The Ferris State football team have made the National Collegiate Atheltic Association (NCAA) Div. 2 playoffs for the third year in a row.
After two undefeated regular seasons the last two years, the Bulldogs couldn’t find a way to stay unbeaten through the playoffs. The Bulldogs got beat in the first round by Ohio Dominican two seasons ago, and in the second round by Grand Valley State last season.
If you were to ask a Ferris football player, they would probably tell you that they are just focusing on the next game, this time against Midwestern State. I know though, that others are thinking about the bigger picture, making it deep into the playoffs and possibly even coming out of the whole thing with a national championship ring.
There are some things that the Bulldogs will have to do in order to make a deep run into the playoffs, and here are five of them.
1. Balance their offensive attack – It’s obvious that Head Coach Tony Annese loves to take advantage of having an athletic quarterback. The Dawgs depended deeply on Jason Vander Laan the last four years and they’ve been doing the same this season with quarterback Reggie Bell. If teams can slow down the FSU quarterback, then the Dawgs need to be prepared to move the ball in other ways. It also takes a toll on a player to be a crucial part of so many plays, so it will be crucial to keep Bell from getting too beat up if the Bulldogs want to make a big run.
2. Minimize turnovers – In Ferris’ two playoff losses the last two seasons, they have turned the ball over a combined seven times. Giveaways can be the difference between wins and losses, and it’s showed for the Dawgs so far this season as well. In Ferris’ 39-31 loss against Ashland this season, the Bulldogs turned the ball over twice and both were costly. The Dawgs fumbled inside the 10-yard line against Ashland, and the Eagles flipped the field and converted a field goal. Also, late in the game, a Reggie Bell fumble was picked up by Ashland and brought into the end zone. If it weren’t for those 10 points off turnover, Ashland may have never won that game. The Bulldogs also turned the ball over four times against Grand Valley State in their only other loss of the season.
3. Don’t take bad penalties – The Bulldogs have the most penalties and penalty yards in the GLIAC with 91 penalties for 920 yards so far this season. That’s eight more penalties and 238 more yards than the next closest team in the conference. Against the elite competition that the Bulldogs will be facing in the playoffs, they need all the yards can get. They don’t need to be penalized an average of 8.3 times for 83.6 yards a game like they have been so far this season.
4. Utilize Jahaan Brown – This kind of ties in to diversifying the offensive attack of the Bulldogs. Brown has ran the ball 45 times less than lead-carrier Bell, but Brown averages 6.9 yards per carry this year. He is a force that can wear down defenses and open up possibilities for play-action passes and will also take some attention away from a very good running quarterback in Bell. Brown can also be utilized more in the passing game, as he is averaging 15.7 yards per reception.
5. Keep stopping the run – The Bulldogs are averaging a GLIAC best 105.6 rush yards against per game on the year. If they can keep teams from getting big gains, especially on first down, it will leave their opponents in second or third and long situations where they’ll have to throw the ball. With 15 interceptions on the season and 33 sacks, the Dawgs should be able cause some havoc and in turn cause some turnovers if they can get teams to resort to being one-dimensional.
We’ll see if the Bulldogs take these into account as they take on Midwestern State