UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. - The Saginaw Valley State University football team welcomed the Northern Michigan University Wildcats to Wickes Stadium for a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) matchup on Senior Day. On the day when the team honored 16 student-athletes for their dedication to the program, it was the seniors who stepped-up big in the team's 52-17 win, clinching the program's third-straight GLIAC North Division Championship.
It was Saginaw Valley's second-straight game scoring over 50 points and fourth of the 2013 campaign. With the win, SVSU improves ot 9-1 overall with a perfect 9-0 mark in the GLIAC.
The contest didn't start as planned though for SVSU, with senior running back Norman Shuford fumbling the ball away on the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage. The defense stepped-up, however, and with Northern facing a second down and 11 to go, sophomore cornerback Travon Hamilton picked-off a Shaye Brown pass to get the ball back at the four yard line.
From there, the Cardinals would drive 96 yards on nine plays, finishing with a 31 yard touchdown pass from senior Jonathon Jennings to a fellow senior, wideout Jeff Janis. A successful PAT by junior Scott Stanford made the score 7-0.
The Wildcats would kick a 26 yard field goal on their next drive to cut the lead to 7-3.
The senior QB/WR combo would hook-up again for Saginaw Valley on its first drive of the second quarter. On the second play, Jennings hit Janis behind the defensive secondary for a 95 yard touchdown scoring play, giving them a 14-3 lead after the extra point.
Stanford would boot a 50 yard field goal on SVSU's next drive as the team was facing a fourth and nine from the Wildcat 33. It was his second field goal of 2013 from 50+ and is one yard shy of his career-best of 51 yards, which he set in a home game against Northwood University on October 12th.
On Northern's ensuing possession, senior safety Jon Bryant jumped an out route on third down and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 24-3. It was Bryant's second TD of the season, as he blocked a punt against Malone in the home opener and returned it for a score as well.
On the Cardinals' next offensive drive, Mark Mays punched it in from three yards to finish off a drive and make the lead 31-3 with 3:06 left in the opening half.
After the Wildcats punted the ball away their next drive, SVSU took over with just 1:25 left on the clock in the first half.
The Cardinals made quick work of nine plays, going 82 yards and capping the drive off with another pass play from Jennings to Janis, this one from 28 yards out. An extra point gave the team a 38-3 lead with 10 seconds left in the first half.
That's where the score would stand at the break.
Saginaw Valley got great field position on its first drive of the third quarter, as NMU failed to convert a fourth and one from its own 27.
On the fifth play, Jennings ran it in from six yards out to bump the Cardinal lead to 45-3.
Northern would score on its next possession, cutting into the lead at 45-10 at the 8:51 marker in the third.
SVSU's final score came with just 15 seconds left in the third quarter, as Jennings found Janis for their fourth TD connection of the afternoon, this time a seven yard score. A PAT made the lead 52-10.
The Wildcats tacked-on another TD to make the score 52-17 with 12:04 left in the game. That's where the scoreboard would stand until the clock struck zero, as neither team would score the rest of the way and Saginaw Valley closed-out for the 35 point victory.
The Cardinals piled-up 494 yards of total offense in the game while limiting Northern to 299 and a season-low 36 yards rushing. There was good balance for the SVSU offense, as the team had 280 yards passing and 214 on the ground.
Janis was named the Meijer "Player of the Game" after tallying 230 yards on eight catches and four touchdowns. The four TD's ties a school record he already shares with two other former Cardinals.
Jennings was 12-of-20 through the air for 280 yards and four scores. He added 53 yards rushing on eight carries with a TD. Jennings now has a career-high 30 touchdown passes on the season, as he continues to add to his GLIAC records for passing yards (9,240) and total offense (10,273) in conference games only.
Senior running back Norman Shuford led the ground attack for the Cards, rushing 17 times for 95 yards. Mays added 51 yards on 10 carries.
Brian Johnson, a senior linebacker, led the defense in tackles with 10 stops in the game.
Sophomore linebacker Trevor Blattner added eight tackles.
Junior defensive end Will Schwarz had six tackles and a sack, giving him 5.5 sacks on the season.
After sealing the North Division crown, the Cardinals look to claim at least a share of the overall GLIAC championship in their annual year-end battle with Grand Valley State University. SVSU travels to Allendale for a 1:00 pm showdown with the Lakers on Saturday, Nov. 16th. Saginaw beat GVSU in last year's regular season finale, 55-53, as Jennings hit Janis for a touchdown pass as time expired.