Lion’s Den: Lindenwood 35, SVSU 31, Cardiac Cats Coop Cardinals

Nathan Tucker


After a momentous win over ranked conference opponent Truman State last week, Lindenwood hosted the Cardinals of Saginaw Valley State in non-conference action on October 19. SVSU enters the game with a 4-2 record, and came within a touchdown of NCAA Division II powerhouse Grand Valley State last week but couldn’t notch a victory against tough opposition. The hometown Lions were looking to become a winning football team with a win, entering Saturday’s stanza with a 3-3 record. 

Last week’s victory over the #24 team in D2 football on homecoming is a tough act to follow, and it almost felt like both offenses had jitters early on. Both went three and out on their first possession, and both threw picks on their second. It would be Lindenwood who tallied first, as quarterback Cade Brister found one of his favorite targets in Payton Rose for six. Saginaw Valley struggled to get anything going at all in the opening quarter, and their most interesting play in the first 15 minutes was a rugby-punt that bounced off of one of their linemen. 

On the first “big” play of the game, Cade Brister found Payton Rose for what was about a 40 yard pass along the visitor’s sideline, and Rose scampered the remaining few yards to the house giving LU a two-score lead in the middle of the second quarter, looking to have a less stressful time at the office than their nailbiter over Truman State last week. SVSU QB Ryan Conklin looked out of sorts starting the game but started to find his groove in quarter two, finding receiver Chad Gailiard over the middle and letting Gailiard do the hard part, as he slalomed around Lions to the Cardinals’ first touchdown of the day. 

The Cardinals had momentum on their side, and equalized immediately following the halftime break, with running back Chris Nelson pounding it in for the tying score. The Lindenwood defense was having struggles with the Cardinal rushing game in the latter stages, and it showed on multiple drives, starting with that scoring effort. The Lions benefited from a stroke of good luck to find the endzone again. Running back Nash Sutherlin fumbled just shy of the endzone, and it looked like an easy enough recovery for Saginaw Valley, but two defenders jumped on the same ball and subsequently knocked each other away from it. Lindenwood tight end Alex Scharf fell on it, and the Lions reclaimed a single-touchdown lead heading into the final quarter of the contest.

SVSU notched a field goal to start the fourth, as the sun that warmed the field and Hunter Stadium bleachers gave way to dark and grey clouds. Mentioned earlier, the Cardinal running game became more active, and followed their field goal with a very quick scoring drive where they rushed the ball the whole way. Nate McCrary rushed for the initial 48 yards, and Chris Nelson found the endzone with a 15-yard finisher, his second TD of the ballgame. 

The dominant drive from Saginaw Valley, going over 70 yards in less than a minute, didn’t take the wind out of Lindenwood’s sails in the slightest. Cade Brister showed a cool head, and marched his offense down the field and closed out the drive himself. Brister found the holes in the SVSU defense, and scrambled home to reclaim the lead for Lindenwood, going up 28-24 after the extra point. Both teams would exchange punts to set up yet another tight finish in St. Charles, following last week’s last second heroics against Truman State. 

SVSU got the ball with four minutes left on the clock and produced a methodical drive, as quarterback Ryan Conklin mixed passing with some short scrambles to keep the Lindenwood defense off balance. Conklin found wide receiver Casey Williams for a short pass for a touchdown to cap their impressive drive, and grabbed a field goal lead, 31-28, with 55 seconds remaining in the day. 

Fortunately for Cade Brister and company, they’re used to this pressure, and are only a week out from their last late game comeback drive, the previously noted win over Truman State. A big pass to Najee Jackson from Brister pulled Lindenwood to midfield, and made the win a more feasible reality. 

After a bit of a stall, LU faced 4th and 10 from the Saginaw Valley 36-yard line with 16 seconds on the clock. Ballgame on the line, Erik Henneman streaked up the right side of the field, wide open in the endzone, and Brister laid in a perfect pass for the touchdown. The final 36 yards of the Lindenwood QB’s 311 on the day, and coming with just 10 seconds remaining. The thousands in attendance were going crazy, the Saginaw sideline stunned silent.

SVSU attempted a retort, a fair catch and a hook and ladder, but their efforts fell short.. The Lindenwood Lions were cardiac Cats for a second straight week, sealing a win over favored opposition in the last moments and sending their fans home happy. 

Lindenwood football is back in conference play next weekend, traveling up 55 to Quincy University. At 4-3, and seemingly ready to play any team in their path, Lindenwood has to keep pushing in conference play to make a playoff run. 

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