From the moment Jerrell Cummings and Dayton Ingenhaag combined on a touchdown-saving tackle to stuff a fourth-and-one on the Simon Fraser goal-line on the first drive of the game, you got the feeling Saturday might indeed be a special day for the dedicated but long-suffering fans of the football team from Burnaby Mountain.
Turns out it was indeed a sign of great things to come.
SFU (1-4) snapped a seven-game losing streak dating back to October of 2019, scoring all of its points unanswered en route to a decisive 30-3 victory over the Montana State Northern Lights (0-7), a team playing out of the NAIA’s Frontier Conference.
“We came out flat and so that goal-line stand created energy for us and our defence stepped up,” said SFU head coach Mike Rigell after his first college football victory on Saturday. “Right now, this defence is playing on a high.
“Coach Erdman and the rest of the staff have gotten them there, and now they are flying around and having fun doing it together,” he said of a group led by defensive coordinator Jerome Erdman.
On the day, the Simon Fraser defence made four interceptions, including one by linebacker Brendan Lowry, the Okotoks’ Ala. native who, in the first quarter, snared a tipped ball and returned it to the Montana State Northern 26-yard line.
Three plays later, on a third-and-11, Seiber broke out of the pocket, trained his eyes down field and hooked up with his most familiar target, connecting with receiver Riley Morrison on a 27-yard touchdown. The PAT failed but SFU led 6-3.
The goal-line stand and the Lowry pick, one which had followed another earlier by halfback Kolby Buljevic seemed to be the spark that turned the game around.
Just nine seconds into the second quarter, with the hosts hemmed deep in their own end zone, the Simon Fraser special teams unit got a great push up front, knocking an MSU-Northern player backwards and having the ensuing punt ricochet off his back and into the end zone where SFU junior linebacker Isaac Muckian fell on it for a touchdown.
Kicker Kristie Elliott made the extra point for a 13-3 lead.
“It was great to see the special teams come out of their shell today,” explained Rigell. “They hadn’t done anything to hurt us, but today was kind of a statement day for them. They came out and they took charge. Any time you can get a turnover on special teams and turn it into a touchdown, that is a special thing.”
Special enough to spark a span of 10 points scored in under one minute.
Elliott came back later in the quarter capping a 10-play, 44-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal, her first ever, to extend her team’s lead to 16-3.
Then, just 43 seconds later, SFU turned the game on its ear.
Cummings appeared to tip a pass by Lights’ quarterback Devonte Anderson which linebacker Drew Nicholson picked off and turned into a 28-yard pick-six for a 23-3 halftime lead.
The second half was a sloppy affair, yet one in which the SFU defence continued to hold the line and complete their game-ending 43-minute stretch of shutout play.
With 4:14 left in the game, Seiber, who went 12-of-30 for 190 yards and two touchdowns on the day, connected with receiver Aidan Pearce on a 63-yard touchdown strike to wrap up the scoring.
Pearce, the former North Vancouver-Argyle star, was impressive after the catch, snaring it along the sidelines and gaining separation by the stride from a host of Lights on his way to the end zone.
Elliott finished her day going 3-of-4 on PATs to go along with her field goal. She’s been making history all season and that continued on two more counts Saturday.
When she booted the extra point following the Pearce TD in the fourth quarter, Montana State Northern’s broadcaster summed up her day by announcing that she had become the first female to ever score a point in a college football game played in the state of Montana.
Yet that’s certainly not to say that everything was perfect about the team’s performance.
Playing against an NAIA team which remains winless on the season, SFU had three passes intercepted, lost both of their fumbles and went one-of-two on fourth down in addition to being flagged nine times for 93 yards in penalties.
Yet on a day when the team wins for just the third time in the past three seasons, that is nitpicking.
And besides, the SFU offence was able to show some depth and dimension over the course of the day.
Running back Somto Anyadike, a Winnipeg native, carried 13 times for 77 yards, and caught two passes for 21 yards as Simon Fraser rushed for 87 yards on the game. He had yet to play a featured role in the backfield in the team’s first four games.
Additionally, receiver Caelin Johnson, a big target for Seiber earlier in the season when he caught nine passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns in a loss at Linfield, returned after six weeks injured and caught two passes for 21 yards. Morrison led the way with five catches for 81 yards.
Linebacker Griffin Barrett again topped the tackling chart with 13 while corner Kimo Hui, halfback Buljevic and lineman Jakob Mozill had eight apiece.
Defensive back Khaleeb Webb, a junior from Los Angeles, made the team’s fourth interception of the game just before halftime.
“The team is ecstatic and jumping around, you feel like a monkey has been taken off your back,” said Rigell. “But we just talked about trusting the process and not worrying about any of the distractions. We are really happy for all of the players, for our administration and for everyone at SFU in general.”
The 27-point victory was the team’s most decisive road triumph since the Jacques Chapdelaine regime. Back on Oct. 4, 2014, SFU went to Utah and handled Dixie State by a 29-19 score.
SFU takes a huge jump up in competition this coming Saturday when the team heads south to face Angelo State in a 4 p.m. kick-off in San Angelo, TX.
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