MARYVILLE, Mo. - The #22 Saginaw Valley State University football team hit the road to take on the #4-ranked Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats in a top-25 matchup to begin the 2013 season. The Cardinals came out on the losing end of things, falling by a score of 45-24 in the season opener in front of a crowd of 6,821 at Bearcat stadium.
SVSU received the opening kickoff and used a 34 yard return by junior Major Metcalf Jr. (Muskegon, Mich./Muskegon Catholic Central HS) to get the drive started at the Cardinals' own 43 yard line. They turned the opening possesion into a 10 play, 46 yard drive that resulted in a 28 yard field goal by junior Scott Stanford (Novi, Mich./Novi HS), giving the Cards a 3-0 lead to start the contest with 11:21 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bearcats responded quickly, as Billy Creason punched-in a two yard run to cap-off a nine play, 75 yard drive which ended with 7:51 left on the clock in the quarter.
Saginaw Valley would tack-on its first touchdown of the night next, as senior Jeff Janis (Tawas City, Mich./Tawas Area HS) snuck by a couple defenders and scored on a 14 yard reverse play at the 3:56 mark.
The Bearcats would post the next two scores, both touchdowns in a span of 33 seconds. Robert Burton scored on an 8 yard rush first with 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Then, with SVSU punting from its own four yard line, Northwest blocked the kick and Jayron Robinson fell on the ball in the endzone for the second score at the 14:56 mark in the second, making the score 21-10 in favor of Northwest Missouri State.
The Cardinals cut the deficit to 21-17 after senior Jonathon Jennings (Columbus, Ohio/Westerville South HS) hit fellow senior Mark Mays Jr. (Dayton, Ohio/Northmont HS) out of the backfield to connect on a 52 yard touchdown.
Burton would score his second rushing touchdown next for the Bearcats, pushing their advantage to 28-17 with 2:32 remaining in the first half.
Jennings would march the Cardinals right back down the field, hitting seniors Michael Albrecht (Midland, Mich./Midland HS) and Mark Thrash (Wyoming, Mich./Wyoming Park HS) on passes of 26 and 22 yards, respectively, to get down inside Bearcat territory.
With 22 seconds left in the half, Stanford lined up for a 35 yard field goal that could have cut the deficit to 28-20. A muffed snap resulted in Stanford rushing the ball, only to fumble at the Northwest Missouri 30 yard line. Brandon Dixon picked the ball up for the Cats, returning it the remaining 70 yards for their second touchdown off of an SVSU special teams mis-hap.
That made the score 35-17 with 10 seconds left in the half, and that's where the score would remain heading into halftime.
Saginaw Valley used Mays Jr.'s second touchdown of the game, a 17 yard rush, to open scoring in the second half and make it a 35-24 count at the 11:40 marker in the third quarter.
Northwest Missouri State, however, would strike quick on a 70 yard pass play from Trevor Adams to Clint Utter only one minute and 21 seconds later to push the lead to 42-24.
The Bearcats would tack-on a 22 yard field goal at the 14:58 mark in the fourth quarter to end the scoring for the contest, making the final score 45-24.
The Cardinals had three turnovers and a blocked punt, resulting directly in 14 points for the Bearcats.
Jennings was 20-for-37 passing on the night with 306 yards and a touchdown.
Mays Jr. had 79 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, his first two career in an SVSU uniform.
Albrecht led all receivers with a game-high six receptions for 67 yards. Thrash had five catches for 65 yards. Janis was held to three receptions for 49 yards and added his second-career rushing touchdown on his 14 yard scamper in the first quarter.
Senior linebacker Brian Johnson (Muskegon, Mich./Muskegon Catholic Central HS) led the defensive attack, registering a team-high eight tackles. Fellow senior Jon Bryant (Detroit, Mich./Oak Park HS) had seven stops while senior DeAngelo Parris (Clinton Twp., Mich./Warren De La Salle HS) and Metcalf Jr. each had six tackles.
The Cardinals (0-1) host Malone University (0-0) on Saturday, Sept. 14 for a home contest in the team's annual Red Feather Classic Game. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm at Wickes Stadium. There is a Softball and Baseball Community Youth Day scheduled for 5:30 pm before the contest.