Big Rapids, Mich. - The nationally 13th-ranked Ferris State University football team gave its fans plenty to cheer about on homecoming as the Bulldogs raced to a 49-21 victory over highly-regarded Findlay in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) action at FSU's Top Taggart Field.
The Bulldogs, off to their best start since reaching the NCAA Division II National Semifinals in 1995, improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the GLIAC with the win. Findlay suffered only its second setback of the season in dropping to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play.
The contest lived up to the hype early as neither team was able to find the endzone in a scoreless first quarter of action.
The Oilers eventually struck first early in the second quarter as standout quarterback Verlon Reed directed a 99-yard march capped by a four-yard touchdown toss to Anthony Federico with 12:48 to play in the first half.
However, the Bulldogs answered on the ensuing possession as Ferris State drove 75 yards in 13 plays to tie the game back up on a two-yard scoring run from senior tailback Jamaal Jackson.
Late in the opening half, Ferris State got the ball back and marched 76 yards in nine plays with junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan hooking up with sophomore wideout Shakur Sanders for a 22-yard scoring play. The defense then stood up to the challenge and held Findlay on the final play of the second quarter as Ferris State took a 14-7 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs carried the momentum into the second half as redshirt freshman Jahaan Brown returned the second half kickoff 99 yards for a score to push the Bulldog lead to two scores.
But, Findlay battled back and follwed with a long kickoff return of its own before moving 51 yards in 11 plays to pull within 21-14 on Dylan Hirzel's two-yard scoring pass from Jesse Slone on a fake field goal try.
The score stood until late in the third period when FSU increased its lead to 28-14 on Vander Laan's one-yard scoring run to finish an eight-play, 40-yard drive.
Vander Laan added yet another one-yard run with 11:34 remaining in the game to push the Bulldog lead to 35-14. It wrapped up a seven-play drive covering 54 yards.
Again, though, the Oilers fought back. Reed directed a five-play, 73-yard jaunt on the next possession to pull the Oilers back within two scores on a one-yard scoring carry.
Soon after, Findlay recovered a Bulldog fumble and had an opportunity to pull back within a score, but FSU's Troy Smith intercepted Reed's pass and raced 90 yards for a score to push the Ferris State lead to 42-21.
From there, the Bulldogs' defense held and FSU kept the ball on the ground in an effort to run out the clock before Brown eventually capped a 51-yard drive that last more than four minutes with a 10-yard scoring run to account for the final margin.
Ferris State tallied 371 yards of total offense, including 251 yards on the ground while limiting Findlayto only 298 total yards and only 105 rushing.
Vander Laan led the Bulldogs with 91 yards on 20 carries for two scores while also completing 10-of-16 throws for 120 yards and a TD. Jamel Lockett added 59 yards rushing on nine attempts while Brown tallied 40 yards on seven carries. Sanders hauled in five catches for 72 yards to lead the Bulldogs' receiving corps.
The Oilers were paced by Reed, who completed 18-of-28 throws for 191 yards and a score. FSU limited standout Findlay back Daiquone Ford to only 35 yards on 12 carries. Luke Hampton caught two passes for 83 yards to UF.
Defensively, Bulldog junior standout Justin Zimmer registered 12 tackles and forced a fumble. He also had a sack for the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, senior Corey Stone made 11 stops with two tackles for loss and four solo hits.
Harold Jones-Quartey had an impressive 17 tackles in leading the Oilers' defense while also forcing a fumble in the game.
Ferris State, which has won nine consecutive games dating back to last season, will be at home again next Saturday (Oct. 11) as FSU hosts Tiffin in a 12 p.m. (ET) contest at Top Taggart Field.