While it wasn’t the prettiest game of football, the Bulldogs still got the job done on Saturday with a 47-45 overtime win over the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals.
After the week two win on the road against Ashland, Saturday’s conference opener brought a lot of anticipation and excitement. Earlier in the week, head coach Tony Annese challenged the student body to “Rock the Top” and break the attendance record. This initiative brought over 6,000 electric fans to Top Taggart Field for the contest.
“The crowd was great,” junior defensive lineman Jordan Jones said. “The energy was there and we knew we had constant support the entire game.”
While several fans were anticipating two-time GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week Jared Bernhardt being under center, it was junior Evan Cummins getting the start at quarterback. Bernhardt was seen on the sidelines wearing a knee brace. Like many in attendance, this news came sudden to even Cummins himself.
“I found out at about 5:30pm,” Cummins said regarding the news of him starting against SVSU. Kickoff was 7:00 pm.
Despite the late notice, it didn’t take long for Cummins to get involved early. On their second and fourth drives of the ball game, the former Livonia Churchill standout punched in Ferris’ opening scores with a pair of 1-yard touchdowns.
In the second quarter, both teams began to lose their sharpness. Following a muffed punt from junior slot receiver Marcus Taylor, the Bulldog defense responded with an interception of Saginaw’s quarterback Jamil Thomas. However, the Cardinals intercepted sophomore quarterback Mylik Mitchell on the following drive and returned the interception for a touchdown, giving SVSU a 15-13 lead early in the second quarter.
“We made a couple of mistakes,” senior running back Marvin Campbell said. “It made it harder for ourselves.”
The Bulldogs fought back and answered when Cummins found junior receiver Xavier Wade in the middle of the end zone with five seconds to go in the half, giving the Bulldogs the 20-15 advantage at halftime.
After an early second half field goal by the Cardinals, Cummins countered by finding freshman receiver Tyrese-Hunt Thompson on a 71-yard touchdown pass for his second of three passing TD’s on the day. Ferris then packed on the momentum with a big interception by senior defensive back Alex Thomas, despite backed against their own 28-yard line.
“It was important stopping key drives and bringing more energy,” junior defensive back Jamil Thomas said regarding Ferris’ six takeaways. “It kept us in the game.”
On the ensuing drive, Cummins found Xavier Wade who broke through the secondary for a 17-yard score, giving the Bulldogs a 32-18 lead early in the third quarter.
Despite trailing by two scores, the Cardinals did not back down. Their defense responded by forcing three forced fumbles and collected a fourth-down stop on four of the next five Ferris offensive possessions. The Cardinals’ head coach and former Ferris assistant coach Ryan Brady then looked to Tommy Scott, who delivered two rushing touchdowns to tie the game at 32-32 with 13 minutes to go in regulation.
“Give Saginaw credit,” Annese said. “Their kids hung in there and fought hard.”
Both teams continued to battle down the stretch, exchanging blows for the next eight minutes. On the final drive fin regulation or the Bulldogs, and Cummins pounded the ground game all the way down to the Saginaw 1-yard line. With 45 seconds to go, Cummins plunged across the goal line, giving Ferris a late seven point lead.
“I knew the team was dependent on the offense to make a play,” Campbell said of Ferris’s last drive.
While many thought the game was finally locked up, the Cardinals shocked the home fans by completing 5 huge passes and scoring the game-tying touchdown as the clock expired.
On the initial overtime possession, Campbell and Cummins marched the Bulldogs into the end zone. Due to several blocked and missed kicks earlier in the game, the Bulldogs elected to go for two and succeeded with a pass to junior tight end Keidren Davis. While the Cardinals followed up with a touchdown, the Bulldogs held strong and denied the potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt thanks to a pass break-up from junior defensive end Ian Hall.
“It looked like (the quarterback) was looking to throw the out route and (Ian) broke it up,” Thomas said on the game-winning stop. “It was a great play.”
While the Bulldogs racked up nearly 430 yards of total offense in their victory, Ferris had to rely more heavily on its passing game (238 yards). Campbell led the team in carries (27) and rushing yards (109) while Cummins found the end zone three times on the ground. He also tacked on three passing scores. Taylor headed the Bulldogs receiving core with nine catches and 121 yards.
Despite picking up their first conference win of 2021, head coach Tony Annese was not pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“I’m completely miserable right now,” Annese said in his postgame press conference. “It was a frustrating game. We dropped the ball so many times and made a lot of mistakes.”
Despite all the miscues, Annese is still glad the team came out on top.
“A lot of times you learn when you lose, but sometimes you’re fortunate enough to win and learn from that,” Annese said. “All in all, we are 3-0 and hopefully we learn from this situation.”
The Bulldogs will look to get back on track Saturday Sept. 25 when they face Davenport University for homecoming at Top Taggart Field. Kickoff is 3pm.
For more on Ferris State Football, visit ferrisstatebulldogs.com.