GVSU falls 47-32 to Ferris State in NCAA Quarterfinal
It is the Lakers' first loss since losing in the national semifinal last season
Grand Valley State’s mantra for 2016 was to go 1-0 each week. No matter the rankings, noise or expectations, every Saturday came down to one team and one single game.
For the first time this season, the Lakers were unable to go 1-0.
The Ferris State Bulldogs (12-2) upset the Lakers (12-1) 47-32 in the NCAA Division II Quarterfinal at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale Saturday, Dec. 3.
“I’m proud of our guys for battling,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “I told our seniors down there, in 2014 we went 6-5 and there was a lot of negativity. That crew has now led us to, in their junior and senior year, 24-4, a couple deep playoff runs and obviously a GLIAC championship.
“It’s a very disappointing time to see our seniors walk out that locker room, and a very disappointing game.”
The Bulldogs got revenge after the Lakers defeated them in the regular season. In last year’s playoffs, the No. 6 seeded Lakers upset then No. 1 seeded FSU in the second round.
This time around, it was the Bulldogs who pulled out the upset.
On GVSU’s first offensive possession, long snapper Nate Cole snapped the ball over the head of punter Dan Madden. The ball went out of the back of the end zone for a two point safety. Though the 2-0 lead seemed marginal at the time, it forced the Lakers to constantly play from behind in two-possession deficit situations.
Cole started in place of usual long snapper James Fleming, who was out today with flu-like symptoms.
After some uncertainty heading into the game, quarterback Reggie Bell walked onto the field for the Bulldogs’ first drive. Bell had missed FSU’s previous playoff game against Colorado Mines Nov. 26. The Bulldogs used a two quarterback system with Bell and backup quarterback Trevor Bermingham, the long-time Jason Vander Laan backup.
The GVSU defense had no answer for the two-headed attack of Bell and Bermingham. The Lakers could not keep them contained in the pocket, and gave up several pass completions and quarterback runs when they rolled out. Bell was more electric and unpredictable, while Bermingham was patient and methodical.
“We’re two different guys,” Bermingham said. “We play the game a little bit differently and I think our guys know that, and it just gives opposing teams another thing they’ve got to worry about.”
Bermingham finished 9-of-11 passing for 163 yards and had 51 rushing yards with four touchdowns. Bell had 49 yards and one rushing touchdown. Bell played for most of the first half, but Bermingham played nearly the entire second half.
“It was kind of like a scramble drill,” said senior linebacker David Talley, who had a game-high 13 tackles in his final contest. “We were in a zone and (Bermingham) was kind of tearing us a part. Reggie Bell is a really good athlete. We had some things schemed up, trying to keep someone spying on him, but we missed a few tackles.”
The Lakers had trouble containing FSU receiver Malik Taylor. He finished with five receptions for 132 yards, and had six kick returns for 170 yards. Taylor was able to consistently put the offense near midfield with his returns, forcing GVSU to defend a shortened field.
One play in particular, the FSU offense faced a second down and 24 near the end of the third quarter. Bermingham rolled out passed the ball to Taylor, who was far from the first down marker. After several missed tackles, Taylor raced down the sideline for a 43-yard gain.
“I give thanks to Trevor, who scrambled around and let me make that play,” Taylor said. “I caught it and knew I’d have to make a play for my team.”
That set up a Bermingham touchdown that made it 33-24 FSU—one of the many times GVSU was down two scores. GVSU only briefly had a lead in the game, a 17-12 advantage that was kept for just over a minute.
The Laker offense was forced into passing situations and the FSU defense was extremely aggressive, giving quarterback Bart Williams little time to set up. Williams was sacked a season-high six times. GLIAC sacks leader (18.5) Zach Seiler had 3.5 by himself.
“My job is to step in there and make throws, and today I just didn’t make enough throws to win the game,” Williams said. “I had some opportunities and we missed them.”
Williams finished 23-of-40 for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Martayveus Carter finished with 101 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Nick Dodson led all receivers 11 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. In his final game on the gridiron, Matt Williams had seven receptions for 80 yards.
Mitchell said by no means does the loss make the season a failure.
“In my opinion, to call the season a failure is a mistake,” he said. “We won an outright GLIAC championship, we went 12-1 and a large amount of that credit goes to our senior class.”