FSU football runs the table with win over Walsh

Bulldogs defeat Walsh to finish season 11-0 for first time in school history

CANTON, Ohio — Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter against Walsh, the No. 4 Ferris State football team saw its undefeated season slipping away in the final regular season contest on Saturday at Fawcett Stadium located at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

ON THE RUN: Ferris State’s Dontae Ingraham (9) takes off down the field as Walsh defenders give chase on Saturday in Canton, Ohio. The Bulldogs beat the Cavaliers, 46-42, at Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to complete their 11-0 undefeated season, the first 11-0 season in school history. (Courtesy photo/Kevin McDermott)

ON THE RUN: Ferris State’s Dontae Ingraham (9) takes off down the field as Walsh defenders give chase on Saturday in Canton, Ohio. The Bulldogs beat the Cavaliers, 46-42, at Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to complete their 11-0 undefeated season, the first 11-0 season in school history. (Courtesy photo/Kevin McDermott)

The Bulldogs then turned to junior quarterback and Harlon Hill candidate Jason Vander Laan and he showed why he’s been one of the best players in the nation this season, running for a 1-yard touchdown in the final 36 seconds of regulation to clinch a 46-42 win over the Cavaliers, giving FSU its first 11-0 regular season in school history, an outright Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) championship and its first playoff berth since 1996.

On Sunday, Ferris State (11-0, 10-0 GLIAC) was named the top seed in Super Regional No. 4 for the NCAA Division II Football Tournament, earning a first-round bye. They’ll host the winner of this upcoming Saturday’s first-round matchup between fourth-seeded Colorado School of Mines (10-1) and fifth-seeded Ohio Dominican (9-1) in Golden, Colo.

Ferris State defeated Ohio Dominican, 34-19, in GLIAC play back on Oct. 18 in Columbus, Ohio.

On the other side of the regional bracket, Colorado State-Pueblo (10-1) gets a bye as the second seed. They’ll host the winner of No. 3 Michigan Tech (9-1) and No. 6 Angelo State (8-2), who play Saturday in Houghton. The Bulldogs also beat the Huskies in GLIAC play this season with a 37-3 road victory on Oct. 25

“It’s something that is just a really unbelievable achievement,” Ferris State coach Tony Annese said of the 11-0 regular season. “As hard as it was to do it, it’s something that will never be taken away from us.

“One of the kids said after the game, ‘We’re not done yet.’ But I said, ‘Yes, we are. We’re done with this part of the season.’ It’s done and it’s in the history books and I just want to kids to know just how miraculous it is,” he continued. “We’ll focus on the second season when it gets here, but right now I just want the kids to look back on what an achievement it’s been.”

After the Bulldog defense forced Walsh into a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the FSU offense marched 78 yards in eight plays and capped off the drive with a 24-yard touchdown strike from Vander Laan to junior slot receiver Antonio Agurs, putting FSU up by seven with 9:47 to play in the opening quarter.

Following punts by each team on the next two possessions, Walsh used a 34-yard pass from Jason Fracassa to Anthony Schrock to set up a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Justin Keith to square things up at 7-7 at the 5:42 mark of the first quarter.

The Bulldogs got back in business with an 89-yard return from senior slot receiver Dontae Ingraham on the ensuing kickoff to set them up on the Walsh 2, but a fumble by Vander Laan on 2nd and Goal moved them back to the 10, forcing them to settle for a 27-yard field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Mitch Bredberg to go up by three.

Ferris State’s defense kept the momentum going a few plays later when redshirt freshman defensive back Ato Condelee picked off Fracassa and returned it 48 yards down to the Walsh 10, but the Cavaliers held strong to force a 34-yard field goal attempt from Bredberg that went wide right to keep the score at 10-7 in favor of FSU with 14:24 to go in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs forced a punt on the following possession to get the ball back on their own 27, but the Cavaliers recovered a fumble from Vander Laan at midfield on the first play of the drive to set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Fracassa to Jerald Robinson four plays later to give Walsh a 14-10 edge with 9:40 left before halftime.

Turnovers once again bit the Bulldogs on the ensuing possession when another Vander Laan fumble found its way into the hands of Walsh’s Cameron Trudell to put the Cavaliers in business on the FSU 38.

The Cavaliers then dug into their bag of tricks with a double-pass trick play to go up 21-10 on a 15-yard scoring pass from Blake Williams.

Ferris State responded with a 1-yard touchdown run on a keeper by Vander Laan to cap off an eight-play, 58-yard scoring drive and pull the Bulldogs within four with 3:39 left in the opening half, but Walsh fired right back with a four-play, 70-yard scoring drive to push its lead to 28-17 after a 1-yard touchdown run by Keith.

The Bulldogs would get a shot at a 28-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds of the half, but Bredberg pushed the attempt wide right. Ferris State got the ball back to open the second half and proceeded to drive 57 yards in seven plays to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by sophomore slot receiver Jamel Lockett to cut the deficit to 28-24 with 13:02 left to play in the third quarter, but Walsh once again answered a Bulldog score with one of its own with another 1-yard touchdown plunge by Keith to go up by 11.

“I thought after we came out and scored a touchdown on the first possession of the second half that we’d be able to start pulling away,” Annese said. “But Walsh came back and scored right after that. It was just a fight for every minute of the game.”

But the Bulldogs continued to respond when Vander Laan hit paydirt from 4 yards out early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 35-32 with 14:06 to play after a 2-point conversion pass from Ingraham to junior receiver Kenny Feyh.

After the FSU defense forced another three-and-out on the next possession, turnovers once again cost the Bulldogs a shot at points after sophomore receiver Shakur Sanders lost a fumble on the Walsh 37.

The Cavaliers wasted little time as they cashed in on the Bulldog turnover four plays later on a 27-yard touchdown connection from Fracassa to Robinson to put them back up by 10 with 9:38 to play in regulation.

Seeing their undefeated season slowing fading away, the Bulldogs fired right back as Vander Laan led them on an 80-yard scoring drive to pull within three after a 23-yard touchdown pass from Vander Laan to senior running back Jamaal Jackson with 7:25 left to play.

“Jason was big down the stretch and our defense made some big stops to get us the ball back,” Annese said. “We faced a lot of adversity, but we fought through it.”

Vander Laan ended the day completing 18-of-27 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns, adding a game-high 101 yards and three scores on the ground. Vander Laan also broke the all-time career rushing record in the victory, coming into the game needing just 20 yards to break the previous mark of 4,192 yards owned by Mo Harris (1996-99).

Lockett added 71 yards on the ground and six catches for 68 yards, with FSU piling up 521 yards of total offense.

Defensively, senior linebacker Darnell Morris and senior defensive tackle Corey Stone  recorded seven stops apiece to lead the way for FSU.

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