FSU Drops Regular-Season Home Finale

FSU tries to give quarterback Robert Banaszak time to throw against Hillsdale (Photo by Sandy Gholston)
FSU tries to give quarterback Robert Banaszak time to throw against Hillsdale (Photo by Sandy Gholston)

Big Rapids, Mich. – Halloween turned out scary for the Ferris State University football team on Saturday (Oct. 31) afternoon as the Bulldogs suffered a 59-14 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) setback to the nationally-ranked Hillsdale Chargers in its regular-season home finale at FSU’s Top Taggart Field.

The 22nd-ranked Chargers grabbed the early momentum with two first-quarter scores and cruised to the decisive win under eighth-year head coach Keith Otterbein, who previously helped establish the Bulldogs’ league dominance during the 1990’s in his stint as Ferris’ head coach.  The victory was Otterbein's first in Big Rapids since leaving the FSU program.

“I have to first of all give Hillsdale credit for coming in here and playing a good football game,” said FSU head coach Jeff Pierce, who served as Otterbein’s defensive coordinator during his Bulldog tenure. “They’ve got a good football team and have a good chance of finishing strong and getting into the playoffs.”

Hillsdale scored early in Otterbein’s return to Big Rapids as talented running back Vinnie Panizzi capped a game-opening 77-yard touchdown march with a one-yard plunge only 5:02 into the game.

Ferris’ first taste of a scary Halloween came at the 6:41 mark of the opening period when Hillsdale’s Joe Glendening blocked a Bulldog punt and returned it 25 yards for a score to make it a 14-0 contest.

The Chargers tacked on another touchdown to start the second frame as Panizzi found paydirt for the second time from three-yards out to push the Charger advantage to 21-0 after a nine-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Mark Petro added a 40-yard field goal with 8:08 to play in the second quarter and then Glendening reached the endzone from two-yards away with only 30 seconds play in the half to give HC a 31-0 lead at halftime.

The second half started much the same as Joe Stempien scooped up a Bulldog fumble and ran it back eight yards for a touchdown only 14 seconds into the final period. HC’s Billy Kanitz made it 45-0 when he scored on a one-yard TD run with 7:54 to play in the third quarter to finish a short 36-yard Charger s march. The Chargers later drove 80 yards in four plays near the end of the period to push the lead to 52-0 after three quarters on a three-yard touchdown run by Brad Spencer.

Ferris finally found the endzone with 14:55 to play as redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Banaszak hooked up with sophomore receiver Mike Ryan on a 16-yard touchdown connection as the Bulldogs drove 73 yards in seven plays.

Hillsdale scored for the final time with 4:57 left as reserve quarterback Matt Bryan completed an 18-yard scoring pass to Jesse Norris.

The Bulldogs struck once more to finish the scoring on a 27-yard TD run by redshirt freshman Tyler Thomas with only 2:22 to play. His touchdown run finished off a 72-yard Bulldog drive that last five plays.

“We just didn’t match up horsepower-wise in terms of being able to control the line of scrimmage,” Pierce said. “There’s not a lot you can do when you don’t do that both offensively and defensively.

“There are some bright spots in what we are doing right now and we had an opportunity to see a lot of young guys today. I give our guys credit for not throwing in the towel and trying to score at the end,” he added.

The Chargers racked up 22 first downs and 377 total offensive yards compared to FSU’s 12 first downs and 151 yards.

Panizzi led the Chargers with a game-high 84 yards rushing and quarterback Troy Weatherhead hit on nine-of-13 passes for 88 yards with backup QB Brad Otterbein completing four-of-five attempts for 90 yards as the Chargers threw for 211 yards and ran for 166 more. A.J. Kegg led a balanced Hillsdale receiving crew with 52 yards on four catches.

The Bulldogs were paced by freshman Skyler Stoker’s 62 rushing yards on 24 attempts. As a team, the Bulldogs were limited to 38 rushing yards on 36 attempts. Ferris threw for 113 yards with senior quarterback Kyle Parrish completing seven-of-12 passes for 54 yards. Banaszak was two-of-three in the air for 59 yards. Junior Matt Schuelke led the Bulldog receivers with 34 yards on four grabs.

Ferris turned the ball over three times and was only two-of-11 on third down conversion tries. The Chargers were nine-of-13 on third down and had no turnovers while also finishing six-of-seven in the red zone.

Defensively, senior linebacker Matt Ryan tallied a game-high 12 stops with junior defensive tackle Jacob Moreno chipping in with 11 stops for FSU. Drew Berube made six tackles, including three for loss, and forced a fumble in pacing the Charger defense.

The win lifted the Chargers to 8-2 overall and 7-2 in GLIAC play this campaign while Ferris State dropped to 1-9 overall and 0-9 in the conference.

Saturday’s game represented both FSU’s annual Senior Day contest and the school’s 10th annual Hall of Fame Game with seven inductees honored at halftime, including two former Bulldog football players in local resident and longtime supporter Bill Scheible along with former standout All-America linebacker Monty Brown, who helped fuel Ferris’ dominance in the early 90’s under Otterbein and Pierce.

The Bulldogs will conclude the 2009 campaign on the road next Saturday (Nov. 7) by traveling to face the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals in University Center, Mich. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. (ET) at SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.

Bulldog Bites: Matt Ryan was chosen as the Bulldogs’ Babb Ford Player of the Game for his efforts …… Sixteen Bulldog seniors were honored as part of the Senior Day celebration prior to the contest ……… The attendance was listed as 1,429 despite wet conditions.