Ferris State Preps for Defending National Champs

BIG RAPIDS – With its 47-32 win over rival Grand Valley State on Saturday, Ferris State finds itself in uncharted territory and its first NCAA Division II semifinal since 1995.

The 15th-ranked Bulldogs (12-2) will take on top-ranked and defending national champion Northwest Missouri State (13-0) Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Ferris State faces a Northwest Missouri State team that ranks first in the nation in total defense (240.7 yards per game), rushing defense (68.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (12.1 points per game). The Bearcats have only allowed 20 or more points in a game twice and held the country’s top run game to 119 yards in a 35-0 win over Harding (Ark.) last week.

"Their defense is really the Alabama of DII right now,” Ferris State coach Tony Annese said. “They were last year. They were the number one DII defense in the nation, and they are again this year.

"Our guys better know that this team is a great football team, and a team that is used to being at its best, particularly this time of year."

Northwest Missouri State also has tradition on its side. The Bearcats have won five NCAA Division II national championships and made the postseason on 21 occasions, including 13 straight.

"They’re fundamentally sound, and they do things right,” senior linebacker Anthony Darkangelo said. “They don’t mess up much, so it’s just going to take a good fundamental game by us also, to stop them."

Junior quarterback Reggie Bell made his return from injury in last week’s quarterfinal win over Grand Valley State and combined with senior Trevor Bermingham for 190 yards passing, 100 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns.

"They’ve got, you know, overall just a great defense, but we have a great offense,” senior offensive lineman Jake Daugherty said. “I think it’s going to be a great test for them, and a good test for us. Like I said, it’s just execution at the end of the day, and I think we’ll be alright."

Saturday’s winner will face either Shepherd or North Alabama for the national championship next Saturday.