No. 2 Ferris State football beat the No. 20 Texas A&M-Commerce Lions in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs 48-30 on a frozen Top Taggert Field despite a halftime deficit.
Sophomore running back Jahaan Brown became the first Ferris player to outrush senior quarterback Jason Vander Laan this season, doing so with 197 yards to Vander Laan’s 115. However, Vander Laan had five rushing touchdowns.
The Bulldogs, led by Vander Laan, rushed eight of the 11 plays on their first drive capping it off with a 12-yard touchdown run.
Both teams would turn the ball over in their next possessions. A&M fumbled and Ferris turned it over on downs.
After the Ferris turnover, the Lions got to the Ferris four yard line, but senior defensive tackle Justin Zimmer came up big with a strip sack.
The Bulldogs would go on a 17-play 92-yard drive getting everyone involved on offense. Vander Laan would score from a yard out, but the extra point was blocked. A&M took it to the house for two points.
The Lions started to impose their will at that point.
They went on a six-play 75-yard drive that included a 23-yard run and 43-yard pass. A&M junior running back Richard Cooper finished the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown run to make the score 9-13 Ferris.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt with five minutes left in the first, half but the snap went over the head of both punters when junior punter Tyler Bermingham kicked it out of the back of the end zone to prevent an A&M recovery. The referees ruled that it was illegal touching at the one yard line instead of a safety for the Lions.
A&M scored from there to go up 16-13.
Ferris found itself at fourth and short on the their next possession. A fake punt pass was thrown incomplete by Birmingham setting the Tigers up at the 50 yard line. A&M would kick a field goal but missed wide right to end the first half.
Despite trailing by three points, the Bulldogs came out strong in the second half.
Senior receiver Jake Lampman returned the second half kickoff to the Lions’ 33. Lampman also caught a 12-yard pass to set the Bulldog’s up at the A&M 5 yard line where Vander Laan got his third rushing touchdown of the game to put Ferris up 20-16.
On the next Ferris possession, Vander Laan showed he can kick as well as he can run and throw, as he booted a perfect punt that landed at the one yard line.
Ferris forced a three and out and took the ball to the Lion three yard line a few plays later. Vander Laan was shaken up on the play, laying on the ground for several seconds. However, he proved he was fine by getting his fourth rushing touchdown of the game from the two on the next play.
Junior linebacker Brady Sheldon got a pick six on the ensuing A&M drive a play after Zimmer’s third sack of the day.
The Lions would strike right back as a blown coverage from Ferris left a wide open A&M receiver for a 44-yard touchdown making the score 34-23 Bulldogs.
Vander Laan would score his fifth rushing touchdown on the next possession after a 48-yard Brown run.
The Lions fought late in the fourth as they had a kickoff return touchdown and a long rushing touchdown but Ferris answered the bell every time.
Sophomore running back Brown had a 40-yard touchdown run to put the Bulldogs up 48-30. That would end up being the final score.
Leading receivers for Ferris were Lampman and junior Jamel Lockett with three catches a piece for 34 and 27 yards respectively.
Leading tacklers for Ferris were junior linebackers Anthony Darkangelo and Nick Huckaby with 11 and six respectively.
The Bulldogs will host rival Grand Valley State on Nov. 28 in the second round of the NCAA Div. 2 playoffs at Top Taggert Field. Ferris beat them convincingly 61-24 in the regular season.