UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. - In a matchup between the top-two scoring teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) heading into play on Saturday, it was assumed that the game between the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals and the Lake Erie College Storm would be a high-scoring affair. That assumption proved correct, as the Wickes Stadium scoreboard got a workout in SVSU's 51-41 victory over the visitors from Painesville, Ohio.
The game featured 1,131 yards of total offense and 169 offensive plays, with Lake Erie running 110 of those plays.
The Cardinals would strike first in the game, as redshirt freshman Alfonso Vultaggio (Shelby Twp., Mich./Utica Eisenhower) was on the receiving end of a Jonathon Jennings (Columbus, Ohio/Westerville South) pass hook-up for a 48 yard touchdown, Vutaggio's second of the season. The extra point kick by Scott Stanford (Novi, Mich./Novi) made the score 7-0.
The Storm evened the score at 7-7 with a Donnie Eatmon 8 yard touchdown run with just under two seconds left in the first quarter.
Jennings would drive SVSU 85 yards on nine plays to begin the second quarter and finished the drive with a four yard touchdown run of his own, making the score 14-7 in the Cardinals' favor after the PAT.
After a Lake Erie fumble on its next drive that gave Saginaw Valley the ball at the Storm 35 yard line, junior tight end Andrew Dillon (Ypsilanti, Mich./Lincoln) made a one-handed catch that went for 32 yards and put SVSU at the three yard line. Senior Norman Shuford (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison) punched it in from there on his second attempt to extend the Cardinal margin to 21-7.
After another Storm score with 6:07 left in the second quarter to make the score 21-14, freshman David Nay (Galion, Ohio/Galion) found the endzone from four yards out for his first-career score in an SVSU uniform. The big play on the 4 play, 65 yard drive was a 44 yard Shuford run.
The game's next score came with just 59 seconds left in the opening half, when Shuford ran for his second touchdown of the game, giving SVSU a 35-14 lead heading into halftime.
Shuford finished the night with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
Lake Erie took its first drive of the second half 75 yards downfield and scored on an Anthony Bilal rush, cutting the deficit to 35-20.
On the ensuing extra point attempt, senior Christian Babini (Rochester, Mich./Adams HS) broke through the line and blocked the kick. Fellow senior Jon Bryant (Detroit, Mich./Oak Park HS), who seems to have a knack for big returns on special team blocks, picked-up the ball and took it to the house, cashing-in a two-point PAT return for SVSU. That turn of events made the Cardinal lead 37-20 at the 11:43 mark in the third.
Lake Erie fumbled on its next possession and senior defensive end Will Schwarz (Troy, Mich./Troy) recovered the ball, giving SVSU great field position once again at the Lake Erie 44 yardline.
Schwarz had a stellar game defensively for Saginaw Valley, recording 10 tackles with five tackles for loss, including four sacks with a forced and recovered fumble. That effort earned him "Meijer Player of the Game" honors.
SVSU's first play from scrimmage on that next drive was a pass to senior wideout Jeff Janis (Tawas City, Mich./Tawas Area) on a post route that went for a 44 yard touchdown, giving the Cardinals a 44-20 advantage.
The Cardinals forced Lake Erie to punt on its next drive, but the short punt bounced-off an SVSU blocker and it was recovered by the Storm near mid-field.
That great field position turned into a score for Lake Erie, as they had a 14 yard pass play that cut the SVSU lead to 44-26 after a failed two-point conversion.
The Cards turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, giving Lake Erie the ball on their own 45.
Another TD pass on that drive and a conversion on the two-point effort made the score 44-34.
SVSU would respond once more, however, as Jennings punched-in another rushing TD from two yards out with 9:06 left in the game. Another Stanford PAT made the Cardinal lead 51-34.
On Lake Erie's next drive, junior linebacker Major Metcalf (Muskegon, Mich./Catholic Central) forced a fumble on the goal line to end a great scoring chance for the opponent and give SVSU the ball back.
The Cardinals punted the ball away and Lake Erie used another Bilal rushing TD to make the score 51-41 with 2:52 left in the contest.
That score would prove to be final, as a failed Storm onside kick and final drive after a Cardinal punt produced no more points.
Jennings was very efficient through the air in the game, making good on 12-of-16 pass attempts for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He added two rushing TD's for four total. He currently leads the GLIAC with 299.0 yards passing per game and 11 touchdowns.
Janis had five receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Brian Johnson (Muskegon, Mich./Catholic Central) posted a career-high 16 tackles defensively for SVSU. Bryant added 11 while sophomore Trevor Blattner (Battle Creek, Mich./Harper Creek) and junior Caleb Higbie (DeWitt, Mich./DeWitt) each added 10. Higbie's 10 was also a career-high in tackles.
Stanford was again a weapon in the kicking game, sending six of his eight kickoffs for touchbacks.
With the victory, SVSU's record now stands at 3-1 overall and 3-0 in the GLIAC. The Storm fall to 1-3 overall with a 1-2 mark in conference play.
The Cardinals travel to Ferris State on Saturday (Oct. 5) in a matchup of the two teams atop the GLIAC North standings with 3-0 records. The Bulldogs are coming off a 59-16 victory at Walsh. Kickoff is set for 2:00 pm in Big Rapids, Mich.