The Cardinal football team scored two fourth quarter touchdowns in a 21-20 comeback victory at home against the Truman State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinals and Bulldogs traded possessions for much of the first quarter. Eventually, the scoreboard was finally lit up by Bulldog kicker Josh Scheiderer from 32 yards out, giving Truman State the 3-0 advantage.
After hitting sophomore runningback Nate McCrary and sophomore wide receiver Chad Gailliard for 14 and 22 yards, respectively, junior quarterback Ryan Conklin responded with a five-yard rushing touchdown early in the next quarter, as the Cardinals took a 7-3 lead.
After a quiet first half, the Bulldog offense scored 17 unanswered points, leaving the Cardinals behind 20-7 early in the fourth quarter. These scores included two Jordan Salima rushing touchdowns and another field goal from Scheiderer from 36 yards on a drive produced by a recovered onside kick.
The Cardinals trimmed the deficit with a 19-play, 70-yard drive that was capped off by a three-yard rushing touchdown from Conklin, his second of the day, making it a one-possession game at 20-14.
With under five minutes to go, the Cardinal defense worked quickly, forcing a quick three-and-out and giving the offense a chance to win the game.
Conklin and the offense used 13 plays to reach the end zone, as the Cardinals knotted the score at 20 on a connection between Conklin and Gailliard in the back corner of the endzone with only 15 seconds left in the game. Freshman kicker Connor Luksic gave the Cardinals a 21-20 lead on his third consecutive successful PAT of the day.
The Bulldogs had enough game clock for two plays, the final one being a game-sealing interception by freshman cornerback Nick Whiteside.
Gailliard credited the team as a whole for the comeback win.
“We were able to persevere through with two clutch touchdowns down the stretch after our defense did a great job of getting us the ball back,” Gailliard said.
Conklin was named the Meijer “Player of the Game” for his 26-42, 229-yard passing effort, including the game-winning touchdown pass, paired with his team-high 41 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Marcus Edmondson and Gailliard had eight receptions with 85 and 73 yards, respectively. Defensively, seniors Dillon Dixon and Michael Alexander each recorded nine tackles.
Head coach Jim Collins was proud of the team, but knows there are areas to improve on.
“Our guys showed a lot today, and the hard work in the offseason pays off in a fourth quarter like that,” Collins said. “But we have to be more consistent. There is still a lot to work on, and we have to get back to work this week.”
The Cardinals (3-0) will face Wayne State (1-2) at home in SVSU’s Hall of Fame Game at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22.