UNIVERSITY CENTER -- The Cardinal Football team battled in Saturday's annual Battle of the Valleys game at home against ninth-ranked Grand Valley State, scoring 22 fourth quarter points to make a late game push. It would not be enough, however, as the Lakers snuck away with a three-point victory, 31-28, at Wickes Stadium in the afternoon league matchup.
Saginaw Valley falls to 6-3 overall on the season and 3-3 in the GLIAC while the Lakers are now 8-1 overall and 5-1 in league play.
GVSU scored the first 14 points of the game, taking an 83 yard punt return by Nick Dodson to the house with 6:00 showing in the first and adding another TD with 14:33 left in the second on a two yard scamper from quarterback Cole Kotopka.
Connor Luksic connected on a 26 yard field goal for the home squad with 7:15 on the clock in the second quarter, capping-off a seven play, 47 yard drive to trim the deficit to 14-3.
The Lakers had J.J. McGrath convert on a 24 yard field goal a minute before the half, carrying the score into the locker room with the visitors up 17-3.
SVSU would cap another scoring drive for SV with a field goal, finishing the opening drive of the second half with a 30-yarder, making the score 17-6 in GV's favor. Kotopka then added another short TD run late in the third, pushing the Laker lead to 24-6 with 1:49 left in the quarter.
The Cards then pushed it into gear, taking the next possession 75 yards in eight plays, making the count 24-13 after a Nate McCrary score from a yard out. The score then moved to 24-21 when Ryan Conklin found Chad Gailliard from three yards out and also ran in the two-point try with 7:37 to play.
Grand Valley then responded with a touchdown of its own after a 70 yard drive and 16 yard TD run from Jack Provencher, giving the visitors a 10-point cushion at 31-21 with 5:04 to play.
Saginaw Valley would not go away, however, responding once again with a solid drive that was capped by another McCrary rushing score to make the score 31-28 with 1:32 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Cardinals recovered an onside kick on a bobble by Grand Valley but the play was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty. GV would recoved the second attempt and take possession at their own 44.
The Cardinal defense would come up with a big series of stops, however, and got the ball back on their own 22 after only letting 26 seconds run off the clock.
After moving the ball out to the GV 41, the Cards were forced to attempt a last second hail mary as they were out of field goal range. That attempt was intercepted in the endzone, sending the Lakers to the narrow 31-28 victory.
Inside the Boxscore
- Saginaw Valley posted 405 yards of total offense while GV had 395.
- The Cardinals had a 209-200 edge in passing yards and 196-195 margin in rushing offense.
- McCrary rushed for a season-high 94 yards and a pair of scores, bring his season total up to 10. That ranks third in the GLIAC.
- Gailliard had six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. He remains the league leader in touchdowns (11) and yards per game (97.6).
- Michael King had team-highs of seven catches and 67 yards in the game.
- Luksic connected on both of his field goal tries and extra-point attempts.
- Michael Alexander registered a team-best 13 tackles with a tackle-for-loss as well. He leads the league in tackles per game (10.7) and total tackles (96).
- Donnell Alexander added 10 stops while Dillon Dixon had nine.
- Austin Egler had seven tackles with his second interception of the season.
- It marked the first game this season that the Cardinals, leading the GLIAC in sacks, didn't register one this season as neither team was able to get a sack.
The Cardinals make the short trip to Northwood University on Saturday (Nov. 3) for the annual Axe Bowl matchup. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3 as well, with kickoff set for 1:00 p.m. at Hantz Stadium.
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