University Center, Mich. - The Ferris State University football team suffered its first loss of the 2011 campaign on Saturday (Sept. 10) night as the Bulldogs dropped a heartbreaking 30-27 decision to Saginaw Valley State before a crowd of 8,173 fans in the "Red Feather" Classic at SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
The contest marked the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opener for both teams and for the second consecutive week, the Bulldogs' outcome was decided by three points. However, unlike last week's season-opening 20-17 win over preseason nationally-ranked Hillsdale, the Bulldogs came out on the short end of this week's decision.
The contest represented the first night game in SVSU history and the opening of the Cardinals' renovated facility with new turf and a video board among other improvements.
Saginaw Valley State drove 55 yards in 10 plays and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Jonathan Jennings to wideout Mark Trash with only 4:25 left in the outing to win the game.
Following the SVSU touchdown, the Bulldogs were held on three downs and elected to punt with just over three minutes to play. FSU held the Cardinals on three downs and it appeared the Bulldogs would get the ball back one more time in the final minute. However, on fourth down, SVSU's punt hit a Bulldog player downfield on the return and the officials determined the Cardinals recovered after a lengthy discussion, which preserved the victory.
Ferris State started quickly for the second-straight week as FSU scored on its first offensive possession of the night. Senior quarterback Tom Schneider directed the Bulldogs on a 93-yard jaunt in 12 plays and capped the drive with a one-yard plunge to give FSU a 7-0 edge with 5:42 to play in the first frame.
The Cardinals responded with a 52-yard march and Jennigs found tailback Ronnie Lark from 18-yards out to tie the game with 2:26 left in the initial period. SVSU took its first lead of the outing at 8:23 of the second quarter when Scott Stanford connected on a 24-yard field goal to make it 10-7 in favor of the Cardinals.
Ferris came back to grab a 14-10 edge as junior back Dwayne Williams was the recipient of a 12-yard TD pass from Schneider with just under five minutes left in the half as the Bulldogs drove 78 yards in nine plays.
Saginaw Valley State, though, used two late second quarter scores to take a 10-point edge (24-14) at halftime. Jennings founds Jeff Janis on a 56-yard scoring strike only two plays after the Bulldogs' score and then Lark scored from a yard away with 17 seconds left until halftime.
The Bulldogs fought back in the third quarter and cut the margin to 24-21 on a four-yard scoring toss from Schneider to sophomore tight end Jace Heneveld, which finished off a 70-yard drive in 10 plays.
Ferris then regained the lead with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter by driving 80 yards in nine plays before Skyler Stoker capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run to give FSU a 27-24 advantage.
The score stood up until the Cardinals' last TD march resulting in Thrash's TD catch in the corner of the endzone.
Both teams were able to move the football as SVSU rolled up 484 yards of total offense compared to 439 for the Bulldogs.
Schneider completed 28-of-34 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Jennings also had a big night for the Cardinals as he was 19-of-24 in the air for 310 yards and three scores, but was intercepted twice by the Bulldog defense.
Offensively, the Bulldogs were limited to 124 rushing yards as Stoker gained a team-high 49 yards on 17 carries. He also caught a team-best seven balls for 105 yards. Senior reciever Mike Ryan made five catches for 63 yards and Williams also hauled in five passes for 28 yards.
On the opposite side, Nick Gallina made eight receptions for 109 yards in leading the Cardinals. Thrash grabbed four receptions for 81 yards and a score. Lark paced SVSU on the ground with 76 yards on 18 carries.
Defensively, junior linebacker Tayo Moss made a team-high 11 tackles for FSU. Junior defensive back Jaime Berrera had 10 tackles and also intercepted a pass while junior linebacker Alex Brajak contributed nine tackles with seven solo stops.
Grant Caserta had a game-high 12 total tackles for SVSU while both Noah Sumpter and Jeff Heath totaled 10 hits each.
With the setback, the Bulldogs drop to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in league play this season. The contest marked the season opener for Saginaw Valley State and proceeds from the night went help support youth athletics in the Saginaw area as part of the annual "Red Feather" game sponsored by The Fordney Club.
Ferris State returns home to host Ohio Dominican next Saturday (Sept. 17) as the Panthers make their first-ever trip to Top Taggart Field for a 7 p.m. (ET) league tilt. It is being billed as "Agriculture Day" with several activities planned in celebration of "Football and Farming".