Ferris State Survives To Advance In NCAA Division II Playoffs With Win Over Harding

FSU Football

Postgame Highlights Video
FSU Postgame Press Conference Video
Harding Postgame Press Conference Video

Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football squad survived and advanced in the NCAA Division II Playoffs on Saturday (Nov. 17) as FSU used a big start before holding on to beat a tough Harding (Ark.) squad 21-19 in round one of the D2 postseason at Top Taggart Field.

In their fifth-straight D2 Playoff appearance and in a rematch of last year's Super Region Three championship game won by the Bisons in Big Rapids on a game-ending field goal, the Bulldogs built a 21-0 halftime lead with a strong performance in all three phases the first 30 minutes.

However, the Bisons rallied and scored three times in the fourth quarter to pull within two points before a potential game-winning drive was thrwarted by the Bulldogs in the closing minutes, allowing FSU to run out the clock.

In the opening half, the Bulldogs marched 85 yards in 10 plays before posting the game's opening points on slot receiver Jevon Shaw's five-yard scoring run with 7:15 to go in the first period.

Early in the second frame, Ferris State took advantage of a poor punt by the Bisons and utilized the short field to their advantage, moving 34 yards in eight plays with sophomore back Marvin Campbell scoring on a two-yard TD reception from quarterback Jayru Campbell to make it a 14-0 contest.

Less than four minutes later, the Bulldogs blocked a Harding punt and senior Danny Collins recovered, giving FSU the ball deep in Bison territory. Harlon Hill Trophy candidate Jayru Campbell needed only eight yards and three plays to move FSU to paydirt, scoring himself on a one-yard keeper to push the edge to 21-0.

The game changed in the second half as Harding held the FSU offense without a first down until the final drive and used their triple-option offense to make things interesting.

The Bisons drove 64 yards in 12 plays to cut the deficit to 21-6 on Taylor Bissell's five-yard scoring run with 14:55 left in the game. However, the PAT kick failed.

After a Bulldog fumble, the Bisons recovered at the FSU one-yard line and needed a single play to pull within 21-12 on Cole Chancey's one-yard scoring plunge. The Bisons went for two, but were stopped by FSU, keeping the game at a two-score difference.

Midway thru the fourth frame, with 7:57 left, the Bisons pulled within 21-19 when Bissell found the endzone from 16-yards away, finishing a nine-play, 53-yard jaunt.

The HU defense then forced a three-and-out and the Bisons got the ball back with seven minutes to play and down only a single score, similar to the game-winning drive situation a year ago. However, a chop block penalty forced the Bisons back to their own 35-yard line after reaching midfield and they eventually were held on downs when a potential first-down throw to Bissell over the middle fell incomplete on fourth down with less than three minutes to play.

The Bulldog offense then took over and went to the ground game and was able to pick up enough yardage for a first down before running out the clock to preserve the win.

Harding finished with 280 yards of total offense, including 262 on the ground, while limiting FSu to 153 total yards with 68 rushing. The Bisons threw the football only four times and possessed the ball for more than 34 minutes in the outing.

Ferris State was led by Jayru Campbell, who completed nine-of-14 throws for 85 yards and a score. Marvin Campbell ran for 42 yards on 11 carries while senior wideout Malik Taylor returned to the Bulldog lineup and caught three balls for 32 yards.

The Bisons were paced by Chancey's 101 yards rushing in the game with quarterback Preston Paden adding 62 yards on 10 carries. He was one-of-four in the air for 18 yards.

Defensively, junior linebacker Avonte Bell made a game-high 14 stops for the Bulldog defense, including 10 solo hits and two tackles for loss. Delon Stephenson added nine stops and linebacker Sam Heyboer had eight for FSU.

The Bulldogs improved to 12-0 overall this season with the win while Harding had its season come to an end with a 9-3 record.

Ferris State, the number two seed in Super Region Three, will remain at home and host sixth-seeded Northwest Missouri State on Saturday (Nov. 24) at Top Taggart Field in the region semifinals. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (ET) and tickets will go on sale Tuesday morning.

Stay tuned to FerrisStateBulldogs.com for additional postseason information as it becomes available.