NCAA D-II National Championship: What to Watch For in Saturday’s Game Between Ferris State and Valdosta State
MCKINNEY, TEXAS – The day has finally arrived as No. 1 Ferris State will take on No. 2 Valdosta State on Saturday night at 9 p.m. E.T. (8 p.m. locally in Texas) for the NCAA Division II Football National Championship.
The Bulldogs (13-0) have dominated opponents pretty much all season long. Ferris State has played two close games, a 35-28 win over rival Grand Valley State on the road and a 47-45 overtime win over Saginaw Valley State at home.
Every other game Ferris State has played it has won by at least 20 points, including its three playoff games thus far.
Valdosta State (12-1) has only one blemish on its record, a 62-41 loss to No. 3 West Florida on the road. The Blazers have played six nationally ranked teams this season.
Clearly, Saturday’s matchup is between two well-deserving teams and they feature very similar yet eye-popping season stats.
The Blazers are the No. 1 team in terms of total offense this season at 527.2 yards per game. The Bulldogs are right behind them at No. 2, averaging 506.2 yards per game. Both teams are also top 10 in the country in rushing offense and scoring offense.
Where Ferris State might have an edge is on defense. The Bulldogs are 16th nationally in total defense while Valdosta State is 48th.
Most glaringly, the Blazers are 107th in the country at stopping the run. That could play right into Ferris State’s hands as quarterback Jared Berhnardt has been one of the most dynamic runners in the country all season long. Bernhardt missed a few games due to injury and still racked up 1,268 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns this season.
Bulldog running back Tyler Minor also has over 700 yards rushing this season after taking over for the injured Marvin Campbell earlier this season.
On the flip side, the rushing attack happens to be the strength of this Valdosta State team as well. The Blazers feature three players who are approaching 1,000 yards rushing this season in running backs Seth McGill (1,206 yards), Jamar Thomkins (965 yards) and quarterback Ivory Durham (967 yards). Ferris State is 15th nationally in rushing defense.
Ferris State is seeking its first NCAA Division II Footbal National Championship while Valdosta State is looking for its fifth title.
The last time these two teams played was in the 2018 National Championship, an instant classic that saw Valdosta State come away with a 49-47 win after Ferris State failed on a two-point conversion attempt with under a minute remaining.
Ferris State head coach Tony Annese has won championships at every level he’s coached, from winning three state titles as a high school coach at Muskegon to winning two NJCAA Division II Championships as the head coach at Grand Rapids Community College. He’s posted a 100-16 record as the head coach at Ferris State and is looking to add NCAA Division II National Champion to his impressive resume.
Meanwhile, Valdosta State has replaced its head coach since the 2018 National Championship game against Ferris State. Kerwin Bell led the Blazers to the title that year and is now the head coach at Western Carolina. Gary Goff took over as the head coach in 2019 and carries a 22-2 career record at Valdosta State into Saturday’s game.