KEARNEY, Neb. – The Saginaw Valley State
University football team ended their 2009 season with a
heartbreaking 35-20 loss to Nebraska-Kearney today (Nov. 14) in the
opening round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
The Cardinal defense got the game's first big play when Jeff Heath (Lake Orion, Mich.) intercepted a Jake Spitzlberger pass and returned it to the Saginaw Valley 47, but would be unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Saginaw Valley would find the endzone on its second possession, when Charles Dowdell (Ft. Wayne, Ind. / Indiana State Univ.) found Zach Cecich (Crown Point, Ind.) for his first career touchdown on a 16 yard strike with 6:53 remaining in the first quarter. Dowdell would finish the afternoon 14-of-22 passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He would also add 64 yards on 11 carries rushing on the afternoon.
The SVSU defense would get the ball back when Spitzlberger threw his second interception of the first quarter, this time to Carlton Down (Detroit, Mich. / Denby HS). Dowdell would connect with Galen Stone (Grand Blanc, Mich. / Swartz Creek HS) on a three yard touchdown pass to put the Cardinals up 12-0. Mike Peterson would then connect with John Jacobs (Prudenville, Mich. / Midland Dow HS) for a two-point conversion to extend the advantage to 14-0 with just over 13:00 minutes left in the second quarter. Stone would finish the game with five receptions for a total of 27 yards
The Cardinal defense would come up with its third takeaway of the game when Heath recovered a fumble on the Saginaw Valley 24 yard line. Heath would finish the day with one tackle, an interception and a fumble recovery. The Cardinals would then turn the ball back over to the Lopers on a bad hand-off from Dowdell to Xavier Walker (Bridgewater, N.J./Raritan HS), who finished the afternoon with 19 carries for 69 yards and had 84 receiving yards on six receptions.
The Lopers would cut into the SVSU lead on a 16 yard pass from Spizlberger to Tyrone Hilton with just 17 seconds left in the half. After the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, the Cardinals would get the ball at their own 40 yard line. Brandon Hayes (Saginaw, Mich. / Swan Valley HS) would break loose on a 15 yard run that would set-up a 44 yard pass from Dowdell to Nick Gallina (Troy, Mich.) to the one-yard line with just a second remaining on the clock. Gallina ended the game with 72 yards on three carries. Hayes would finish the drive with a one-yard TD plunge to give SVSU a 20-7 lead going into the locker room.
After a couple of possessions by both teams in the third quarter, the Lopers would cut the Cardinals' lead to 20-14 on a Rustin Dring 11 yard run late in the third quarter. Nebraska-Kearney would take the lead on a 17 yard Spizlberger pass to Brendan Liess to make the score 21-20 with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Loper lead would be extended when Spitzlberger hit Hilton for another TD and the 28-20 lead. Kearney would add a touchdown late to put the game out of reach.
The Cardinal offense ended the game with 38 rushes for a net total of 160 yards and 22 receptions for a total of 310 yards.
The SVSU defense was led by Jacobs, who ended the game with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Senior Mike LeVand (Grandville, Mich.) added 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss and a pass break up.
The Cardinals end the 2009 season with an overall record of 9-3. Nebraska-Kearney will travel to Duluth, Minnesota on November 21 to take on number one ranked Minnesota Duluth in an NCAA Division II Second Round match-up.