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Allendale — For the third consecutive matchup and second time on the road, No. 3-ranked Ferris State defeated No. 2 Grand Valley State, 35-31, in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference showdown Saturday at Lubbers Stadium.

Despite Ferris State coach Tony Annese downplaying the magnitude of the meeting between the Division II powerhouses, Ferris State's victory in front 16,563 fans puts the Bulldogs in prime position to win the GLIAC and all but secures the them a spot in next month’s NCAA tournament field.

The Bulldogs improved to 7-0 (5-0 GLIAC) while the Lakers fell to to 6-1 (3-1).

Ferris State quarterback Jayru Campbell (Detroit Cass Tech) threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns despite completing only seven passes. He also ran for 131 yards and one touchdown on 32 attempts and caught the winning 31-yard touchdown on a trick wheel-route play with 3:11 remaining.

“It was a good play by them,” GVSU coach Matt Mitchell said. “We were in Cover 0, and when you’re in Cover 0 you don’t have anybody on the quarterback and so he wheeled back out, and it was a good play call on fourth-and-2.”

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Ferris State’s defense snagged three interceptions, including the clincher with 2:02 left from linebacker Delon Stephenson and one that was returned by Stephenson 52 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Coming into the game, GVSU quarterback Bart Williams had thrown only one pick in six games this season.

Williams threw for 487 yards and one touchdown with wide receivers Nick Dodson (10 catches, 200 yards, one TD), Brandon Wadley (five catches, 166 yards) and Austin Paritee (four catches, 105 yards) all eclipsing the century mark in receiving yards. However, Grand Valley was unable to move the ball on the ground, managing a mere 34 yards on 19 attempts despite running back Chawntez Moss’ three scores.

“(Williams is a) great quarterback. I looked up at the video board and saw that they had a million yards passing through three quarters, so unbelievable aerial show by them,” Annese said. “We made them one-dimensional and, for the most part, it’s risk-reward when you pass. Bart made a lot of plays, the receivers made a lot of plays, but you also have opportunities — a pick six, some interceptions — so that was key.”

With the top three cornerbacks in the Ferris State's depth chart sidelined, it’s not surprising that the Bulldogs’ secondary was torched. But their ability to stop the run and force turnovers can be credited as the main factors in the signature victory.

“That’s who we are. We’ve been that way, honestly, we’ve been that way since we took over here,” Annese said. “We’ve had great players who work hard and are driven and all those things. Proud of them, but like I said, it’s one win. You’re not going to get too excited about this win.”

Ferris State will turn its attention to Saginaw Valley State (6-1, 3-1) next weekend, while Grand Valley will travel to play Davenport (6-1, 3-1).

“It’s another game,” Annese said. “Next week we play Saginaw Valley who’s a one-loss team. We’re alone in the GLIAC for a few days and then we’ve got to go to Saginaw and beat them, so that’s what it means to me.

"We’re fortunate enough to win and then another tough one next Saturday.”

Brady McAtamney is a freelance writer.

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