Ferris State star quarterback Jayru Campbell was a surprise no-dress for Saturday's Division II playoff game.
Afterward, athletic-department officials confirmed he suffered a strained left (non-throwing) shoulder the previous week, and hadn't practiced.
Using a trio of quarterbacks, Ferris State (13-0) survived with a 27-21 victory over Northwest Missouri State to advance to the national quarterfinals.
Campbell's status for this week's game, at Arkansas' Ouachita Baptist (12-0), remained unclear as of early Monday afternoon.
"We're hopeful. We're hopeful," Ferris State coach Tony Annese said Monday. "We feel like when he feels like he can do it, he's gonna do it.
"I talked to him yesterday and today, and he feels like he's progressing."
Campbell, the former Detroit Cass Tech standout, started the first 12 games in his first season playing with the Bulldogs. He sat out last season, after transferring from Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he won a JUCO national championship.
And Campbell wasted little time bursting onto the Division II scene. This season, he's 151-for-251 (60.2 percent) for 2,453 yards and 23 touchdowns, to five interceptions. Rushing, he has gained 1,188 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.
He was the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year, and s a strong candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, considered Division II's Heisman.
But during the 21-19 first-round playoff win over Harding, he was hurt in the second quarter. He finished the game, but things got worse after the game.
"When it happened, he was in pain," Annese said. "But I think he was in the midst of the adrenaline, 'I can do it, Coach,' that kind of stuff.
"But as the days wore on after that Saturday, obviously it was getting really sore."
Late last week, Ferris coaches decided he wouldn't dress, even though the injury was to his non-throwing shoulder. There was no consideration to using him as a running back.
Junior Travis Russell, senior Bret Mooney and red-shirt freshman Evan Cummins worked as a three-headed monster to get it done against Northwest Missouri State.
Ferris State took a big early lead, then held on late when things got tight. Northwest Missouri State scored late in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game, then recovered an onside kick. The Bulldogs' defense held serve, much to the relief of Campbell, Annese said.
"It was I think very difficult for him, but honestly, after the game when we won I think he was relieved," Annese said. "In his mind, now he gets a chance to be out there again. That's his mind set. I think he was a little nervous going into the game, that his season might end with him not being able to play. Now I think he's excited again.
"He's feeling like he's gonna prepare to help us win the next one."
Because Campbell had monopolized so much of the playing time this season — even in practice — Annese broke the responsibilities down for the other three quarterbacks into thirds, so as to not bombard them with too much heading into Saturday's game.
Each one of them saw action in the first quarter. Russell finished 6-for-11 for 147 yards and an interception, and rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown; Mooney was 3-for-8 for 69 yards; and Cummins didn't attempt a pass, but rushed for 34 yards.
Ferris State's offense still posted 608 total yards of offense, 321 on the ground.
"I was very impressed. The only concern going in was basically breaking the game plan up into thirds," Annese said. "I know most people would say that's a little crazy to do, but I just didn't feel like any of them could really handle 100 percent of the offense. This allowed us to let our quarterbacks be masterful in their third of the offense."
Ferris State, seeking the first national championship in program history, plays at Ouachita Baptist at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Division II playoffs
FERRIS STATE AT OUACHITA BAPTIST
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Cliff Harris Stadium, Arkadelphia, Ark.
Records: Ferris State 13-0; Ouachita Baptist 12-0
At stake: A spot in next week's Division II semifinals.