In a record-setting day, the Ferris State football team closed out its season with a resounding win over Northern Michigan University in Big Rapids.
The 35-22 victory was a dominating performance, supplemented by the return of head coach Tony Annese.
“Yesterday I really felt the love,” Annese said. “It was sunny and I came back and everyone was in such high spirits; you ultimately coach for that feeling.”
The game also featured a performance that hasn’t been matched in NCAA Division II Football history.
Sophomore quarterback Jason Vander Laan’s 211-yard rushing day was enough to break the Division II single season QB rushing yards record.
“Some of the coaches call him the terminator,” Annese said. “He got his hand banged up last week and that’s really the only thing that he’s ever really had that’s held him back this year.”
Coming into the day, Vander Laan had 1,396 yards on the ground during the season and needed 87 to pass the record. He finished with 1,606 rushing yards on the season.
“He’s the same guy that last year I think played eight games with a sports hernia,” Annese said smiling.
Though it was the focus for much of the day in the press box, there was still important football to be played.
The Bulldogs gave up a 100-yard kick return by Christian Jessie for a touchdown to open the game, which dampened the Dawgs’ faithful.
Ferris took control of the game and went up 28-10 as the game neared the half.
At the end of the half, Brown dropped back to pass and was immediately pressured. Brown slipped through four tacklers, spun around in reverse twice and launched a pass that senior safety Jamar Wimberly snagged for one of his two picks of the day.
“We thought they were gonna do a ‘Hail Mary’ and they lined up in kind of a different formation,” Wimberly said. “So coaches just told us to back up, [Brown] kept scrambling left and right and finally I picked it off, tried to run and I got tired.”
As Annese put it, both teams were “sleep walking” toward the end of the game after the half.
The clock ran out on Ferris State’s season as Vander Laan, appropriately, took the final snaps to a wild season, in which they finished at 8-3 overall.
“I don’t want anyone to think that was all me,” Vander Laan said. “All the credit goes to the O-Line. They’re the tightest knit group on the team and I was tearing up on the field [at] losing those guys.”
Ferris finished 8-2 in GLIAC, which will cause them to miss the playoffs. It’s the first eight-win season since 2006. The Ferris football playoff drought now stretches into its 17th year: the Bulldogs haven’t been since 1996.
From the GLIAC, Ohio Dominican (9-0), Grand Valley State (7-2) and Saginaw Valley State (9-1) will enter the playoffs.
Ferris State did not play Ohio Dominican and lost to SVSU 31-28 on Top Taggart Field. They defeated the Grand Valley State Lakers 54-44 at home to retain the Anchor-Bone trophy for the second straight season on Oct. 12.
Annese addressed the fans on Twitter on Nov. 18, saying, “Thank you #BulldogNation for the support throughout this season. It’s on to the next one now. We will be back stronger than ever in 2014.”