Big Rapids, Mich. - A gutsy two-point conversion call with nine seconds remaining in the contest proved successful for the Ferris State University football team as head coach Tony Annese went for the win and the Bulldogs pulled out an exciting 32-31 victory over Northern Michigan to cap the 2012 campaign on Saturday (Nov. 10) afternoon inside the Superior Dome in Marquette.
The Bulldogs trailed 31-24 with just over three minutes remaining, but drove 93 yards in 14 plays to pull within a single point on a 14-yard TD pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Vander Laan to sophomore wideout Jake Lampman with nine seconds remaining.
Rather than kick the extra point and send the game into overtime, Annese elected to line up for a two-point conversion try and forced NMU to use its final two timeouts. Despite the stoppage, FSU didn't hesitate and went for the win with Torico Searcy finding the endzone on a sweep around the rightside to lift the Bulldogs to the victory.
FSU ended the year with a 7-4 overall record, which represents the first time the Bulldogs have won at least seven games since 2006 and only the second time in the last 10 years. It came in the debut season for Annese as the Bulldogs sent 17 seniors out with a memorable win and built momenutum heading into the offseason.
Northern Michigan started the game quickly as the Wildcats struck for 10 points in the first quarter. They moved 80 yards in nine plays before QB Cody Scepaniak capped the first drive with a two-yard scoring run. Soon after, Rocky Belmonte drilled a 23-yard field goal to give the hosts a 10-point advantage with 2:37 to play in the frame.
The Bulldogs pulled within a score as FSU marched 62 yards in nine plays before Vander Laan found paydirt from 28 yards away to make it 10-7 with 7:59 left in the half. However, the Wildcats answered with a 29-yard field goal from Belmonte to take a 13-7 lead.
FSU opened the second half by moving 75 yards in eight plays and took a 14-13 advantage on Jamaal Jackson's seven-yard TD run. NMU answered at 6:52 of the third quarter with a 62-yard drive that ended on Belmonte's 44-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 16-14 edge.
The Bulldogs regained the lead at 17-16 with 3:20 remaining in the third stanza when Austin Kantola connected on a 32-yard field goal to finish a 45-yard drive. But, NMU responded as Christian Jessie ran back the kickoff 99 yards to the endzone to give NMU a 24-17 margin following three quarters.
In the fourth, the Bulldogs tied the game up as Vander Laan engineered a 32-yard drive in four plays before scoring from five yards away to make it 24-24 with 10:51 left. The short drive was setup by an interception from senior linebacker Mike Elias following a controversial situation that appeared to give NMU an extra down.
The Wildcats though took a 31-24 lead with 7:54 to play as they drove 52 yards in five plays after an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by the Bulldogs. Prince Young capped the drive with a six-yard run.
The Bulldogs were not able to score on the following drive as NMU held FSU on a fourth-and-short situation, but the FSU defense stepped up to the challenge and got the ball back for the offense for the final game-winning drive.
FSU rolled up 407 yards of total offense with 269 on the ground and 138 in the air. NMU was held to 286 yards including 129 rushing and 158 throwing the ball.
Vander Laan ran for 121 yards on two scores while establishing a new GLIAC single-season record for most rushing yards in a year by a quarterback and a new school record for most rushing yards in a campaign by a rookie. He also completed 14-of-25 throws as Lampman caught a game-high five passes for 74 yards.
NMU was led by Scepaniak with 60 rushing yards on 18 carries and he completed 11-of-19 throws for 157 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldgos received a team-high 11 stops from senior end Brad Iskow, which included four tackles for loss as he became the program's all-time single-season leader. Senior linebacker Tayo Moss had 10 stops in his final Bulldog contest with Elias addding six tackles.
The Bulldogs concluded the year with a 6-4 mark in GLIAC action and held the second-best record among the North Division schools in competitive divisional play.