Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football team put on a show for the home fans in the Bulldogs' first contest of the year at Top Taggart Field on Saturday (Sept. 14) night, but needed nearly every point to withstand the Lake Erie Storm in a high-scoring 56-49 triumph in Big Rapids.
Sophomore quarterback Jason Vander Laan accounted for seven touchdowns and ran for 279 total yards in leading the Bulldogs to their first win of the year in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opener for both teams. The Bulldogs also came away with two key second half interceptions from junior cornerback A.J. McEwen in notching the victory.
The two teams combined for 1,184 yards of total offense and 105 points before an announced crowd of more than 3,500 fans.
After stopping the Bulldogs on a key fourth down play deep in Lake Erie territory on FSU's first offensive possession, the Storm drove 69 yards in nine plays to score the game's initial touchdown on a four-yard TD run by Anthony Bilal only six minutes into the contest.
FSU answered back less than two minutes later as Dontae Ingraham hauled in a 23-yard scoring pass from Vander Laan to finish a 64-yard Bulldog jaunt in five plays. The throw knotted the game at seven points apiece before Lake Erie moved 72 yards in 15 plays to grab a 10-7 lead on a 20-yard Kyle Galbraith field goal with 2:51 remaining in the first frame.
Then, after a costly Bulldog mistake on a punt attempt, Lake Erie closed out the opening stanza on a 10-yard scoring run from Bilal to make it a 17-7 contest.
Ferris State struck on the first play of quarter two as tailback Korey Ringer caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Vander Laan to cap a four-play, 58-yard march and pull the Bulldogs back within three points.
However, the lead was pushed back to 10 points when Bilal garnered his third touchdown of the night wiht only 1:09 left in the half on a one-yard plunge, which finished a lengthy 91-yard drive covering 15 plays. Lake Erie, though, left too much time on the clock as FSU drove 63 yards in only eight plays and 49 seconds to pull within 24-21 at the break on a nine-yard TD pass from Vander Laan to junior wideout Jake Lampman.
The Bulldogs took their first lead of the night with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter when Vander Laan found paydirt from a yard out. FSU drove 69 yards in 13 plays on the drive to take a 28-24 edge before a 21-yard field goal from Lake Erie's B.J. Rhodes made it a one-point game.
Ferris State, though, responded with a pair of touchdowns to finish quarter three and both came from Vander Laan. He scored on a four-yard run that was set up by Ingraham's long kickoff return to the Storm four-yard line. The Bulldogs struck again with only two seconds left in the third when Vander Laan raced to the endzone on a 63-yard scoring run to give FSU a 42-27 edge after three periods.
The Storm didn't quit, however, as they pulled back within a score on Brendan Gallagher's seven-yard strike to Aaron Lindgren, which capped a drive that took 10 plays and 76 total yards. A two-point conversion pass from Gallagher to Tommy Jackson made it a 42-35 contest with 12:24 to go.
FSU answered back with 9:13 left when Vander Laan scored his final touchdown on a two-yard run after the Bulldogs drove 57 yards in only four plays. But, Lake Erie proceeded to march 82 yards in seven plays to again pull within a TD on Bilal's three-yard burst to the endzone.
Ferris State's final score was a 17-yard run by Lampman that proved to be the difference. It came following a McEwen interception as the Bulldogs needed only three plays and 37 yards to reach the endzone.
Lake Erie wasn't done as the Storm moved 66 yards in 12 plays to make it a 56-49 contest with 47 seconds remaining on Gallagher's one-yard scoring run. However, the ensuing onside kick try bounced out of bounds as FSU preserved the win.
The Bulldogs rolled up 401 yards on the ground and finished with 571 yards of total offense as compared to Lake Erie's 613 total yards, which included 364 rushing yards. LEC also held a 34-26 edge in first downs and held possession for nearly 33 total minutes.
In addition to his 279 total rushing yards and four scores on the ground, Vander Laan also completed 14-of-23 passes for 170 yards and three scores without an interception. He averaged 10.3 yards per carry.
Besides Vander Laan, the Bulldogs also received 67 rushing yards from Lampman, who was FSU's leading receiver with five catches for 58 yards and a score. Ingraham caught three balls for 61 yards and totaled 164 return yards on four kickoffs.
On the opposite side, Bilal ran for 169 yards and four scores for Lake Erie with Gallagher totaling 103 yards on the ground and a TD along with completing 22-of-38 passes for 249 yards and a score. His favorite target was Jackson, who had a game-high seven catches for 91 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs received 15 tackles apiece from both senior safety Marvin Robinson and junior linebacker Terrell Porter. Junior Carlton Johnson tallied 12 stops, including four tackles for loss (-17 yards) and three quarterback sacks. Additionally, both Brady Sheldon and Justin Zimmer recorded a personal career-high 10 tackles each.
Meanwhile, Devante Sims and Tanner Wells each contributed a team-high 11 tackles for Lake Erie, which dropped to 0-2 overall this season despite totaling more than 600 yards offensively in each of its first two outings.
The win was FSU's fourth all-time series victory over the Storm in four tries and evened the Bulldogs' record at 1-1 overall this season.
Ferris State will head to Ohio for each of its next two contsts. The Bulldogs visit defending GLIAC Champion Ashland next Saturday, Sept. 21, for a 7 p.m. (ET) league tilt in Ashland, Ohio. FSU then faces Walsh on Saturday, Sept. 28, in Canton, Ohio, at 6 p.m. (ET) before returning home for back-to-back games against GLIAC North Divison rivals Saginaw Valley State and Grand Valley State the first two weeks of October.