The SVSU football team was unable to overcome a mix of elements and a strong No. 15 Ferris State team and dropped its Homecoming game 49-17 on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Losing the game, attended by 4,217 fans, dropped the Cardinals to 3-4 overall and 1-4 in the GLIAC.
“I thought our guys competed hard, we just didn’t make enough plays,” head coach Jim Collins said. “I told our team in the locker room that when you play a good team, you’ve got to make more plays than they make in order to beat them, and we didn’t do that today.”
Sophomore running back Tommy Scott Jr. had a big day on the ground for SVSU, carrying the ball 19 times for 82 yards, but the SVSU offense struggled mightily in the second half after a competitive first two quarters. Ferris State had several big plays on offense and special teams, both of which SVSU struggled to recover from.
“Ferris played really well today,” Scott said. “They made more plays than us, and they got the job done.”
After a block in the back penalty on the opening kickoff gave the Cardinals the ball on their own six-yard line to start the game, they were forced to punt on their opening drive.
Following a Ferris punt, SVSU’s second drive didn’t last long, as redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Conklin was intercepted by Ferris cornerback Jevonte Alexander, who returned the ball to the SVSU 18-yard line. That set up the Bulldogs for a touchdown several plays later on an end around to Davontae Harrington that put FSU up 7-0.
Conklin finished the afternoon 13-29 for 101 yards and the interception.
The next drive began promising, as Scott carried the ball for 26 yards to bring SVSU near midfield. An FSU pass interference penalty on a pass intended for redshirt freshman receiver Chad Gailliard brought SVSU into Ferris territory. The Cards converted on back-to-back fourth down plays before stalling out and settling for a 26-yard field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Drew Franklin, making it 7-3.
On FSU’s next drive, a 42-yard connection between Ferris quarterback Travis Russell and receiver Marquel Hines brought Ferris to the SVSU 25-yard line as time expired in the first quarter. An outstanding play in the backfield by junior linebacker Michael Alexander pushed Ferris into a long down-and-distance, but the Bulldogs found the end zone on the very next play on a connection from Russell to receiver Malik Taylor to make it 14-3 Ferris State.
Alexander led SVSU with nine tackles in the game, while linebacker Bryan Jones and defensive back Dillon Dixon added eight and seven, respectively.
“Ferris has a lot of playmakers,” Alexander said. “They made more plays than we did, and it comes down to individually improving each week and collectively getting better.”
After the teams traded punts, SVSU came up with a timely turnover with eight minutes left in the second quarter when Dixon forced and recovered a fumble to give the ball to SVSU in Bulldog territory.
Following a Cardinal illegal formation penalty, Conklin scampered away from pressure and took off on an incredible run, going 43 yards for a Cardinal touchdown and bringing SVSU within four, 14-10.
On the ensuing kickoff, a 68-yard return by Dion Earls set the Bulldogs offense up on the SVSU 25-yard line. Ferris wasted little time finding the end zone from there, as running back Jahaan Brown scored from seven yards out, making it 21-10 FSU.
The Cardinals handed the ball right back to Ferris on its next drive, as Scott fumbled. On the very next play, Ferris scored once again, as Russell found Taylor for a second time to make it 28-10.
“We did a pretty good job of stopping the run, but we fell victim to the big pass play,” Collins said. “It was tough to throw the football out there, but they were able to do it. They’ve got speed.”
Russell finished the game 18-28 for 255 yards and two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. Taylor had nine catches for 165 yards to go along with the two touchdowns.
Late in the half, Conklin found a wide open Gailliard for 37 yards to set up SVSU at the Bulldog 5-yard line. Running back Nate McCrary found the end zone on the very next play to shrink the FSU lead to 28-17. SVSU blocked a Ferris State field goal attempt as time expired in the half to keep the score unchanged.
The teams combined for 12 penalties in the first two quarters.
The rain continued to pour in the second half and passing the ball became a struggle. Both teams had trouble moving the chains for much of the third quarter as the elements played a large factor and led to dropped passes, errant throws and difficulty running the ball.
Ferris finally opened up the scoring in the second half with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter, as a one-yard touchdown run by Russell capped a three-play, 44-yard drive, making it 35-17 in favor of the Bulldogs.
The following SVSU drive ended quickly, as the Cardinals had to punt from their own end zone. The Tyler Marcus punt was blocked by the Bulldogs’ KC Zenner and recovered by Sam Heyboer, who returned the ball two yards for a Ferris touchdown, bringing the score to 42-17 in favor of the Bulldogs.
SVSU struggled on special teams throughout the day, dropping a kickoff, allowing a big kick return and having a punt blocked. Ferris dominated the field position battle for much of the game.
“We did not have great field position all day, and that hurt us,” Collins said. “We had some penalties in the kicking game that gave us some bad field position, and it’s tough to dig yourself out of starting drives inside the 10-yard line against a good football team.”
FSU padded its lead late in the fourth quarter on a Jevon Shaw 1-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring at 49-17.
Next week, SVSU travels to the Upper Peninsula for a date with Northern Michigan. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.