COMMERCE — Tommy Scott Jr. scored on a 6-yard run to give the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals of Michigan a surprising 20-17 overtime football victory over Texas A&M University-Commerce on Saturday night.
The loss spoiled the return of Lion quarterback Miklo Smalls, who played in his first game in two years after recovering from a knee injury. Smalls missed last season as did all of the Lions due to the pandemic. Smalls threw for 3,010 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 488 yards and three scores during the 2019 season, leading the 11-3 Lions to the third round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Smalls was 22-of-36 passing for 193 yards in his return for one touchdown and two interceptions and ran for a net 4 yards on 10 carries.
“We were excited that Miklo came back,” said Lions coach David Bailiff.
“Miklo was a little inconsistent,” said Bailiff. “He’ll do nothing but get better. It didn’t look like the leg was bothering him at all. Uncharacteristically he throws two interceptions. That’s not like him.”
The Lions lost the coin flip after the two teams were still tied 14-14 at the end of regulation. Saginaw Valley made the Lions go first in overtime and held them to a 27-yard field goal by Jake Viquez after Smalls was sacked for a 3-yard loss on third and four from the Cardinals’ 7-yard line.
Scott ran around right end for the touchdown on the Cardinals’ fourth play in overtime after the Lion defense was penalized twice for offsides.
The Lions missed on a couple of promising touchdown opportunities in the fourth quarter. On a punt from his 38, Cardinal punter Connor Luksic had to chase down an errant snap from center and barely got the punt away from near his goal line. The punt rolled to the Cardinal 14.
The Lions reached the 2-yard line but Smalls lost his footing and fumbled on a handoff. Saginaw Valley defender Michael Woolridge recovered the ball at the Cardinal 5-yard line.
A&M-Commerce’s defense forced another Luksic punt and the offense marched from the Cardinals’ 45 to the 7-yard line but got backed up 10 yards by a holding penalty and had to settle for Viquez’s 31-yard field goal with 0:00 showing on the clock to send the game into overtime.
“Once again a pick-six killed us,” said Bailiff, referring to Nick Whiteside’s 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. “Our inability to establish a running game you know really hurt us.”
The Lions finished with just 80 yards rushing on 39 carries. E.J. Johnson led with 39 yards on 16 carries. J.T. Smith managed 17 yards on three carries, Carandal Hale had 10 yards on four rushes and Antonio Lealiiee, the Lions’ leading rusher for the season, wound up with eight yards on five carries.
Smalls capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive for the Lions in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Matt Childers, who finished with a team-high six catches for 44 yards. Chance Cooper caught five for 68 yards and Jaden Proctor caught five for 25.
The Cardinals drove 26 yards in five plays to score the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Colby Newburg that followed a short Lion punt into a 15 mph wind.
A&M-Commerce dropped to 3-3 for the season, the same mark for the Cardinals.