Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football team made a big comeback, but could not overcome a slow start as Saginaw Valley State spoiled FSU's homecoming with a 31-28 victory in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division showdown on Saturday (Oct. 5) at FSU's Top Taggart Field.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the opening half before the Bulldogs battled back to pull within three points with 2:46 to play. FSU could not come up with an onside kick attempt, however the FSU defense held on downs and the offense got the ball back with less than 30 seconds to play and a chance to win the game before the Cardinals intercepted a final throw down field with less than 10 seconds remaining to preserve the win.
The win was the fourth in a row for SVSU and snapped FSU's three-game win streak as the two teams entered the contest tied atop the GLIAC standings with identical 3-0 league records.
The Cardinals took advantage of a Bulldog special teams fumble early in the opening quarter and came away with a 20-yard field goal from Scot Stanford to take an early 3-0 edge.
SVSU pushed the edge to 10-0 at the end of one stanza as the Cardinals drove 56 yards in eight plays before senior quarterback Jonathan Jennings capped the drive with a one-yard scoring run.
The Cardinals increased the lead to 17-0 early in the second frame as Bulldog sophomore signal caller Jason Vander Laan was hit as he dropped back to pass and SVSU's Major Metcalf scooped up the loose ball and raced 42 yards to the endzone on the defensive score.
Then, later in the second quarter, a lengthy SVSU drive last nearly eight minutes and covered 93 yards as the Cardinals marched out of their own end and scored on a one-yard burst from Mark Mays with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter to make it 24-0.
The Bulldogs finally cracked the board with only 32 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the deficit to 24-7 at halftime as redshirt freshman tailback Kitwana Clark found paydirt from four yards away to finish a 79-yard drive that featured only fie plays and took just a 1:15 of clock time.
Ferris State received the second half kickoff and the Bulldogs pulled within 24-14 midway thru the third quarter as Vander Laan found senior tight end Jace Heneveld on a six-yard scoring connection. The throw capped a 75-yard drive in 15 plays for FSU.
However, Saginaw Valley State answered early in the fourth quarter by driving 86 yards in 15 plays to push the lead to 31-14 on Jennings' seven-yard scoring pass to tight end Andrew Dillon.
The Bulldogs, though, scored twice late in the game to pull within striking distance. Vander Laan led the Bulldogs down the field and hit slot Phil Annese on a six-yard TD pass with 8:01 left on a nine-play, 69-yard drive.
After getting the ball back later in the game, the Bulldogs needed only four plays to cover 40 yards before Vander Laan reached the endzone on a two-yard run to make it a three-point contest.
The Bulldogs suffered the setback despite totaling 403 offensive yards and limiting SVSU's potent attack to only 274 yards, which included only 38 carries for 45 yards. FSU had 160 yards rushing and the Bulldogs owned a 22-16 edge in total first downs.
Ferris State threw for 243 yards in the air as Vander Laan connected on 15-of-22 throws for 201 yards and two scores, but was intercepted twice. Slot receiver Dontae Ingraham also completed a pass to Annese, which was good for 42 yards and put FSU in the redzone.
On the Saginaw Valley State side, Jennings completed 19-of-26 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Jeff Janis had 10 grabs for 161 yards with Dillon catching five balls for 40 yards.
Annese caught five passes for 115 yards on the Bulldog side while Antonio Agurs grabbed five receptions for 73 yards and junior Jake Lampman had three catches for 32 yards. The Bulldogs were led on the ground by Vander Laan's 93 yards on 24 carries.
Meanwhile, Norman Shuford paced the Cardinals on the ground with 37 yards on 16 carries.
Defensively, linebacker Darnell Morris tallied a career-high 17 stops for the Bulldogs with end Justin Zimmer making 10 stops, including three for a loss of 14 yards and a quarterback sack. Junior backer Terrell Porter had eight stops for FSU and recorded both a sack and two tackles for loss.
Both Jon Bryant and Brian Johnson had 10 tackles each for the Cardinals in the 39th consecutive meeting between the two schools. SVSU evened the series 19-19-1 with the win, including a pair of Bulldog forfeit victories in the series.
The Cardinals finished a nine minute edge in possession time of which most came in the first half. They also capitalized on three Bulldog turnovers and scored all four times in which they reached the redzone. SVSU was nine-of-16 on third down conversions compared to a six-of-12 showing for the Bulldogs.
Saturday's game marked the fourth consecutive game between the two teams in which the outcome has been decided by four points or less or in overtime.
Ferris State will host archrival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic next Saturday (Oct. 12) at Top Taggart Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (ET) under the lights in Big Rapids.
Tickets for next Saturday's game may be purchased in advance at a discounted price over the gameday rates thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office inside the Ewigleben Sports Complex, which is open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) with extended hours on Wednesday until 7 p.m. In addition, tickets can also be bought online at StarTickets.com or by calling (800) 585-3737. For more information, please call (231) 591-2888.