UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. - The SVSU football team had its home and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opening contest on Saturday night (Sept. 14). The Cardinals welcomed Malone University to town and came out on the winning end, posting a 59-20 victory over the Pioneers in front of 8,726 fans at Wickes Stadium.
It was the annual Red Feather Classic Game for SVSU, which was sponsored by the Fordney Club.
The Cardinals were first to strike in the game, as senior safety Jon Bryant (Detroit, Mich./Oak Park HS) broke through the line and blocked a punt. Bryant picked up the loose ball and returned it the remaining 10 yards for a touchdown, making the score 7-0 after a successful Scott Stanford extra point with 8:39 left in the first.
SVSU would score again at the 3:25 mark in the first as Jonathon Jennings (Columbus, Ohio/Westerville South HS) punched it in from a yard out to give the Cards a 14-0 advantage after the PAT. The highlight of the 8 play, 73 yard drive was a 48 yard hook-up between Jennings and senior wide receiver Jeff Janis (Tawas City, Mich./Tawas Area HS).
Malone would strike right back, however, as Lepear Smith took the following kickoff back 100 yards for a score. A failed point-after attempt made the deficit 14-6 for the Pioneers.
Saginaw Valley took its next possession and marched 75 yards on five plays, capping-off the drive with a two yard TD run from senior Mark Mays Jr. (Dayton, Ohio/Northmont HS). That made the score 21-6, and that's where it would stand after one full quarter of play.
The Pioneers' next drive ended in a punt that was deflected by red-shirt freshman Alfonso Vultaggio (Shelby Twp., Mich./Utica Eisenhower HS). The Cardinals' second block of the game resulted in a kick of just five yards, giving SVSU great field position at the Malone 41 yard line.
After three consecutive completions, the drive would end with a touchdown run by senior Norman Shuford (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison HS). A Stanford kick would make the score 28-6 with 12:04 remaining in the half.
Mays' second touchdown run of the game and fourth of the season, a 43 yard scamper, would come next for the Cards. He found pay-dirt from 43 yards out to extend the lead to 35-6.
A 37 yard touchdown catch from Janis at the 2:09 mark and an unbelievable grab by senior Mark Thrash (Wyoming, Mich./Wyoming Park HS) in the corner of the north endzone gave SVSU a 49-6 lead with just 33 seconds left until halftime.
Janis would finish the contest with 132 yards on just three catches and one touchdown. Thrash had 40 yards on a team-high four catches and a score.
Malone would open the scoring in half number two on a 19 yard Bryce Pratt run, making the score 49-13.
Vultaggio would then break through the Pioneer defense with 7:54 remaining in the third, scoring on a 35 yard pass hook-up with Jennings.
A 37 yard Stanford field goal with 6:58 left in the contest made the score 59-13. Stanford was a weapon all night for SVSU, recording six touchbacks out of 10 total kickoffs.
Malone would add a five yard score at the 2:45 marker in the fourth, making the score 59-20. That's where the game would finish, as Saginaw Valley depleted the remaining 2:39 left on the clock after the kickoff.
Jennings, the Meijer "Player of the Game", finished with 256 yards on just 13-of-18 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. He added a rushing touchdown in the contest as well.
Shuford had 102 yards on the ground with a touchdown while Mays rushed for 90 yards and two scores.
Senior linebacker Brian Johnson (Muskegon, Mich./Catholic Central HS) finished with a game-high 10 tackles. Bryant had eight stops to go along with the big punt block for a touchdown. Junior safety Caleb Higbie (DeWitt, Mich./DeWitt HS) added seven tackles and a sack for SVSU.
The defense held the Pioneers in-check through the air, as Malone finished with only 64 yards passing.
SVSU's record now stands at 1-1 overall and 1-0 in GLIAC play. The Cardinals return to action next Saturday (Sept. 21), as they travel to the University of Findlay (1-1, 0-1 GLIAC) for another league matchup. Kickoff is set for noon in Findlay, Ohio. The Oilers are coming off of a 41-31 loss at Northern Michigan.