Ferris rolls on offense, downs Northwest Missouri State in quarterfinal

NCAA Football

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ferris State University quarterback Mylik Mitchell had a career day, bringing the No. 1 Bulldogs over No. 3 Northwest Missouri State 41-20 in the Division II national quarterfinals Saturday for the Super Region Three Championship.

The Cleveland, Ohio native passed for 155 yards and ran for 81 yards with three total touchdowns, guiding the Bulldogs powerful offensive to a high scoring performance.

Mitchell filled in for starting quarterback Jared Bernhardt, who left last week’s playoff game in the first half for an undisclosed reason.

“I got a text from Jared right after the game bragging saying how good Mylik did,” FSU head coach Tony Annese said. “He said ‘I told you Mylik was the best!’ He played really well and so did the defense.”

This was the fourth matchup between these teams in the past five years in the postseason, with the Bulldogs now holding a 3-1 advantage in the series.

The win moves the Bulldogs (12-0) on to the semifinals. One more win would put them in the Division II championship game. 

“Our offensive line and receivers did a great job blocking and giving me lanes to run and pass all day,” Mitchell said. “We took care of business and that’s a good feeling.”

As soon as FSU was able to touch the football on offense it was able to get the ball moving down the field. After a couple of pass plays that moved the sticks, Evan Cummins came in for a quarterback keeper and punched it in, diving over the goal line for a 13-yard score. 

After the Bearcats responded with a touchdown of their own but missed an extra point to trail 7-6, FSU attacked again. This time it was quarterback Mylik Mitchell on an option read play, faking the pitch and covering 36-yards of all green in front of him to the end zone. It gave the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead.

Both teams would trade touchdowns on the ensuing possessions, before FSU would get a stop on defense and one last chance with the ball before halftime. After going 10 plays and 51 yards, the 11th play came with the clock heading under a minute. Mitchell took a keeper, spun off a tackle and landed in the end zone again for a score, this time seven yards out.

At the break, it was 27-14 Bulldogs.

Ferris State was able to control the time of possession and gained 14 first downs compared to NWMSU’s four first downs. A big reason the Bulldogs were able to accomplish that feature was due to the ground attack, where FSU managed to run for 104 yards and the Bearcats could only find 23 on the ground. 

Mitchell was the Bulldogs biggest contributor, going 11-of-17 for 143 yards and a touchdown through the air, while taking 10 carries for 71 yards and two scores. 

In the second half, FSU kept getting what it wanted on offense.

After both teams traded punts to start the third quarter, Mitchell went back to work. The sophomore rushed for 10 more yards and completed a 12-yard pass to keep the sticks moving until Jeremy Burrell was able to pound the ball in from five yards out, making it 34-13 Bulldogs.

The feeling in Top Taggart Stadium began to feel more and more comfortable for the home team.

The Bearcats would get the ball inside the FSU five yard line, but the Bulldogs defense denied them any points and essentially put the game out of reach.

The Bulldogs offense totaled 413 yards in the game and held the Bearcats to under 20 points until midway through the fourth quarter, despite allowing 379 yards of offense to the Bearcats.

“You never really feel comfortable with a lead, what happened to Unity Christian in the state finals and coach Tibbe really showed that when Chelsea won the state title last Friday,” Annese said. “I’m never comfortable now but I thought we did a great job of never letting the game get away from us.”

The Bulldogs have now had 11 or more wins for the past seven seasons. This is the fifth consecutive year the Bulldogs have made the national quarterfinals, the longest streak in Division II football. 

Right now, it’s hard to imagine this train stopping for the Bulldogs with how much steam it has picked up for its program in recent years.

“It’s huge, I mean we had a couple of really tough defeats in 2018 and 2019, but we keep coming back,” Annese said. “It says a lot about the great young men I coach.”

The semifinal game will take place on Saturday, Dec. 11 at Top Taggart Field once again. The time is to be announced. 

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