GAME FIVE RECAP:
FERRIS STATE 31, NORTHERN MICHIGAN 24
Wilson's 75-yard Interception Return In Closing Seconds Caps Comeback Victory In Hall Of Fame Game
Ferris State University junior defensive back Chad Wilson picked off a Northern Michigan pass in the final seconds and ran it back 75 yards for a game-winning touchdown to lift the Bulldogs to a thrilling 31-24 come from behind triumph over the Wildcats Saturday (Sept. 27) afternoon in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) action at FSU's Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Mich.
With the score tied in the final minute, the Wildcats forced the Bulldogs to punt and took over at the 50-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the contest. On first down, however, Wilson intercepted Carter Kopach's pass downfield at the FSU 25-yard line and cut back to the opposite side of the field before he eventually found paydirt with only four seconds left in the game.
The interception was Wilson's second of the season and came before a Hall of Fame Game crowd of 2,331 fans who saw the Bulldogs rally from a 24-10 deficit with nine and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter. FSU improved to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in GLIAC action with the win while the Wildcats dropped to 1-3 both overall and in league play despite leading the entire contest.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead only four seconds into the second quarter on Kopach's seven-yard scoring run that capped a 10-play drive covering 79 yards. He threw a five-yard TD pass to Zach Nichols for the game's first score at the 6:15 mark of the first frame to finish a 90-yard Wildcat march on 11 plays.
The Bulldogs were able to cut the halftime deficit to seven points as sophomore slot Tim Hogue scored on a 25-yard run with 3:31 left in the half. Ferris drove 76 yards on nine plays before Hogue scored FSU's first touchdown of the game.
The Wildcats increased their lead to 10 points with 7:55 to go in the third on Anthony Leandri's 22-yard field goal. The short 24-yard drive was set up by Dan Elmore's 51-yard punt return.
FSU pulled back within seven points with 2:43 left in the third period as senior kicker Jim Yates booted a 27-yard field goal. NMU caught a break early in the fourth frame, though, as Bulldog redshirt freshman quarterback Tom Schneider's pass deep in his own territory was intercepted by Zach Gauthier inside the Bulldogs' own 10-yard line, setting up Brandon Smith's three-yard burst only a play later with 9:28 left in the contest.
Ferris responded with a 75-yard drive to score just over a minute later on Mike Ryan's 38-yard touchdown reception from Schneider, which cut the Wildcat advantage back to seven points. The Bulldog defense then forced a three and out situation and the FSU offense was able to move 53 yards on four plays in only 29 seconds as Hogue notched his second scoring run of the afternoon from 26-yards out to tie the contest at 24 points apiece with 5:50 remaining.
Both teams had two offensive possessions in the next five and a half minutes before Wilson finally came up with the biggest play of the afternoon for the winning score.
The Bulldogs were able to secure the victory, but only slightly outgained NMU 364 to 321 in total offense for the day. FSU ran for 210 yards on 43 rushes and Schneider completed seven-of-20 passes for 154 yards in directing the offense. Hogue ran for a game-high 141 yards on 23 carries and added one reception for 30 yards along with two kickoff returns for 48 yards as he totaled 219 all-purpose yards in the Bulldog win. Senior wideout Rahseem Jones-Salaam caught two passes for 55 yards as Schneider's seven receptions went to six different receivers.
The Wildcats were limited to 124 rushing yards on 35 carries, but Kopach threw for 197 yards on 21-of-38 passes. On the ground, Smith led Northern Michigan with 58 yards on 17 attempts. Dan Elmore hauled in six catches for 77 yards and Dustin Brancheau caught six balls for 59 yards in leading NMU. Ferris had 18 first downs compared to NMU's 17 first downs and both teams turned the ball over once in the outing.
Northern Michigan converted four of six times on fourth down as none of the Wildcats' five punts came until the fourth quarter. NMU was hurt by 10 penalties for 80 yards, including a 15-yard personal foul by Ricky Neaves midway thru the third period which resulted in an ejection.
Senior All-America defensive tackle Jake Visser led the Bulldogs defensively with a game-high 11 tackles, including five solo stops and four tackles for loss (-11 yards). Senior linebacker Kevin Noe added 10 tackles while Wilson finished with nine stops and two pass breakups in addition to the game-winning interception return. Gauthier paced NMU with 10 tackles to go with his interception.
The win was Ferris' fifth-straight series' triumph over the Wildcats.
Ferris next hits the road to take on the Michigan Tech Huskies Saturday, Oct. 4, for a 1 p.m. GLIAC tilt in Houghton, Mich.