 54 attempts.

“We were ahead and we just kept at it. They knew we were going to run the ball, but we just kept beating them. Just to have the juice to keep going was great,” Leffingwell said.