October 17, 2012 – The Hillsdale College football team will play at home for the first time in three weeks Saturday, coming off one of its most hard-earned victories of the season. It doesn’t figure to get any easier this week, either.
The Chargers climbed back into a first-place tie in the GLIAC North Division, and Saturday, they will face one of that spot’s cohabitants, #15 Saginaw Valley State University for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium. Both the Chargers and Cardinals have identical 5-1 records in GLIAC play.
Hillsdale survived a brutal two-game road trip that took it to opposite ends of the state. The team suffered a frustrating 24-21 loss at Wayne State Oct. 6, but bounced back in impressive fashion, defeating Ferris State last week 30-20 on a soggy homecoming game in Big Rapids. Now back home, the Chargers face a game with huge GLIAC and Super Region 4 implications.
Last week, Hillsdale’s top-ranked defense was able to control the GLIAC’s number-one ranked rushing offense, Ferris State, to the tune of 130 yards below its average for the season. The Bulldogs came into the game averaging 334 yards per game on the ground. But the defense took the bite out of their attack, holding the Bulldogs to 204 yards rushing in the win. This week, Hillsdale will get a close look at the GLIAC’s number-one passing offense.
The Cardinals have enjoyed an excellent season in 2012, led by the combination of quarterback Jonathon Jennings and wide receiver Jeff Janis. SVSU averages 313 passing yards per game, and Jennings has gone over the 280-yard mark in passing three times. The best game these two put together came in a 51-24 win over Lake Erie Sept. 22. Jennings threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns, while Janis set a single-game GLIAC record with 300 receiving yards. Janis leads the GLIAC with 61 receptions for 991 yards and nine touchdowns. They will be a formidable test for Hillsdale’s pass defense, which is equally as tough.
The Chargers average giving up just 147 yards through the air this season, ranking number one in the GLIAC and number two in all of the NCAA Division II. The defense features just one senior starter – cornerback Ben Karaba
– but has shut down opponents throughout the season. After surrendering 276 passing yards in the season-opening loss at California (Pa.), the Chargers have gone six straight games with allowing less than 147 passing yards to their opponents. Hillsdale’s 14 interceptions lead the GLIAC, and the team’s plus-9 turnover margin is also number one in the GLIAC.
On offense, senior QB Anthony Mifsud
had his third game of 70 percent completion rate or better last week, going 16-for-22 against the Bulldogs. Mifsud has also been a credible threat with his feet, rushing for a touchdown in four consecutive games. He directs an offense that operates at peak efficiency. The Chargers lead the GLIAC in average time of possession, third-down conversion rate and are second fourth-down conversion rate.
Mifsud’s backfield running mate Joe Glendening
now sits just 287 yards away from the school’s all-time rushing record. His 171 last week at Ferris State were the second-most he’s had in a game this season, and in the second half, he punished the Bulldogs to the tune of 124 yards. Glendening has rushed for at least 100 yards in nine straight games and has 23 career 100-yard rushing games. One of his four career 200-yard rushing games came last year at Saginaw Valley State, when he put on a performance for the ages, running for 240 yards on 42 carries and three scores in a 38-35 Charger win.
Hillsdale has won two in a row over Saginaw Valley State, and is looking for its first three-game winning streak in this series since 1991-93. Currently, these two teams are tied with Michigan Tech for first place in the GLIAC North Division. Two weeks ago, there were five teams tied for first in the North, but with the teams within the division now playing one another, separation is starting to occur. A win over a team in front of them in the overall standings (SVSU is 6-1, Hillsdale 5-2) would do wonders for Hillsdale’s playoff resumé.