One game to glory: The Bulldogs look to seal season with a championship

Bernhardt carries the ball against Shepherd. Photo courtesy of Ferris Athletics

One game separates the Ferris State Bulldogs from their first-ever football national championship, this one game sees the Bulldogs look to get revenge on a foe that stopped them three years ago. 

Ferris State will be taking on the Blazers of Valdosta State tomorrow in the school’s second national title appearance. They enter the contest 13 – 0 while Valdosta sits at 12 – 1. The experienced Bulldogs will have 38 players who were on the original national title team in 2018, where Valdosta State won 49 – 47. 

Heading into the championship game, Ferris State now leads the nation in scoring offense after averaging 46.3 points per game on the year. They have yet to score under 35 points in a game this season and have averaged 50 points per game in the playoffs. 

Defensively, Ferris State has stepped up in the playoffs, not allowing their opponents to score more than 20 points in a game. They rank 22nd in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 18.38 points per game.  

The Bulldogs are led by a super trio of quarterbacks, with Jared Bernhardt being the biggest name out of the trio. Bernhardt, the reigning Tewaaraton Award Winner for the best Lacrosse player in the nation at Maryland, leads the Bulldogs in total offense, with 2,628 total yards of offense and 34 total touchdowns. In the semi-final game, Bernhardt returned from an injury that forced him to miss the previous week’s matchup against Northwest Missouri State to rush for five touchdowns in the first half against Shepherd. 

Beyond Bernhardt sits Malik Mitchell and Evan Cummins, who have combined for 9 touchdowns in the playoffs alone and 29 touchdowns throughout the year. Sophomore QB Mitchell is tied with Bernhardt in passing touchdowns on the year with 11 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. This includes 508 yards six-touchdown performance against Northwood that holds the school record for yards in a single game. Junior Evan Cummins is third on the team in rushing touchdowns with 8.

Jared Bernhardt should be the star of the show rushing as he has 1,273 rushing yards on the year along with 23 rushing touchdowns. Beyond Bernhardt, look for senior running back Tyler Minor to carry the load rushing. Minor has 737 yards rushing on the year with 9 rushing touchdowns.

Graphic by Brendan Sanders

Valdosta State is 6th in the nation in scoring offense, scoring 43.2 points per game. They have scored less than 30 points once this season and have averaged 47 points per game throughout the playoffs. 

Defensively, Valdosta State ranks tied for 30th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 20 points per game throughout their 13-game season.  

Valdosta State is coming off a close 34 – 31 victories over the Colorado School of Mines in the national semi-final game. In which Colorado School of Mines made a mad dash down 17 to pull within 3 in the final five minutes of the game. The only loss that the Blazers faced this season came against the then #3 team in the nation West Florida, who won 61 – 42 on Nov. 13 to close the regular season. 

On offense, the Blazers are led by star junior QB Ivory Durham, who has 3,267 passing yards on the season with 30 passing touchdowns to 9 interceptions. The 5 – 10, 200 lb QB also has 1,007 rushing yards and an additional 13 rushing touchdowns. 

He is partnered with a running back duo of juniors Seth McGill and Jemar Thompkins. McGill is 17th in the nation in rushing yards with 1,238 and has 14 rushing touchdowns. Thompkins has 979 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. 

There are multiple outside x-factors that could potentially affect both teams in this championship. This will be the farthest either team will have traveled for a game as McKinney, Texas is 1097 miles from Big Rapids and 923 miles from Valdosta, Georgia. The Bulldogs’ longest distance away game was at Michigan Tech this year at 447 miles. Valdosta State’s farthest away game was at Virginia Union, a game that was 647 miles away. 

The next largest X-Factor will be the weather, with the projected game-time temperature being 42 degrees and is projected to dip below 40 degrees by the end of the game. This will be the coldest game that Valdosta State has played in all year long. With the much colder climate in Michigan, this will be the fifth contest Ferris State has played in this type of weather or colder. 

Be sure to watch the game on ESPNU at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time or listen live at Sunny 97.3 FM &