Craig's comeback falls short against Memorial
The conservative offensive philosophy, which served former University of Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez well for 16 years, certainly doesn’t fit the talents of Madison Memorial starting quarterback Joe Ferguson, who is Alvarez’s talented grandson.
The Spartans’ sophomore quarterback threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more to help visiting Memorial (3-2) fight off Janesville Craig’s second-half comeback attempt with a 43-26 victory in Big Eight Conference homecoming game here Friday night.
Craig (1-4), which cut a 36-12 halftime deficit to 36-26 in the fourth quarter before falling short, impressed Cougar coach Ben McCormick.
“When we fell down by 24 at halftime, it’s tough to play catch-up, especially against Memorial,” he said. “But I give our guys credit. We didn’t give up a touchdown in the second half until 22 seconds left in the game.”
Unfortunately for McCormick, the Cougars had no answer for Ferguson and the Spartans in the first half.
Memorial running back Josh Horman capped a quick five-play opening drive with a 13-yard draw play through the Craig defense that put his team up 7-0.
After a Craig fumble at the Cougar 43 on the ensuing possession, Ferguson capped another quick six-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with five minutes left in the first quarter.
Ferguson made it 21-0 early in the second quarter with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jamar Morris.
With the game quickly slipping away, Craig punter Myles Johnson fired a 50-yard fake punt-pass to Bryce Loveland at the Spartan 20. Three plays later, Craig quarterback Cameron Wright drilled Nate Brault with a 21-yard touchdown pass with 5:45 left in the half. That made it 21-6.
But Ferguson stormed right back with a 22-yard touchdown bubble screen pass to Collin Hulick to rebuild the lead to 29-6.
After Craig answered Hulick’s touchdown catch with Mitch Phillips’ 17-yard touchdown, Ferguson closed out the half with a 6-yard touchdown to Wisconsin recruit Jordan Frederick. That gave Memorial a 36-12 lead at half.
Looking for another spark, McCormick continued to open his bag of trick plays in the second half. Brault took the ball on a double reverse and flipped a 61-yard pass to Loveland to the Spartan 21.
“We said we’re not playing to keep the game close. We’re playing to win,” McCormick said. “Trick plays like that can break the game open one way or another, but we made decisions in the game to get a victory.”
McCormick’s gamble finally hit pay-dirt after Brault hauled in a 15-yard touchdown catch from Wright to cut the deficit to 36-20 with 11:07 left in the fourth quarter.
With the offense clicking, the Cougar defense finally slowed down the Spartans’ offense, forcing three Ferguson turnovers in the second half, including a Trevor Dominy interception that setup a long scoring drive. Cy Badertscher capped the drive with a 25-yard diving touchdown catch from Wright to cut the deficit to 36-26 with 6:15 left.
But Ferguson finally straightened things out on the ensuing possession, and he silenced the Cougar comeback attempt with a 7-yard touchdown to run the lead to 43-26 with 22 seconds
MEMORIAL 43, CRAIG 26
Madison Memorial 14 22 0 7—43
Janesville Craig 6 6 0 14—26
Scoring summary: MM—Josh Horman, 13 run (Brett Wise kick). MM—Joe Ferguson, 1 run (Wise kick). MM—Jamar Morris, 37 yard pass from Ferguson (Wise kick). JC—Nate Brault, 21 pass from Cameron Wright (kick failed). MM—Collin Hulick, 22 pass from Ferguson (Horman run). JC—Mitch Phillips, 17 run (run failed). MM—Jordan Frederick, 6 pass from Ferguson (Wise kick). JC—Brault, 15 pass from Wright (Phillips run). JC—Badertscher, 25 pass from Wright (run failed). MM—Ferguson, 7 run (Wise kick)
Statistic: First downs—MM 22, JC 15. Rushing—MM 33-194, JC 40-152. Yards passing—MM 226 JC 200. Passes—MM 19-13-1, JC 15-9-0. Fumbles—MM 4-2, JC 1-1. Penalties—MM 12-100, JC 10-66.