The Bulldogs gashed the Lakers for 485 yards of total offense and left Lubbers Stadium with a 47-32 upset win over Grand Valley State to advance to next weekend’s DII semifinals.
“Expectations at Grand Valley are always extremely high,” said Grand Valley head coach Matt Mitchell after the game. “We’re very disappointed that we’re here as one of eight with a chance to be one of four, and we didn’t win the game, (but) I’m proud of our guys for battling.
“In 2014, we went 6-5, and there was a lot of negativity and that crew has now led us to a 24-4 record (the past two years) and a couple of deep playoff runs and a GLIAC championship and a large part of that was the commitment of our senior class.”
Photos from Saturday’s games
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-0 lead midway through the second quarter and appeared to be the more motivated ball club early on as the Lakers dug themselves into an early hole.
A high snap on an attempted Laker punt resulted in a safety and an early 2-0 lead for the visiting Bulldogs. Shortly after that, quarterback Reggie Bell rushed for a nine-yard score, followed by a 25-yard field goal by kicker Wyatt Ford on the next drive by Ferris.
Grand Valley responded with back-to-back scoring drives after that. Kicker Joel Schipper got the Lakers on the board with a 32-yard field goal with 9:22 left in the second quarter.
After the GVSU defense intercepted a Bell pass, Laker running back Marty Carter rumbled 48 yards for a score to bring the hosts within two points of the upset-minded visitors at halftime.
It appeared Grand Valley had figured out the Bulldog defense early in the third quarter, when sophomore quarterback Bart Williams connected with Nick Dodson for a 13-yard score to give the Lakers a 17-12 lead.
It only took three plays for Ferris State to take the lead back, however, as quarterback Trevor Bermingham dove into the endzone for a two-yard score to give the Bulldogs a 19-17 lead.
Bermingham would add a 19-yard rushing score, before Grand Valley would answer with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Urston Smith to bring the score to 26-24.
In what became a theme in the game, every time the Lakers closed within a score — Ferris State would drive down the field and pull away.
After a 46-yard pass play to Malik Taylor, Bermingham dashed into the endzone for a two-yard score to put the scoreboard at 33-24.
Bermingham added a five-yard score early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 40-24.
The Lakers managed to add a 20-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Dodson with 1:05 left in the game and added a two-point conversion to bring the Lakers within one possession of the Bulldogs.
However, the Bulldogs’ KC Zenner returned the onside kick attempt 56 yards for a score to solidify the upset and bring the game to its final score of 47-32.
Bart Williams finished 23-of-40 passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns, but was sacked seven times in the game.
“Their game plan was to come in and put pressure on the quarterback, and on offense, we didn’t handle it well enough to get the win,” Williams said. “My job is to step in there and make throws, and I didn’t make enough throws to win the game.”
Wideout Nick Dodson hauled in 11 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns to lead the GVSU receiving corps, while Marty Carter added 163 yards rushing on 18 attempts an one touchdown.
While Ferris State rolled up 275 yards rushing on the day, it was sophomore wide out Malik Taylor who stole the show on offense for the Bulldogs.
The standout caught five passes for 132 yards, often converted on third-down to extend drives.
“I believe we had them on a second-and- 25 and they completed a ball (to Taylor) and we had several individuals miss tackles and he ran it down to the two-yard line,” Mitchell said. “That was a pivotal play, a backbreaker type play for our defense in that situation.
“Poor kickoff coverage led to them getting the ball at midfield, and we gave up those two scores and we were kind of chasing things the rest of the day,” Mitchell said. “Then when you’re down two scores in the fourth quarter everybody knows you’re throwing the ball and that makes things more difficult for everybody on offense.”
Trevor Bermingham finished 9-of-11 passing for 163 yards, and added 51 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground after coming in for starter Reggie Bell (49 yards rushing and one touchdown).
“A change in quarterback offensively (Reggie Bell started for Ferris State) and an extremely aggressive game plan defensively are probably the biggest differences between the Week 6 matchup and this quarterfinal match,” Mitchell said. “We struggled offensively (Saturday).”
Ferris State (12-2) advances to play Northwest Missouri State (13-0) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the Division II national semifinals. The game will live streamed on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.com