Cards earn much-needed victory, 20-12

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The SVSU football team got back on track Saturday with a win over GLIAC foe Northern Michigan.

The 20-12 victory brought SVSU’s record back to .500 at 4-4 and marked the team’s second road win of the year as it made the trip to the Upper Peninsula and the Superior Dome.

Offensively, sophomore running back Tommy Scott Jr. and redshirt freshman receiver Chad Gailliard both exploded as the Cardinals gained 416 yards of total offense.

“The offensive line played really well (Saturday),” Scott said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage, which made my job easier. Also, we were able to open it up a little in the passing game, which helped our offense as well.”

Scott gained 140 yards on 26 carries and scored one of SVSU’s two touchdowns. Gailliard scored the other touchdown for the Cardinals to go along with a career-high 13 catches for 229 yards.

“Chad and Tommy both had outstanding games,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Conklin said. “Our offensive line had a great game, which opened up holes for Tommy. They also protected about as well as you could, which allowed Chad time to get open and make big plays throughout the entire game. The future of the offense has some serious talent.”

After the teams traded punts in the game’s opening quarter, SVSU got on the board with a Drew Franklin 20-yard field goal to put the Cardinals in front 3-0 early in the second quarter.

An SVSU punt on its next drive gave NMU great field position, and the Wildcats answered with a field goal of their own to tie the game at three.

With the clock running out in the first half, the Cardinal offense put together a six-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by Conklin’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Gailliard with 48 seconds remaining to send the Cardinals into the locker room up 10-3.

“We constantly talk about being able to go on the road in the GLIAC and how tough it is to win, and today we rose to the occasion and got it done,” head coach Jim Collins said. “Chad did a great job of getting open against their (defensive backs), and our line and backs gave Ryan the time to make throws.”

Entering the game, Northern Michigan’s running back Jake Mayon was the GLIAC’s leading rusher. However, the SVSU defense stifled him throughout the game and held him to just 33 yards on 18 carries, his second-lowest total of the season. Entering the game, Mayon had rushed for over 200 yards in three separate games, including a 219-yard performance against Tiffin on Oct. 14.

“Right now, our defense is doing a great job against the run, and to hold them to 12 points was big,” Collins said.

After NMU added a field goal in the third quarter to make it 10-6, SVSU scored a long-awaited touchdown on Scott’s nine-yard scamper. The touchdown was set up by a 65-yard connection between Conklin and Gailliard.

Northern Michigan kept the game close as it put together a touchdown drive of its own. The ensuing possession saw a 61-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Ryan Johnson to Ryan Knight to bring the Wildcats within five. However, a failed two-point conversion kept it a one-touchdown game.

SVSU added an insurance field goal on its next drive, going 61 yards in eight plays to set up Franklin’s second made field goal of the game. Franklin, a redshirt freshman, has yet to miss since taking over as field goal kicker for SVSU.

The teams traded punts until late in the game, when NMU had one last shot at tying the game down eight. Johnson completed five straight passes as the Wildcats drove quickly into SVSU territory. However, on a fourth-and-21, Johnson was intercepted by SVSU’s Ryan Verhelst at the SVSU 1-yard line to seal the win for SVSU.

“I knew it was going to be very important for our team to be able to travel to the Upper Peninsula and get this win,” Collins said. “We talked about moving forward after the disappointment last week, and we have. Now (Tiffin) becomes our most important one. Today was definitely big for us.”

Defensively, SVSU was led by linebackers Justin Whitted and Michael Alexander, who had eight and seven total tackles, respectively. Junior defensive back Dillon Dixon added four.

“It’s always big to get a win, especially with the long road trip to the Upper Peninsula,” Dixon said. “I’m pleased that we were able to finish the game with an interception on defense and hold the top rusher in the league well below 100 yards.”

Next weekend, SVSU hosts Tiffin in its final home game of the season. Tiffin enters the game 5-3 following a 38-24 loss to Ashland. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

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