Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football team kicked off its 2011 campaign with a thrilling 20-17 non-conference home win over preseason nationally-ranked Hillsdale on Friday (Sept. 2) evening at FSU's Top Taggart Field.
The Bulldogs knocked off the Chargers, who were ranked 18th in the D2football.com Preseason Top 25 Poll, by rallying back from a 17-7 third-quarter deficit before a "Community Day" crowd of 3,453 fans in the first game of the year for both squads.
Ferris State struck first by driving 62 yards on the opening possession of the contest to find the endzone on a two-yard quarterback keeper from senior signal caller Tom Schneider.
Hillsdale battled back and tied the game up at 7-7 as Cam White snuck in from a yard out with 14:06 to play in the second quarter to finish an 83-yard march in 13 plays.
The Chargers grabbed their first lead of the night with 1:56 left in the opening half on tailback Joe Glendening's one-yard score. It capped off an 80-yard drive that also took 13 plays as the Chargers held a 14-7 lead at intermission.
Hillsdale increased its advantage to 10 points with 9:45 to play in the third as Colin McGreevy kicked a 20-yard field goal after a 73-yard Charger march stalled deep in Bulldog territory.
From that point forward, however, the Bulldogs responded.
Ferris drove 70 yards in six plays to cut the deficit to 17-13 with 7:04 left in the third quarter on junior Skyler Stoker's 11-yard TD run.
Stoker wasn't finished as he scored the go-ahead touchdown from nine-yards out with 13:07 remaining in the game to finish a 75-yard jaunt that took 10 plays.
Ferris State's defense came up with two critical turnovers in the second half and forced Hillsdale to punt on each of its final two possessions to preserve the victory.
Stoker earned Babb Ford Bulldog Player of the Game honors by running for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Junior Dwayne Williams also provided a formidable rushing threat as he garnered 73 yards on 12 attempts with Schneider running for 57 yards in 11 tries.
On the opposite side, Hillsdale was paced by Glendening, who rambled for 153 yards and a score on 29 attempts. He was the only Charger running back to gain more than 21 yards in the contest, however.
Schneider completed 10-of-21 passes for 84 yards with senior receiver Mike Ryan grabbing five receptions for 49 yards.
Meanwhile, Hillsdale's Anthony Mifsud earned the starting nod and threw for 144 yards on 15-of-20 passing before giving way to Matt Bryan, who completed five-of-10 passes for 22 yards, but was intercepted once by FSU junior defensive back Jaime Berrera.
Defensively, the Bulldogs received a game-high 13 stops from junior linebacker Tayo Moss with fellow junior Alex Brajak adding 12 tackles. Senior defensive tackle Muneer Bawayeh had nine stops.
Overall, Ferris totaled five tackles for loss and had four quarterback hurries in addition to Berrera's interception and a fumble recovery from junior defensive end Jordan Morgan.
Joe Vear, Devin Moynihan and Brett Pasche all had nine tackles in leading the Hillsdale defense.
Ferris State rolled up 370 yards of total offense with 286 coming on the ground and 84 in the air. Hillsdale totaled 355 yards, including 189 rushing and 166 passing. The Chargers also had 20 first downs to 19 for FSU.
The Bulldogs will try to stay undefeated as they open Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) action on the road next Saturday, Sept. 10, at Saginaw Valley State. Kickoff for the "Red Feather" game supporting Saginaw area youth charities is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) as SVSU's renovated Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
Bulldog Bites: Friday's season opener kicked off FSU's 103rd season of varsity football ..... The Bulldogs have now won 14 of their last 23 season openers overall ..... Ferris State improved to 10-8 in non-league games dating back to 1990 and has now won seven of its last 10 non-conference tilts ..... This year marked the second consecutive year the Bulldogs have upset a preseason nationally-ranked team in their home opener as FSU topped SVSU in last year's first home game of the campaign ....... FSU head coach Jeff Pierce improved to 10-7 in his career against Hillsdale ...... Ferris State and Hillsdale are traditional rivals who have met every year since 1972. The Chargers are guided by former FSU head coach Keith Otterbein.