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Marquette, Mich. - The Ferris State University football team saw its five-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday (Oct. 16) as the Bulldogs suffered their first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) loss of the season with a hard-fought 22-20 conference setback to the Northern Michigan Wildcats in Marquette.
The Wildcats' Rockne Belmonte converted three field goals on the day, including a game-winning 31-yard try with only 4:16 remaining in the contest before a crowd of 3,773 fans at the Superior Dome.
Ferris dropped to 5-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play with a
showdown looming next week versus archrival and nationally
top-ranked Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic at FSU's
Top Taggart Field.
"We're very disappointed. We've been kind of rolling the dice and winning in these tight games," Ferris head coach Jeff Pierce. "(Saturday) was a day we were not able to pull that off. We didn't execute the things we needed to execute to beat a good football team."
NMU struck first on the first drive of the game as John Privitelli scampered in from two-yards out to finish a 66-yard opening march, which gave the Wildcats a 6-0 edge following a missed PAT.
Ferris, however, answered as Tyler Thomas capped a 60-yard FSU drive on the Bulldogs' first possession with a 23-yard dash to the endzone, giving the Dawgs a 7-6 lead.
Northern Michigan regained the advantage with only 3:06 to play in the first frame on Privitelli's 13-yard TD pass out of the backfield to Dustin Brancheau.
FSU moved back in front 14-13 in the opening minute of the second quarter on Aaron Olman's six-yard scoring reception from junior quarterback Tom Schneider as the Bulldogs drove 70 yards in eight plays.
The defenses tightened on both sides from there on out as the two teams combined for only a single touchdown after the first minute of the second stanza.
The Wildcats built a 19-14 lead on a 51-yard field goal from Belmonte with 10:58 to play in the first half followed by a 27-yarder at the 11:14 mark of the third frame.
Ferris marched 62 yards in seven plays midway thru the third period to take a 20-19 edge on Schneider's 33-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Mike Ryan.
That score stood up until the final five minutes of the contest when NMU took advantage of a 20-yard punt return by Privitelli coupled with a personal foul against the Bulldogs to take possession at the FSU 21-yard line. The Wildcats managed only seven yards in three plays before Belmonte's 31-yarder for the final score.
Ferris moved the ball inside Wildcat territory on its final
drive before turning the ball over on downs and the Wildcats were
able to run out the clock.
FSU outgained the Wildcats in total offensive yards with 306 compared to 229 for NMU. Ferris had 116 rushing yards on 36 carries with NMU rushing for 120 yards on 37 attempts.
Schneider completed 21-of-28 passes for 190 yards and two scores in directing the Bulldogs' offense. He was intercepted once as the Bulldogs turned the ball over twice with both miscues coming in the initial half.
Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Jacob Hicks was 11-of-16 in the air for 96 yards in his first career start for NMU, which did not turn the ball over in the game.
Privitelli ran for a game-high 135 yards on 24 tries with Brancheau grabbing six receptions for 78 yards.
Thomas led FSU with 66 rushing yards on 10 carries and Ryan caught six passes for 76 yards in pacing the Bulldog receivers.
Ferris junior Tayo Moss had a team-high 10 tackles for the Bulldogs with Zach Pierson registering a game-best 14 stops for NMU.
The Wildcats improved to 4-3 overall and 4-2 in conference play while snapping a two-game losing skid. They also improved to 3-0 inside the dome this season.
Ferris State hosts GVSU in next Saturday's (Oct. 23) Anchor-Bone
Classic with kickoff set for 2 p.m. (EDT) at Top Taggart
Field. Tickets will be sold at the stadium starting two hours
prior to kickoff.
"We'll bounce back and if (the Bulldogs) can't get ready for next weekend then there's something wrong," Pierce said. "It's not going to be hard to get them back and get them focused."