Cardinals offense explodes for 42 points
September 19, 2005 —
The SVSU football team used 602 yards of total offense and the nation's top-ranked scoring defense to defeat the Findlay Oilers 42-3 Saturday.
A day of career offensive highs was also highlighted by the Cardinals' defense, which gave up just 133 yards of total offense. SVSU's defense is now ranked first in Division II in scoring defense, giving up just over 3.3 points per game.
The Cardinals put Findlay in a hole very early in the game, and did not look back.
Senior running back Logan Barnhart broke several tackles on an opening-drive, 60-yard touchdown run a little less than a minute and a half into the game. The 5'9", 205-pound back ran through a huge hole provided by the offensive line before literally jumping through two tacklers en route to the end zone.
"I just reacted," he said. "I guess it could have been worse. I thought one defender was going to go low on me, so I jumped, and two guys hit me at the same time. They had me froze up there before I came down and kept running. I was surprised when I got in the end zone."
The Cardinals scored two more touchdowns in the first quarter, and another in the second for a 28-0 halftime lead.
"This game showed we can put some points on the board," said Barnhart, who finished the day with a career-high 143 yards on 13 carries and three total touchdowns. "This is not shocking to me. Coach K (Offensive Coordinator Jim Kiernan) is a genius."
In addition to Barnhart's career high, which he described as "cool," sophomore quarterback Chris Dougherty threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns and freshman wide receiver Tony Awrey caught seven balls for 126 yards, all career highs.
"The offense is starting to pick things up," head coach Randy Awrey said. "The difference between the defense and offense is that the defense is experienced, while the offense is gaining experience."
The offense, which was supposed to be a work in progress this season with Dougherty taking snaps for the first time in five years and three new offensive linemen, is starting to step up to the plate. Before the game, senior linebacker John DiGiorgio - who finished the game one tackle shy of tying the school record for most career tackles - challenged the offense before the game to put up 40 points. For an offense that scored just 10 against Northwood during the first week, the challenge said something about how the offense is adjusting.
"We all knew we had to improve," Barnhart acknowledged, noting the performance at Northwood. "It seems like we just came out flat our first two games, so we wanted to come out strong today."
Awrey and Barnhart seemed to agree the offensive explosion would not have been possible without the offensive line, which is still missing senior Stephanol Santos, who sprained an ankle in the Northwood game.
"Our O-line pretty much dominated their defensive line," said Barnhart, who added that he is adjusting to running out of the shotgun, where he generally has his back to half of the field. "With the way the O-line is playing, though, there is nothing to worry about."
The improvement also would not be possible without Dougherty, who is looking more and more comfortable by the quarter. The quarterback came into the game leading the GLIAC in passing and total offense.
"He's doing great," Barnhart said. "He's getting confidence and looking better and better every week. He's only going to get better."
More than half of Dougherty's completions went to the Awrey brothers, Tony and his junior big brother Bob. The older of the two caught five passes for 70 yards and his first score of the year. Tony, who saw little action in the Northwood game and caught one pass - a 16-yard score - against Wayne State last week, is getting more reps in practice with senior Mark LaFreniere injured. His touchdown catch, a 55-yard score, was the Cardinals' second score of the game.
"It was real nice," he said. "I just came across the middle, (Dougherty) saw me open and hit me. After that it was nothing but green (ahead of me)."
With his second touchdown in as many catches, the phrase "All he does is catch touchdowns" fit the younger Awrey perfectly.
"I joked with the guys after that catch that I should just retire," he said.
The brothers have had a little competition going between them the past two years. Tony said that last year, while he was a senior at Nouvel Catholic Central in Saginaw Township, he and Bob competed to see who could have the most touchdowns. They have extended it this year, including pancake blocks and catches in the competition.
"It's all in fun," Tony said. "(Bob) is a great wide receiver, he really works hard."
The youngest Awrey acknowledged it certainly hasn't hurt to play for and with his family.
"I actually enjoy it," Tony said about playing for his father. "But I've also got to see Bob's work ethic. He came in here (two years ago) and really busted his butt every day. I've learned a lot from both of them. Bob helped me learn the playbook. Whenever I have questions, he always answers them."
The quick scores in the first quarter helped the defense play even harder, said sophomore defensive lineman Josh Miller.
"It was inspiration for us to come out harder," he said. "The harder we come out, the better we are."
A shutout was also included in DiGiorgio's challenge to his teammates before the game. They let the Oilers drive for a field goal in the third quarter, but the defense did not let up after that.
"We don't want to let up for four quarters," said Miller, who had three sacks among his eight tackles. "Our goal is to not let anyone get anything on us."
DiGiorgio, who finished the game with eight tackles, was clearly disappointed that he did not break the tackle record at home.
"My family was here," explained DiGiorgio, who also met Dave Hurst, who holds the SVSU record, after the game. "But when he took me out, coach told me, 'we want to look at the big picture.' We won the game, that's all I can ask for."
It is that attitude that has Awrey gushing over this year's team.
"This is the best team I've had the chance to coach in terms of character, attitude, and hard work," he said. "They play their hearts out."
The Cardinals travel this week to Hillsdale for a 7 p.m. game. After the win Saturday, Awrey said he did not even know who was next on the schedule.
"I only concern myself week by week," he said. "I can't start thinking ahead. That's when you get in trouble."
The Chargers are now 2-2 after a 43-9 win at Gannon Saturday night.