UF tosses first half shutout against SVSU
By Kevin Schrock
On Saturday night it was a great first half that gave the Oilers the jump they needed to knock off Saginaw Valley State University in the season opener. After holding a 20-0 lead at the break, Findlay held on for their fifth straight opening day win led by Rhys Gervais who completed 24 passes for 274 yards and a trio of scores.
“I love the way we started the game and that was really important to me,” said University of Findlay head coach Rob Keys. “When we have fast starts we usually play pretty well and win games.”
The defense shut down the Saginaw Valley offense on their first two possessions by forcing a three-and-out to start the game and getting a fourth down stop later in the first quarter.
Meanwhile on offense, long time consuming drives seemed to be the story of the game for the Oilers. The opening series saw Findlay chew seven and a half minutes off of the clock on 16 plays before Chauncey Bridges wove his way into the end zone on a 12-yard scamper.
“I thought we worked off of each other and that’s what good football teams do,” said Keys. “We got the stop, then we got the score, and we set the tempo for the game.”
After stopping the Cardinals on fourth down, Gervais connected with his 6’3” receiver, Jason Moore, in the back of the end zone for another Oiler touchdown.
The next play, which would be the first of the second quarter, saw the Oilers go right for the knockout punch. Tyler Bugeja knocked a short pooch kick over the Cardinal line, just within reach of Findlay’s Jordan Jackson who hopped on top to recover the onside kick.
This time, after Mitchell Campbell converted a fourth and one for Findlay, it was tight end Anthony Federico snagging an 11-yard touchdown pass from Gervais to give the Oilers a 20-0 lead. This score would hold into the half.
“We did a good job of taking what Saginaw gave us,” said Keys. “A lot of guys carried the ball, and a lot of guys caught passes. At halftime he was 14 for 15 and I was like ‘whoa’, where was the incompletion?”
Gervais was nearly perfect in that first half. Then, after Gervais connected with Federico again for a touchdown on the opening drive of the first half, it looked like the game was all but over. However, the Cardinals weren’t going away just yet.
Saginaw Valley got their first score on a 64-yard pass play that saw Alfonso Vultaggio break free down the middle. It was the first time that they had found a crack in Findlay’s defense.
“I didn’t like the way we finished,” said Keys. “We gave up two really big plays in the pass game which we did a really good job in practice of not doing.”
Things got interesting after Bridges fumbled following a Cardinal touchdown in the fourth quarter. Then came the second big pass play for the Cardinals and again it would be Jacob LeClair finding Vultaggio for a 36-yard touchdown pass making it 37-19.
The defense would hold the Cardinals right there the rest of the way and the final would end up right there at 37-19. The key for the defense for the beginning seemed to be stopping that Cardinal run.
“The emphasis on stopping the run has been pounded into their head since the Northern Michigan game ended last year,” said Keys. “If we can continue to stop the run it will give us a chance.”
The Oilers only allowed 58 yards on the ground but gave up 248 in the air. On the flip side, the offense provided 182 yards of rushing offense and 274 yards passing.
Blunk was the main target for Gervais, he hit him eight times for 101 yards while Moore caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Federico also caught two including two touchdowns. Bridges lead the charge rushing the ball with 25 carries for 101 yards.
The Oilers will next be in action when they play host to Ohio Dominican tomorrow night at 7 p.m., right back at Donnell Stadium.