Audio Clip - Head Coach Jeff Pierce
(MP3 Version) - (Windows Media)
Big Rapids, Mich. - A slow start and a couple of early mistakes were too much for the Ferris State University football team to overcome as the Bulldogs suffered a 44-23 setback in their Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opener versus nationally 23rd-ranked Ashland on Saturday (Sept. 5) evening at FSU's Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Mich.
The Eagles blocked a Bulldog punt on the first possession of the contest and D'Marris McCoy scored from a yard-out to give Ashland an early 7-0 advantage only seven minutes into the game.
Then, after forcing the Bulldogs to punt again, AU quarterback Billy Cundiff connected with wide receiver Nick Bellanco on a 79-yard touchdown pass to give the visitors a 14-point lead with five minutes to go in the inital frame.
AU tacked on another first period score as Cundiff found Joe Horn from 31-yards away to make it 21-0 at the end of one quarter.
Ferris finally cracked the scoring column with 13:42 to go in the half on a 29-yard field goal from sophomore Shawn Snoor (Diamondale/Holt) but the Eagles answered with a 22-yard field goal of their own from Greg Berkshire to take a 24-3 advantage with only 5:06 remaining in the first half.
The Bulldogs trimmed the deficit to 24-9 at halftime on a late two-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman Tyler Thomas (Jackson).
Ferris pulled within eight points at the 10:43 mark of the third quarter on a four-yard scoring pass from Bulldog senior quarterback Kyle Parrish (Garden Grove, Calif./Santiago) to sophomore QB Tom Schneider (Jerome/Addison), who saw his first action of the campaign.
Following the FSU touchdown, the Eagles drove 54-yards in eight plays and McCoy sprinted in from three yards out to push the Ashland lead back to 15 points.
Ferris managed to cut the score back to eight points again after three periods as Schneider found paydirt from four yards away with 4:12 left in quarter three.
However, the Eagles closed the door with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. The first came with 14:56 left on a nine-yard pass from Cundiff to Christian Livingston to cap a 90-yard march. The final Ashland score occurred with 11:20 remaining in the contest on a six-yard run from Carlin Isles.
"We can't spot 21 points against a team as good as Ashland is and expect to win the football game," said FSU head coach Jeff Pierce. "I was happy with the way our guys came back and it shows the future and character of our team.
We didn't throw the towel in and we took a run at it, but unfortunately we didn't have enough to get ourselves back in the ballgame," he added.
Cundiff directed the Ashland offense by completing 14-of-21 passes for 303 yards in the air. The Eagles came up with 531 yards of total offense and 26 first downs as they also ran for 228 yards on 51 carries, which was highlighted by McCoy's 111 yards on 19 attempts. Bellanco caught five passes for 155 yards and Livingston added four grabs for 59 yards.
Ferris totaled 378 total offensive yards with Parrish throwing for 291 yards on 21-of-32 passing. He also ran for a team-high 31 yards as the Bulldogs were limited to only 83 rushing yards on 31 tries. The Bulldogs compiled 18 first downs, but were only eight-of-15 on third down conversions.
FSU sophomore receiver Damien Miller (Elsie/Ovid-Elsie) finished with five catches for 85 receiving yards and fellow sophomore Mike Ryan (Howell) totaled 59 yards on five receptions.
Ashland blocked two Bulldog kicks and also forced a fumble in the game. Marcus Council posted a team-high seven stops for the Eagles defensively with two for loss. The Eagles also had four sacks in the game.
Senior Matt Ryan (Howell) tallied a game-high 10 tackles for FSU and senior Nick Butler (Midland) added eight stops.
The Bulldogs dropped to 1-1 with the league-opening loss while Ashland evened its record at 1-1 on the year.
Ferris State will hit the road for the first time this campaign by visiting Findlay next Saturday, Sept. 12, for a 12 p.m. (EDT) conference tilt at UF's Donnell Stadium in Findlay, Ohio. The Bulldogs then return home to host archrival and nationally number-one ranked Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Top Taggart Field.
Bulldog Bites: Kyle Parrish was chosen as the Bulldogs' Babb Ford Player of the Game ... Tom Schneider caught a TD pass and ran for one. He was one-of-four in the air for four yards off the bench in his first game of the season ... Tonight's official attendance for the "Super Saturday" game was 2,066 ... Both teams were perfect in the red zone with the Eagles going five-of-five and FSU finishing four-for-four ... The contest marked the seventh-straight time the visiting team has won in the series.