Technical knockout

FSU shreds MTU defense for 601 yards in first win over Huskies since 2002

BIG RAPIDS — All it took was 56 points and 601 yards of total offense for the Ferris State football team to defeat Michigan Tech for the first time since 2002.

The Bulldogs dominated the line of scrimmage and got  a number of explosive individual offensive performances in a back-and-forth 56-49 victory over the Huskies.

Quarterback Jason Vander Laan (429 total yards and five total touchdowns), Skyler Stoker (160 total yards and three scores) and wide receiver Jake Lampman (10 catches for 239 yards and two scores)  led a balanced attack that simply shredded the Husky defense all afternoon. The win was the second over a ranked opponent for the Bulldogs (5-3, 4-3) this season.

With FSU combining not turn the ball over with an offense that was clicking, it led to an exciting offensive display, Ferris State coach Tony Annese said.

“Six hundred and one yards is pretty impressive stuff from our offense,” he said. “All in all, it’s a big win against a team we haven’t beaten since 2002. Two weeks ago we beat a team we hadn’t beaten since 1999, so we’re headed in the right direction.”

BIG PLAY: Ferris State quarterback Jason Vander Laan makes his way toward the endzone on a 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter of a 56-49 win over Michigan Tech. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

The Bulldogs came out aggressively on offense, putting the ball up 19 times in the first half. The most surprising development of the afternoon came from Vander Laan in the passing game. The redshirt freshman completed 20-of-28 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns to go with 14 carries for 72 yards and two more scores in his best performance of the season.

“We were efficient on offense,” Annese said. “We were working really hard on being balanced and being able to throw the ball a little bit more. We thought we’d be able to do that in this game.”

Michigan Tech took a 7-0 lead with 9:22 left in the first quarter on a 42-yard touchdown reception by Matt Curtin off play action. The score came a play after MTU stopped FSU on a fourth and three by sacking Vander Laan.

The Huskies would have trouble stopping the Bulldogs the remainder of the half, with FSU having success mixing in the pass with a powerful run game.

FSU gambled on numerous fourth down and short situations throughout the half, including a plunge by Jamaal Jackson to set up a first and goal with less than seven minutes left in the first. The gambles paid off, leading to a 4-yard touchdown run by Skyler Stoker — his first of three first half touchdowns.

Annese said the offense is capable and confident enough in fourth-and-short situations that he isn’t afraid to keep them on the field in critical situations.

“We’re just going to compete,” he said of his team’s 5-of-7 success rate on fourth down. “We came into this game saying that we need to score on every possession. That was our mindset going into the game.  Giving up on fourth down is hard for us to do, because we think we’re going to score on that possession.”

The Bulldogs kept humming on the next offensive drive, with Vander Laan hooking up with Stoker on a 33-yard completion down to the MTU 3-yardline. Vander Laan took it from there with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 14-7 with 12:46 left in the second quarter.

MTU struck back quickly when quarterback Tyler Scarlett hooked up with Curtin on a 25-yard strike to the corner of the endzone to tie the game back up with 10:36 left in the half.

FSU went back to the ground on the ensuing drive, with Vander Laan breaking a number of Michigan Tech tackles to scamper 42 yards for another touchdown on a five-play, 75-yard drive with 9:27 left in the half.

The Huskies continued to have an answer offensively, with Scarlett’s third TD pass of the half on an 11-yard slant across the middle by Alex Elsenheimer to knot the game at 21-21. Michigan Tech provided plenty of offense of its own on Saturday, racking up 543 total yards.

The Bulldogs continued to impress the crowd at Top Taggart Field, however, with a pair of touchdowns to close out the half to take a 35-21 lead.

Vander Laan lofted a pass in to Lampman across the middle of the field for 32 yards, which set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Stoker on the next play to give FSU a 28-21 lead with 4:28 left.

The redshirt freshman signal caller said his receivers’ ability to come up with big catches gave him confidence to deliver the ball without pressure.

“If I can throw 5-yard passes and they can get 30 yards out of it, that really takes the pressure off,” Vander Laan said. “When we’re doing that, it spreads the defense out, so we’re able to go back to our running game.”

After the Bulldogs stopped MTU with 42 seconds left in the half near midfield, FSU went 54 yards in six plays, capping off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vander Laan to Stoker for his third TD of the half.

Ferris State picked up where it left off to start the second half, continuing to have success by mixing the run and pass. The Bulldogs went 75 yards in 2:57, finishing with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Vander Laan to Lampman on a fade that left the sophomore wide open.

“The score right before the half was a huge score,” Annese said. “Then we scored the first possession of the third quarter to take a three possession lead. Against Grand Valley, Hillsdale and now Michigan Tech we’ve scored on that first possession of the second half, and that’s been a big factor for us.”

After the Huskies drove deep into FSU territory, running back Cedric Barber coughed the ball up on the 15-yardline, allowing the Bulldogs’ Mike Elias to recover the ball with 8:28 left in the third.

Michigan Tech was able to get a stop and scored with 4:51 left in the third quarter on Curtin’s third TD catch of the game from Scarlett to make it 42-28.

FSU went back to the air on their next offensive possession and continued to have success with Vander Laan finding Lampman again. The sophomore juked out a Husky defender and raced 61 yards for his second TD of the half to make it 49-28 with 2:14 left in the half.

Lampman said Saturday’s performance was just what he and the young Bulldog receivers needed to gain some confidence.

“I’ve been kind of waiting for a game to break out and just get loosened up for good,” Lampman said of his 10-catch 239-yard performance. “Hopefully we can continue that.”

Michigan Tech got within two touchdowns again on the next drive on Scarlett’s fifth TD pass to Cole Welch with 12:18 remaining to make it 49-35.

But much like the rest of the afternoon, Michigan Tech couldn’t stop the Bulldogs, who went 81 yards in five plays, with Korey Ringer joining in the fun on a 29-yard touchdown run to make it 56-35.

Michigan Tech continued to nip away at the Bulldogs’ lead late when FSU was trying run out the clock. Barber ran in a 2-yard touchdown, followed by a 7-yard toss from Scarlett to Elsenheimer to make it 56-49 with 37 second remaining. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Bulldogs.

Annese said his team’s ability to compete has him believing more good things are on the horizon.

“I tell these guys we’re 5-3, we’re in the hunt,” he said. “We’re right there with a chance to be a dang good football team. The future bright, our kids are fighting hard.”

To see more photos from this game please check out our photo gallery!

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