Barely Unbeaten

Bulldogs win ugly to remain perfect on the season

Carson Gulker scored the go-ahead touchdown to give Ferris a 31-28 lead with 1:11 to go against Saginaw Valley. Photo courtesy of Ferris Athletics.

The Bulldogs almost broke a 10-year streak Saturday, Oct. 8. They nearly lost to Saginaw Valley.

2013 was the last time Ferris lost to the Cardinals. It took late game heroics from the Bulldogs to avoid a loss this season.

The nationally ranked #1 Bulldogs opened their GLIAC schedule on Saturday with a suspenseful 33-28 come-from-behind victory to stay unbeaten on the season.

A dominant first-quarter was one of the only high points for Ferris State, jumping out to a 20-7 lead after the first fifteen minutes. When the fields switched, it looked as if the team would continue the dominance by flirting with the endzone on the one yard line. However, a fumble by quarterback Carson Gulker was the boost that Saginaw Valley needed to score 28 straight, holding the lead until late in the fourth quarter.

“We had a chance to win the game early, in my opinion,” head coach Tony Annese said. “Then once we screwed it up we kept on screwing it up, I don’t know how many yards in penalties we had.”

The Bulldogs had 17 penalties for 203 yards. They also had three turnovers (a fumble and two interceptions) that allowed the Cardinals to keep the game close. Marcus Taylor had multiple strong kick returns that were shortened due to the penalties.

Despite the penalties, Ferris State found themselves within five of the Cardinals after a 25-yard field goal by Eddie Jewett with just over 8:00 left in regulation. The defense stopped the momentum generated by the Cardinal offense to get the ball back in the hands of the Bulldogs. Gulker got the redemption call at the one yard line to put the team ahead, and a nearly disastrous trick play for the two point conversion was salvaged by senior receiver Brandon Childress.

“We just couldn’t get our momentum back after those stupid mistakes,” junior offensive lineman Adam Sieler said. “Eventually it was head to head offense down the middle, and we got it going.”

Before the team could get it going, Cardinals quarterback Andrew Brito completed a 43 yard touchdown pass to Nick Johnson in the first-quarter that put the Cardinals ahead 7-6. Brito completed another pass to Earnest Sanders for a 29 yard touchdown, chipping away the Bulldog lead at 20-14 in the second. Brito found the endzone two more times on a pair of one yard rushing touchdowns, one late in the second half to put the Cardinals up 21-20, and the latter stretching the lead to 28-20.

Saginaw Valley’s offense was led by Brito, who finished the day 11-21 for 168 yards and two touchdowns through the air as well as two touchdowns on the ground. Ferris held the Cardinals to only 52 total yards rushing, but saw 195 yards of passing for a total of 247 yards of total offense.

“I would say the s-word but I’ll just call it a crap show, just a complete and utter crap show,” Annese said. “Tough man, but happy to get the W.”

The legacy of excellence from the Bulldog football program chalks this up as a sloppy win, but there are positives to look at when it was all said and done. Quarterback Evan Cummins finished the day by leading the team with 178 all purpose yards, gaining 79 yards with his legs and 199 with his arm. He added two passing touchdowns, with one going to Cj Jefferson and the other going to Childress, who had a team high 97 yards receiving. Other offensive standouts for the Bulldogs included Taylor, who had a 79-yard touchdown reception. He also nearly had a 60 yard punt return that was called back for holding that negated the touchdown.

Even with the Cardinals offense putting up numbers in the first, second, and third quarters, the Ferris State defense came to play in the fourth quarter. Caleb Murphy tallied 3 sacks for 23 yards for loss, and Ian Hall stepped up by breaking through the line to sack the Brito in the endzone for a safety to lock in the win for the Bulldogs.

Following their narrow victory over Saginaw Valley, Ferris will again be tested this upcoming weekend (Oct. 15) when longtime rival Grand Valley comes to Big Rapids. Annese and the Bulldogs will have lots to work on in practice this week as they prepare for the #2 team in the nation.

“Oh yeah, it’s a big game every year,” Sieler said. “They know it, we know it. If we do Ferris State and play our game we’ll be good.”

With the win, Ferris improves to 5-0 on the season. But more importantly it sets up the first time that the Anchor Bone Classic will be played by the nation’s #1 and #2 overall teams, which leads many to expect a record crowd for Top Taggart Field at 1 p.m. this upcoming Saturday.