A frustrating first half did not go Tiffin University's way, as Saginaw Valley State raced out to a big first half lead and eventually won 35-20.
The Dragons (1-1) did much of what they wanted in the first half, twice putting together solid drives that took them inside the Cardinals' 6 yard line. TU could not get the ball in the end zone, however, while the Cardinals made the most of their opportunities to score 28 first half points.
Trailing 7-0 after allowing a 34 yard TD run, the Dragons started a drive on their own 23 yard line that took them all the way to the SVSU 5 yard line. Attempting a 22 yard field goal, the kick was blocked and returned 87 yards for a quick score that put Saginaw Valley up 14-0 with 2:34 left in the opening quarter.
Tiffin's opening drive of the second quarter brought them again to within a hair's breadth of the end zone, as they moved down to the SVSU 2 yard line. But four attempts could not get TU in the end zone, as Nick Watson's 1 yard pass to Devin Butler was called just inches short of the goal line and turned the ball over on downs.
The Cardinals responded with a huge 99 yard drive that culminated in a 22 yard touchdown pass to put SVSU up 21-0.
A Watson interception on TU's next possession led to a back-breaking 37 yard quick strike TD toss with just 1:15 left in the half to put Saginaw Valley ahead 28-0 at halftime.
Tiffin's defense tried to step up in the third quarter to shift the momentum. Kevin Hyde and Ross Moore both intercepted passes in the quarter, with Moore's pick leading to a TU drive that culminated early in the fourth quarter with a 24 yard TD pass from Watson to Gavin Woods to put TU on the board. TU trailed 28-6 after the missed extra point.
The Cardinals now focused on running out the clock. Their subsequent drive ate up 5:35 seconds before Tiffin took over. The Dragons responded quickly, with Stanley Jackson hauling in a big 63 yard pass to set up a 5 yard Watson touchdown run that made it 28-13 with 7:31 left.
The Dragons needed a quick stop to get the ball back but SVSU responded with a 75 yard drive that ate up 4:33 and effectively ended the game after resulting in a 1 yard TD run that made it 35-13 with 2:53 left.
Tiffin's final score came on a 75 yard drive that ended with a 8 yard TD catch by Jackson with 22 seconds remaining.
Overall SVSU had 22 first downs to Tiffin's 21, while also outgaining TU 410-382 in total offense. The Dragons struggled on third down, connecting on just 3 of 12 attempts while SVSU converted 58 percent of their third down situations.
Watson completed 25 of 40 passes for 261 yards with 2 touchdowns and one interception. Kyle Brunson rushed for 47 yards and received passes for 22 more yards, while JaQuan Hardy rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries.
Jackson again had a strong receiving day, catching 7 passes for 125 yards, while Woods (38 yards), Devin Butler (37 yards receiving, 54 kick return yards), and Marcus Whitfield (34 yards) also contributed in the passing game.
Defensively Latrell Robinson had 9 tackles, while Carrington Contee had 8 tackles and a fumble recovery. Ross Moore and Jacob Mertus had 7 tackles each, with Moore getting an interception. Charlie Cleveland had 6 tackles with a sack, while Zach Goecke and Chrystian Watkins had 6 tackles apiece as well.