The #1 ranked Ferris State Bulldogs lost in a top-five matchup to #4 ranked Grand Valley in the Anchor-Bone Classic at Lubbers Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Following their win versus Saginaw Valley last week, the Bulldogs (4-2, 2-1 in conference) hoped to pick up where they left off, but it did not happen for the Bulldogs as they got off to a slow start offensively and defensively that led to the Lakers upset. The Bulldogs loss hands the Lakers their fifth straight win of the season (5-1, 2-0 in conference), and the Lakers have now defeated the Bulldogs two times in a row in the regular season.
Head coach Tony Annese acknowledged the environment the Bulldogs were in while supporting his team despite the loss.
“It’s really a tough place to play at when you’re down 35-0,” Annese said. “I’m proud of our guys, we fought back and cut it to 35-28. Give [the Lakers] credit, they drove down and scored on us which was a big score. Our kids never quit”
The Bulldogs gave up 35 unanswered points in the first and second quarters before finally getting a score and gaining some type of momentum. Starting senior quarterback Mylik Mitchell and the Bulldogs offense struggled in the first half. Mitchell was replaced by sophomore quarterback Carson Gulker following six ineffective drives, two of which resulted in either an interception or an interception returned for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs first score came midway through the second quarter. Senior wide-receiver Xavier Wade caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Gulker as the Bulldogs now looked to get a major comeback. With 1:33 left to go in the first half, senior wide-receiver Tyrese Hunt-Thompson caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Gulker. After the defense forced a huge turnover, sophomore wide-receiver Deion Small would score on a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:12 left in the first half to cut the Laker lead to 35-21.
Hunt-Thompson explained the game-plan for a comeback.
“I think the goal was to just try to get the ball in our playmaker’s hands,” Hunt-Thompson said. “Which we didn’t do enough. That’s always the goal whether it’s me or someone else.”
With momentum in favor of the Bulldogs growing following halftime, junior defensive-back Solento Smith came up with an interception on the Laker’s first drive of the second half.
Following the interception, Small took a vicious hit which paused the game completely. Smith was lying on the field for minutes before being stretchered off. A statement from Ferris State football gave an update on Small’s condition.
“We are happy to report that [Small] is doing well and hope to have him home with his Bulldog Family soon,” the statement read.
The game began again with the Bulldogs’ drive stalling out and ending with a missed field-goal. With Mitchell back in the game, Hunt-Thompson delivered on a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it a one score game. The Bulldogs would fall short of completing the comeback as the Lakers would score two more touchdowns and the Bulldogs got shut out in the fourth quarter.
Hunt-Thompson gave insight into what the conversation with the team was when they were down by multiple scores.
“Just stick together, we’re a brotherhood,” Hunt-Thompson said. “Not just during good times, so the conversation was to keep a level head and fight back, which we did.”
The Bulldogs fought to the end but could not overcome the huge deficit, and a lot of that had to do with them getting in their own way. The Bulldogs had 16 penalties for 129 yards compared to the Laker’s 5 penalties for 45 yards. On top of the interceptions, Mitchell was sacked six times for a combined 57 yards lost.
Annese referenced the slow start along with the penalties as two things the Bulldogs could not overcome.
“The bottom line is [that there’s] two things that you just can’t overcome,” Annese said. “It’s just a slow start. They made every play they could make, and we didn’t make any plays in the first half. Then [there are] the penalties. I don’t know how many drive-killing penalties we had but that’s just overwhelmingly hard to overcome.”
The Bulldogs season is far from over they will look to fix their mistakes and get back to winning and look for this matchup once again come playoff time.
Next, the Bulldogs hit the road again to take on Michigan Tech in another inner conference matchup on Oct. 21 at Kearly Stadium with gametime set for 1 p.m.