By Cody Carlson
Big Rapids, Mich. – The unbeaten and nationally-ranked Ferris State University football team treated the home crowd at Top Taggart Field to another big victory on Saturday (Oct. 11) as a strong first half propelled the Bulldogs to a 68-20 victory over the Tiffin Dragons.
Ferris State rushed for a staggering 556 yards and finished the game with 767 total yards. Both of those marks surpassed the previous school records recorded in this year's season-opening victory at McKendree (Ill.).
"I told our kids that their focus and ability to prepare and get ready to play one week at a time is as good as anyone in the country," said FSU head coach Tony Annese. "They did a great job of taking control in the first half and it was nice to get so many guys an opportunity to play."
The Bulldogs wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as redshirt freshman back Jahaan Brown scored on a 40-yard touchdown run on the game's first possession. The Bulldogs needed only four plays to get the ball in the end zone on the opening drive while covering 75 total yards.
The Dragons answered the Bulldog score on their first offensive play of the day with a 51-yard touchdown connection from quarterback Antonio Pipkin to Marcus Beaurem. The extra point was blocked as Ferris state stayed in front by a 7-6 count.
However, the Jahaan Brown show continued on the next Bulldog drive as he capped off another quick march with an 18-yard touchdown run. His TD run with just over 12 minutes to play in the first quarter gave the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead. As FSU moved 75 yards again in only five plays.
Then, the Bulldog special teams area came up with a huge play as sophomore Kitwana Clark forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to get the ball back inside the red zone. Shortly after, the Bulldogs capitalized on the turnover when junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan found senior slot Dontae Ingraham for a 9-yard touchdown connection to push the FSU lead to 21-6.
The following Tiffin possession came to an end when sophomore linebacker Nick Huckabay picked off Pipkin's pass across the middle and returned it to near midfield. The Bulldogs wasted little time following the turnover as Brown took the next play to the house from 56-yards out. Brown's third touchdown of the afternoon pushed the Bulldog lead to 28-6.
Brown would then score his forth touchdown of the first quarter, as he punched it in from 7-yards out to push the Bulldog lead to 35-6 at the end of the opening stanza. The talented redshirt freshman from Grand Rapids finished the first quarter with 212 yards on just nine carries before sitting out the rest of the game.
FSU struck again only two seconds into the second quarter as Vander Laan capped off a five-play, 53-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The score increased the Bulldogs' lead to 42-6.
A big 57-yard pass from Vander Laan to slot Jamel Lockett set up the Bulldogs' next score early in the second period. This time it was sophomore wideout Shakur Sanders, who found the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vander Laan. The score built the Bulldogs' lead to 49-6 with just over nine minutes to play in the first half.
The Bulldogs would strike again on another Vander Laan touchdown run from three yards out. The Bulldogs couldn't convert on the extra point, as they took a 55-6 lead with just under six minutes left in the half. His TD run capped a 70-yard march in six plays.
Shortly after, the Dragons finally ended FSU's 48-straight point burst as Tomislav Dereczic connected on a 33-yard field goald. But, the Bulldogs were not done yet as Vander Laan found Ingraham for their second touchdown connection from 13 yards out. It gave the Bulldogs an astonishing 62-9 lead after one-half of play, as they totaled 558 yards of total offense in the opening two quarters of action.
Shortly after, the Dragons would find the end zone for the first time since their opening offensive play. This time it was Tiffin freshman Danny Lombardo, who caught a Pipkin pass for a 28-yard touchdown. Pipkin then found Jeremy Lewis for a successful two-point conversion attempt to cut the Bulldog lead to 68-17 after three quarters.
Following a forced turnover, the Dragons went down the field on a nine play, 77-yard drive to get three more points on a 38-yard field goal from Derezic. The field goal would make it 68-20 in the Bulldogs' favor with just over 13 minutes to play in the game. From there, FSU cruised to the win as the Bulldogs played nearly every player in uniform and a majority of the team's starters never played after the big first-half lead.
Offensively, the Bulldogs were led by Brown, who ran for 212 yards on nine carries, with four touchdowns in earning Player of the Game honors. Amazingly, Brown accomplished all that in the first quarter alone.
Vander Laan was once again efficient for the Bulldogs. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 123 yards on the ground and two more scores. Sanders hauled in five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Ingraham caught two Vander Laan touchdown passes in his return to the field following an injury.
The Dragons were paced offensively by Pipkin, who completed 33 of his 50 passes for 410 yards and two touchdowns. Beaurem caught eight of those Pipkin passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Tiffin recorded 399 yards of total offense, all coming through the air as the Bulldog defense limited the Dragons to -11 yards rushing on 20 attempts. FSU also held a 30-19 edge in total first downs
Defensively, Huckabay led the way with eight tackles and an interception for the Bulldogs. Senior defensive back Andrew Sowards added seven tackles while Troy Smith had six stops in a balanced defensive effort.
Akeem Needum led the Dragons with eight tackles while DJ Stewart added seven tackles.
Ferris State finished seven-of-nine on third down and eight-of-10 in the red zone in winning its 10th-straight game dating back to last season. The stretch represents one of the top five longest active streaks in all levels of college football.
The Bulldogs will travel to defending GLIAC Champion Ohio Dominican for a potential battle of top 10-ranked teams next Saturday (Oct. 18) at ODU's Panther Field in Columbus, Ohio. The game between the two unbeaten teams kicks off at 1 p.m. (ET) and will be carried live by local flagship station Sunny 97.3 FM and the Bulldog Sports Network online at FerrisStateBulldogs.com.
"This is great for the GLIAC to have two unbeaten teams playing each other at this point in the season and I know Ohio Dominican has a great team so this will be a big test for us," Annese said.
The trip to ODU opens a critical two-game road stretch for the Bulldogs against currently unbeaten teams in the Panthers and Michigan Tech, who will be FSU's opponent in Houghton on Oct. 25.