A poor fourth quarter and several bad breaks on special teams came back to bite SVSU on Saturday afternoon as Michigan Tech came back to stun the Cardinals 28-24.
SVSU had the lead 24-14 entering the final quarter of play, but two Michigan Tech touchdowns, the second with only 1:08 left on the clock, proved to be the difference.
“We didn’t finish,” head coach Jim Collins said. “We had a terrible fourth quarter. Finishing is something we pride ourselves on, whether it’s in the weight room or conditioning or on the field in practice, and we didn’t live up to it today.”
The Cardinals missed two field goals in the contest, and three Michigan Tech punts pinned the SVSU offense inside its own 10-yard line in the back-and-forth game. SVSU fell to 2-2 on the year, while the win got the Huskies back to .500.
After the game opened with back-to-back punts, Michigan Tech began its second drive in SVSU territory. On the first play of the drive, Tech running back John Williams took his first carry of the game to the house for a 29-yard touchdown, making it 7-0 in favor of Tech.
Redshirt freshman running back Nate Moore got the SVSU offense going on its next drive, as he burst for 31 yards to bring the Cardinals inside MTU territory.
The strong rushing attack the Cardinals featured throughout the contest led to openings in the passing game, as redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Conklin turned in another strong performance through the air.
To cap the drive, Conklin found redshirt freshman wide receiver Marcus Edmondson for a 13-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven late in the first quarter.
Conklin finished the game 16-26 for 185 and a touchdown.
“We had a really good week of practice, and I feel like we were prepared for what they were going to do, and we were able to move the ball pretty well,” Conklin said. “We just had to finish. When we got down in the red zone, we couldn’t punch it into the end zone.”
On SVSU’s next possession, the offense drove all the way inside the Michigan Tech two-yard line on a 28-yard run by sophomore running back Tommy Scott Jr. However, the drive stalled from there, and SVSU had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from junior kicker Alex Kenrick to make it 10-7 in favor of the Cardinals.
SVSU’s special teams came up with a huge return following a punt on Tech’s next possession. Redshirt freshman receiver Chad Gailliard took the return 69 yards all the way to the Huskie 22-yard-line.
“After I caught it, I saw the whole right side of the field was all turf, so I just took off,” Gailliard said. “It was a good return ultimately.”
However, the Cardinal drive stalled once again, and Kenrick’s second field goal attempt of the day was no good, as SVSU was unable to capitalize on the good field position, sending the game to halftime with the Cardinals up 10-7.
After SVSU was forced to punt on its first drive of the second half, MTU quarterback Jake Brown found receiver David Falish for a 19-yard touchdown strike, capping an impressive drive that made it 14-10 in favor of Michigan Tech.
SVSU responded with two consecutive touchdowns, one on a 30-yard run from freshman Nate McCrary and the other a 13-yard scamper from Scott, making it 24-14 in favor of SVSU as the third quarter came to an end.
But Michigan Tech refused to go away. After an SVSU punt, Brown scampered for a long gain to bring MTU inside the Cardinal 10-yard line. Williams then found the end zone again to bring the Huskies back within three, 24-21.
Williams finished the game with 116 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns.
SVSU marched into Tech territory on its next drive, looking to put the Huskies away once and for all. However, the drive stalled at the MTU 11-yard line, and Kenrick’s field goal attempt was blocked, giving Tech the ball with less than four minutes to play.
“We had our opportunities,” Collins said. “We had a nice little drive there in the fourth quarter, and had we been able to finish that drive, it might’ve been a little bit different result.”
Michigan Tech stunned the Cardinal defense as it marched down the field using a mix of run and pass on an eight-play drive that was capped off by a Williams five-yard touchdown run to put Tech up 28-24 with just over a minute to play.
SVSU quickly moved the ball to midfield on the ensuing drive, but back-to-back sacks and an incompletion led to an SVSU turnover on downs, all but ending the contest.
Defensively, SVSU was led by junior defensive back Dillon Dixon and senior linebacker Bryan Jones, who each had six tackles a piece.
“It comes down to third downs,” Jones said. “That’s a time where we need to get off the field and get the ball to the offense. At times, we were making great plays, but we just needed to finish in the fourth quarter.”
Next week, SVSU travels to Allendale to take on the Lakers of Grand Valley in the annual Battle of the Valleys game. GVSU enters the game 3-1 following its 49-0 win against Northwood on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.