Memorable Ferris State Football Season Comes To A Close In NCAA Division II Playoffs

Memorable Ferris State Football Season Comes To A Close In NCAA Division II Playoffs

Postgame Press Conference 

By Cody Carlson

Big Rapids, Mich. – A memorable and historic Ferris State University football campaign came to a close on Saturday (Nov. 29) as the Bulldogs saw their season come to an end with a 46-33 setback to Ohio Dominican in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs at Top Taggart Field.

In a back and forth game, the Panthers came up with a pair of late fourth quarter scores to rally for the win and advance to the national quarterfinals. The also avenged an earlier setback to the Bulldogs in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) regular-season play this season.

Ferris State ended its season with an 11-1 overall record following a perfect regular-season that saw the Bulldogs win the GLIAC Championship in outright fashion and advance to the NCAA-II Playoffs for the first time since 1996. The 11 wins prior to the playoff setback were the most in the regular-season in 106 years of Ferris State football.

FSU, hosting a playoff game for the first time in 18 years, led heading into the fourth quarter in a see-saw contest before the Panthers surged ahead down the stretch behind the play of veteran quarterback Mark Miller for their second playoff win in as many weeks.

In a game that featured eight lead changes, it became evident that the fourth quarter would prove to be the difference. Miller tossed two scoring passes in the final period for ODU as the visiting Panthers prevailed down the stretch.

Ohio Dominican started quickly as the Panthers drove 69 yards on the game's first offensive possession to grab the early lead as Miller found Nick McKnight for a four-yard score, giving ODU a 7-0 edge with 11:40 to play in the first frame.

The Bulldogs would fire right back on their opening drive as junior standout quarterback Jason Vander Laan hooked up with a wide-open Phil Annese down the middle for a 57-yard score on FSU's sixth play from scrimmage. The Bulldogs couldn't convert the extra point, however, as the score stood at 7-6 with nine minutes to play in the first quarter.

Shortly after, the Bulldog defense came up big as they held the Panthers scoreless in the red zone. The ODU drive ended on a missed 31-yard field goal.

Early in the second quarter, FSU senior Dontae Ingraham gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the afternoon on a electrifying 66-yard punt return for a score. His return put the Bulldogs up 13-7 with 13:50 left in the first half.

The Panthers would cut the Bulldogs' lead down on the next drive as kicker Brent Wahle hit a 25-yard field goal. His three-pointer capped a 52-yard drive on seven plays to make the score 13-10 in favor of FSU with 6:27 to play in the half.

The Panthers would then regain the lead with 3:34 left in the half on a five-play, 62-yard drive. It was capped by an eight-yard touchdown reception from All-GLIAC wide receiver Dez Stewart. The Stewart touchdown off a Miller pass gave the Panthers a 17-13 lead.

However, the Bulldogs came back to take the lead into the half as Vander Laan found wideout Kenny Feyh on a one-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone with only 10 seconds left in the opening half. His catch finished a 12 play drive covering 53 yards for FSU.

Ohio Dominican running back Brandon Schoen and the Panthers' offense wasted little time regaining the lead in the third quarter. Schoen found the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown run with 12:13 left in the period to give ODU a 24-20 edge.

Moving forward, FSU's GLIAC Player of the Year Vander Laan took over as he followed up a 42-yard scamper with a nine-yard touchdown strike to Feyh. Vander Laan's second touchdown pass put the Bulldogs back up 27-24 with four minutes to play in the third quarter.

Things would continue to go back and forth as ODU's Darryl Johnson capped off a 10-play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. His score gave the Panthers a 31-27 edge with 14:57 to go in the final quarter.

Once again, the play of Vander Laan helped put the Bulldogs back in front. Vander Laan made a slew of nifty moves on a 24-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a 33-31 lead with 12:15 remaining.

The Panthers would score shortly after on yet another lead change in the game. Ohio Dominican's Miller found McKnight for their second touchdown hookup of the day on a 30-yard scoring play. The Panthers converted the two-point conversion to go up 39-33 with 8:55 to play.

Soon after, ODU linebacker Cameron Kohl intercepted a Vander Laan pass near the goal line to give Ohio Dominican the ball back in Ferris State territory. Later, a roughing the kicker penalty, kept the Panthers drive alive.

The penalty set up a 29-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Johnson, which pushed the Panthers lead to 46-33. It would stand as the final score as the Bulldogs fantastic season came to a close.

Offensively, the Panthers outgained the Bulldogs 548 to 428, with 462 of those yards coming through the air as Miller completed 34-of-46 throws for 462 yards and four scores.

On the FSU side, Vander Laan threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 138 yards and another score. Annese led all Bulldogs with 95 yards on three receptions. KFeyh added two receiving touchdowns for the Bulldogs while Shakur Sanders caught seven balls for 73 yards and Jamel Lockett hauled in four grabs for 44 yards.

Ohio Dominican was paced offensively by Miller, who completed 34-of-46 completed passes. Johnson ran for 42 yards and added 74 yards receiving with two touchdowns. Stewart was also solid, catching six passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore linebacker Anthony Darkangelo paced the Bulldogs with 12 tackles and two tackles for loss, while KC Zenner added nine tackles.

Defensively for the Panthers, Cameron Kohl had 14 tackles and an interception. Sydney Omameh added 13 tackles in the Ohio Dominican victory.

Ferris State closed the memorable year with a 11-1 overall record and posted a perfect 10-0 mark in GLIAC regular-season action. Seventeen seniors will be lost to graduation for FSU.