Bulldogs seeking consistency

Annese hopes to see more of FSU’s second half effort against Ashland

BIG RAPIDS — Tony Annese saw Ferris State’s loss to Ashland in its home opener Saturday as something he believes his team can learn from.

The Bulldogs’ first-year head coach was happy that his team was able to put up 32 points and 354 yards in the second half alone against the Eagles — a team that had just shut out defending Division II runner-up Wayne State the previous weekend. It was the first half, which saw the Bulldogs fall behind 23-0, that stood out as the key to Annese in the loss.

GANGING UP: Ferris State’s Mike Elias (left) and Will Miles (right) look to bring down an Ashland player during Saturday’s home opener at Top Taggart Field. FSU dropped the opener 47-32. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

“It was one of those things where we never got a rythm,” he said. “When you’re playing against a team like Ashland, they’re a quality, experienced football team. They know what they’re doing, so a lot of credit goes to them.”

Ferris State punted five times in the first half, while turning it over on downs and missing a field goal with its other possessions.

The Bulldogs came out firing, however, in the third quarter — a tribute to the team’s resolve, quarterback Jason VanderLaan said.

“We came out after halftime and we didn’t quit,” he said. “Our defense got us some huge stops and we were able to score early on. We didn’t hang our heads. We just need to get rid of some of the little mental mistakes, but there are some positive to take away.”

Annese said the success the team had in the second half should be used as a learning experience for the Bulldogs the rest of the season.

“We need to use this as a good lesson for how you need to battle for four quarters,” he said.

FSU would score touchdowns on four of its first five possessions in the first half, while adding a field goal late. Overall, the Bulldogs were only stopped once in the second half against an Ashland defense that had surrendered just 14 points in the first two games of the season.

Ferris State out-scored No. 22 Ashland 32-24 in the second half.

“It wasn’t that we changed anything, we were just executing what we had to do,” VanderLaan said. “In the first half we had a couple of bad throws. Things just started clicking (in the second half).”

VanderLaan, who finished with 75 yards rushing to go with 144 yards passing on Saturday, said he thought the team ran the option effectively, in particular, during the second half scoring outburst.

Annese mentioned the magnitude of the game and playing in front of a big home crowd to start the home slate may have caused his team to come out tense.

That doesn’t mean a larger crowd than normal — 3,806 — wasn’t appreciated from the players and team, Annese said.

“You probably notice by my temperament that I’m on an island out there,” he said. “I’m a lunatic. I don’t notice fans too much, I try to get the bench involved in the game. I’m appreciative that people are here to support us, that’s exciting. I just hope it continues, because we’re going to be a team that’s going to battle.”

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