UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. - The Saginaw Valley State University football program came through when it mattered most for a 28-24 comeback victory in the final minutes of regulation to defeat the No. 8 Valdosta State Blazers in the 2012 season opener.
The thrilling victory saw the Cardinals (1-0) open their season against one of the perennial powers in all of Division II football in front of 4,891 fans at Wickes Stadium.
After trading possessions to start the contest, Valdosta State (0-1) was able to put a drive together and light up the scoreboard first on a 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback Cayden Cochran to put the Blazers up 7-0.
SVSU was able to even the score early in the second quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass by Jonathon Jennings (Columbus, Ohio/Westerville South HS) to junior wide receiver Jeff Janis (Tawas City, Mich.) with 10:07 to play in the half. Jennings would finish the night with 378 yards on 37-of-56 passing including four touchdowns.
The Cardinals would turn the ball over to the Blazers on the four-yard line on a bad snap fumble with 4:20 left in the half that would give Valdosta State great field position. The Blazers would find paydirt just one play later on an Austin Scott run up the middle to take a 14-7 lead.
The Cardinal defense would force the Blazers into a four-and-out and get the ball back on their own 39 yard line. From there, Jennings would go to work on the Valdosta State defense completing five-of-six passes for 61 yards that was capped off by a 22-yard touchdown strike to Janis to knot the game at 14-14 heading into the intermission. Janis would finish the game with 14 catches for 167 yards and three scores.
After trading possessions to start the second half, Saginaw Valley took its first lead of the game at the 8:40 mark of the third quarter on a 24-yard touch-pass from Jennings to Janis, putting the Cardinals ahead 21-14. It was the third touchdown connection between the two Cardinals.
SVSU's lead would be short lived as Valdosta State struck back just 33 seconds later on a 70-yard completion from second string quarterback Graham Craig to Seantavious Jones to even the score at 21-21.
After forcing a punt, Valdosta State took the lead back on a 32 yard field goal to put the Blazers up 24-21 with just seconds remaining in the third.
On the ensuing possession, the Cardinals drove down to the Blazers five yard line before Jennings threw an interception that would end the scoring threat.
After exchanging punts, SVSU received the ball with just over four minutes to go. Jennings orchestrated an 11 play, 80 yard drive to give the Cardinals the go-ahead lead on a 27 yard completion to Meijer "Player of the Game" Michael Albrecht (Midland, Mich.) to take the 28-24 edge with just over one minute to play. The scoring drive featured a fourth down and long conversion from Jennings to Janis to keep the Cardinal hopes alive. Albrecht finished the contest with 11 receptions for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Valdosta State responded by taking the following kickoff close to midfield. However, the Cardinal defense would stand tall and secure the victory as a fourth down heave to the endzone by the Blazers went just out of reach.
The Cardinal offense was pushed to full capacity tonight as they ran a total of 91 plays for 459 compared to just 67 plays for the Blazers. Saginaw Valley was 11-of-20 on third down conversions, including two-for-two on fourth down conversions.
Saginaw Valley will look to keep their momentum going as they travel to Malone for a first-ever matchup with the Pioneers. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM on Saturday (Sept. 8).