Big Rapids, Mich. - A historic season came to an end for the Ferris State University football squad on Saturday (Nov. 28) as the Bulldogs suffered a 38-34 setback to rival Grand Valley State in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs at Top Taggart Field.
The Lakers scored with 8:30 to play in the game to regain the advantage and came up with a critical fourth down stop near midfield with one minute left to play to preserve the victory as FSU wrapped up the year with a 11-1 overall record.
The loss was FSU's first of the year following a second consecutive unbeaten regular season and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship. The Bulldogs had beat Texas A&M Commerce last week in the opening round for their first playoff since 1996.
With the setback, the collegiate careers of 17 Bulldog seniors came to a close as one of the most decorated senior classes in school history finished with a 37-9 overall mark, a pair of league championships, two NCAA Playoff appearances and back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons.
In Saturday's game, the Lakers used a 17-point second quarter to grab a 24-20 halftime lead and held on as each team scored twice in the second half. Earlier this year, Grand Valley State had fell at home to FSU 61-24 in regular season play on Sept. 19.
The Lakers jumped out to an early lead in Saturday's rematch as GVSU moved 82 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 advantage on Bart Williams' nine-yard scoring toss to Kirk Spencer with 10:42 to play in the first period.
However, FSU came back to knot the game up when senior quarterback Jason Vander Laan engineered a six-play, 75-yard Bulldog jaunt that resulted in a 35-yard scoring pass to senior receiver Antonio Agurs at the end of the first period.
The Lakers regained the edge on the first play of the second period when Williams found wideout Matt Williams on a 66-yard scoring complete to give GVSU a 14-7 lead.
The Bulldogs responded by moving 74 yards in 11 plays with Vander Laan finding junior receiver Shakur Sanders from seven-yards away to make it an even game with 9:18 left in the opening half.
Again, Grand Valley State moved back in front when Joel Schipper connected on a 45-yard field goal to finish a nine-play, 47-yard drive, giving the Lakers a 17-14 lead.
Ferris State then took its first lead of the day when Vander Laan found sophomore JaJuan Pollock on a 35-yard scoring throw with 4:01 left in the opening half. His reception capped a 78-yard drive for the Bulldogs as FSU took a 20-17 advantage.
But, the Lakers answered with a four-play, 66-yard drive late in the first half to grab a 24-20 lead at the break. Williams hooked with Urston Smith, who made a diving grab in the endzone on the TD throw.
Ferris State started the second half quickly as the Bulldogs took advantage of a defensive stop and a big punt return to move in front with 10:48 remaining in the third period as Vander Laan hooked up with Agurs for a 23-yard score.
The Lakers fought back and surged ahead with 2:08 to play in the third thanks to a lengthy eight-play, 80-yard march that resulted in an 11-yard TD run around the right edge from Marty Carter.
Ferris State, though, opened the final quarter by driving 83 yards in 13 plays for a go-ahead score on Vander Laan's 10-yard TD toss to junior Jamel Lockett with 11:54 remaining in the playoff contest. It gave FSU a 34-31 lead.
However, the Lakers again had an answer as Williams directed an eight-play, 78-yard drive, finding Matt Williams on a one-yard strike for the deciding score with only 8:30 left in the game.
From there, Ferris State still had two more opportunities. The Bulldogs' first drive following the Laker score ended on an interception near midfield with 6:38 left. But, the defensive came up with a stop, forcing the Lakers to punt. Jamie Potts' pooch punt was downed at the FSU four-yard line, putting the Bulldogs 96 yards away.
On the final drive of the game, Ferris State had 12 plays and moved 43 yards out near midfield. However, Vander Laan's fourth-down pass to senior wideout Jake Lampman was caught out of bounds, ending the Bulldogs' campaign.
Ferris State finished with 492 yards of total offense with Vander Laan completing 24-of-40 passes for 281 yards and five scores. Lockett had a game-high nine catches for 87 yards with Agurs making six grabs for 74 yards and his first two TD grabs of the year. Lampman tallied five receptions in his final game while Sanders caught three balls on the FSU side.
On the ground, Vander Laan wrapped up his Bulldog career with yet another 100-plus yard rushing game. He totaled 126 yards on 21 attempts with sophomore Jahaan Brown adding 49 yards on nine carries.
The Lakers were led offensively by Williams, who completed 20-of-34 passes for 335 yards and four scores. Matt Williams had five receptions for 126 yards while Spencer hauled in five catches for 35 yards and Smith totaled 108 yards on four catches. Spencer also led GVSU on the ground with 77 yards rushing.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were paced by junior Anthony Darkangelo, who finished with 11 tackles, including four solo hits. Senior David Churchwell had nine tackles and junior Jaleel Canty recorded six tackles while senior Justin Zimmer netted five stops, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his final game.
Ferris State was making its seventh all-time NCAA Playoff appearance this year, including a second-straight trip to the postseason.
Historic Ferris State Football Season Ends In NCAA Division II Playoffs
|Grand Valley State (11-2)||7||17||7||7||38|
|Ferris State (11-1)||7||13||7||7||34|