By Cody Carlson
More Postgame Coming Soon!
Big Rapids, Mich. - The undefeated Ferris State University football team clinched at least a share of the program's first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship since 1999 by rallying behind for a 35-17 win over Northern Michigan on Saturday (Nov. 8) at FSU's Top Taggart Field.
On a day in which 17 seniors were honored prior to the regular-season home finale, the Bulldogs celebrated the milestone accomplishment after overcoming a 10-point second half deficit against a NMU team that had upset hopes on its mind.
However, a big second half from junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan and the Bulldogs FSU to the win as the Bulldogs moved to 10-0 on the year and 9-0 in the GLIAC with one game remaining in the regular-season.
In the second half alone, FSU converted on 10-of-11 third down plays to keep their perfect season intact.
After honoring the large contingent of seniors, the Bulldogs struck first at Top Taggart Field as Vander Laan capped off a four-play, 72-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs would convert the extra point to take an early 7-0 lead with 6:59 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats, though, came right back with a touchdown of their own as junior tailback Terrance Dye found the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown run after the Bulldogs fumbled a punt to setup the short field. Dye finished the three-play, 39-yard jaunt with an impressive run on the ground to knot the game up at seven points apiece with four minutes left in the first stanza.
Northern Michigan then grabbed its first lead of the game late in the first half to take a 14-7 lead at halftime. NMU cornerback Laquan Middleton picked off a Vander Laan pass to again setup the short field for the Wildcats' second score of the afternoon. This time it was through the air as junior Marcus Tucker found the end zone on a four-yard reception from quarterback Shaye Brown as the Bulldogs trailed at halftime for the first time all season.
The Wildcats would force a Ferris State fumble on the opening kick of the second half, but the FSU defense stepped up and held Northern Michigan to a 27-yard field goal from Ryan LaBerge. His kick pushed the Wildcats' lead to 17-7 with 14 minutes to go in the third quarter.
Vander Laan then went to work and engineered the Bulldogs' second half comeback. The Harlon Hill Trophy candidate led the Bulldogs on a 11-play, 74-yard drive to cut the Wildcats lead to 17-14 five minutes into the second half. He found junior receiver Kenny Feyh on a 17-yard touchdown connection as Vander Laan tossed his 25th touchdown pass of the season.
Ferris State still trailed 17-14 going into the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs reclaimed the lead on a six-yard touchdown run by Vander Laan with 11:43 to play. The Vander Laan touchdown run was set up by his own 40-yard completion to Shakur Sanders.
FSU then came up with a critical special teams play as the Bulldogs forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
From there, it didn't take the Bulldogs long to add to their lead. Vander Laan reached paydirt again for his third rushing touchdown of the game and 16th of the season with 8:22 to go, giving FSU a 28-17 lead. His score came from nine-yards out as FSU needed only six plays to cover 26 yards following the turnover.
The Bulldog defense also had a strong second half in shutting down the Wildcats' attack, limiting NMU to only a field goal the entire third and fourth quarters. They came up with a big fourth down stop to setup FSU's final score of the game.
This time it was senior tailback Jamaal Jackson, who found the end zone on a four-yard scamper, accounting for the final score with 1:19 left in the game. His score capped a short nine-play, 36-yard march for Ferris State.
Offensively, the Bulldogs outgained the Wildcats as FSU finished with 483 yards of total offense to 278 for NMU. Vander Laan rushed for a team-high 90 yards and added 222 through the air while accounting for four touchdowns on the day. Jackson added 72 yards on 17 carries with a TD while Sanders paced the Bulldogs' receivers with four receptions for 89 yards.
The Wildcats were led offensively by Dye, who rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Dalton Stenberg had a game high 19 tackles for NMU and Nick Krause added 17 tackles, with four of those coming for loss.
Ferris State, ranked among the nation's top four teams in six different polls, will close out the regular-season with a chance to win the GLIAC's outright crown next Saturday (Nov. 15) on the road against Walsh University in Canton, Ohio. Kickoff is set for noon.
FSU is also presently ranked first in the NCAA Super Region Four Rankings with the official NCAA postseason selections set to be made on Sunday, Nov. 16. FSU has not advanced to the Division II Playoffs since 1996.
Additionally, FSU will also have an opportunity next week to finish the regular-season with a perfect 11-0 mark. In school history, four Bulldog teams have finished a regular-season unbeaten but none have ever went 11-0 in regular-season action.
The Bulldogs have currently won a nation-leading and school-record 14-straight games dating back to last year and remain Michigan's only unbeaten collegiate or professional team this season.