Division II playoffs: Ferris State survives; Hillsdale falls late

The Detroit News
Ferris State freshman Evan Cummins (Livonia Churchill) is tackled by Northwest Missouri State on Saturday.

Big Rapids, Mich. — Things got dicey.

But Ferris State is moving on in the Division II football playoffs.

Ferris State survived Northwest Missouri State's late touchdown and onside-kick recovery to hang on for a 27-21 victory at Top Taggart Field on Saturday.

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the nation, advance to the quarterfinals, set for next Saturday against Ouachita Baptist (Ark.). That will be the first road game of this year's playoffs for Ferris State; while Ouachita Baptist is ranked fourth in the nation, it is the region's top seed. Ouachita Baptist (12-0) beat Indianapolis, 35-7, later Saturday.

BOX SCORE: Ferris State 27, Northwest Missouri State 21

Ferris State (13-0) racked up a whopping 608 yards of offense, including 321 rushing.

The Bulldogs posted all that offense despite the absence of star quarterback Jayru Campbell, a Harlon Hill Trophy candidate who didn't play. The former Detroit Cass Tech star's absence was injury-related, a school spokesman said. He was hurt in last week's game and while he finished that game, he didn't practice all this past week.

It was quarterback-by-committee for Ferris State, with Travis Russell getting the bulk of the work and throwing for 147 yards, and Brett Mooney 69. No matter, the Bulldogs got it done on the ground, with Marvin Campbell rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown, Russell rushing for 80 and a score, and Evan Cummins also scoring a TD. 

Ferris State receiver Sy Barnett runs for extra yards in Saturday's win.

Braden Wright was 28-for-43 passing for 269 yards and a touchdown for Northwest Missouri State (10-3).

Ferris State led 27-14 to start the fourth quarter and still held that lead late, until Wright found Alec Tatum for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left to make it 27-21.

Northwest Missouri State then recovered the onside kick and managed to drive to Ferris State's 34 with 5 seconds left. With one play remaining, Austin Simpson sacked Wright, who fumbled, and Ferris State's Austin Edwards recovered the seal the victory.

Ferris State will play for a regional championship for a second consecutive season. Last year, it was denied a trip to the national semifinals in a 16-14 loss to Harding.

The Bulldogs are seeking their first Division II national championship, and could join the Ferris State basketball team as only one of two schools to hold the football and basketball titles at the same time (Florida, 2009).

Notre Dame (Ohio) 19, Hillsdale 14

In South Euclid, Ohio, Hillsdale led 14-10 after three quarters, but its season slipped away in the final three minutes of this game.

Chris Brimm found Markus Hood for a 26-yard touchdown pass to put Notre Dame up 19-14 with 2:15 remaining. Less than three minutes earlier, Notre Dame kicked a field goal to pull within 14-13.

BOX SCORE: Notre Dame 19, Hillsdale 14

Hillsdale got the ball back and, starting on its own 25, quickly drove down the field, thanks to a 19-yard pass from Chance Stewart to David Graham, followed by a 41-yard pass from Stewart to Trey Brock. That got Hillsdale (10-3) to the Notre Dame 27. Hillsdale eventually got to the 14 with seven seconds left.

But back-to-back incomplete passes by Stewart sealed the game.

Stewart finished 17-for-36 for 322 yards and a touchdown, with Brock catching eight passes for 172 yards and a score.

Notre Dame (12-0) was led by Brimm, who was 20-for-32 for 234 yards, and Jale McLaughlin, who rushed for 207 yards. Marvelle Ross had seven catches for 108 yards.

Notre Dame next plays Slippery Rock, a 59-20 victor over New Haven on Saturday.