Jake Riepma

Round 1 Recap: GVSU Out; FSU Survives

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A wild opening round of the D2 playoffs with seven underdogs pulling upset victories and advancing to the second round. Among the upsets, sixth seeded Northwest Missouri State goes to Lubbers Stadium and defeats third seeded Grand Valley State in convincing fashion, 42-17. Second seeded Ferris State took care of business at home, beating Harding 21-19 in a crazy game that saw Harding score 19 unanswered points and nearly pull off the dramatic comeback.

This time of the year it’s so simple – survive and advance. The Bulldogs did, but the Lakers did not, and therefore, we will not see an Anchor-Bone rematch in 2018.

Now to unpack the action – let’s start with the upset in Allendale. Sure, on paper Northwest Missouri State was the six seed, but the then 9-2 Bearcats could hardly be considered an underdog. While I picked Grand Valley to win, I’m not the least bit surprised the Bearcats came out on top. I am, however, shocked at the matter in which Northwest dominated the second half and ultimately cruised to an easy victory on the road. The fact that GVSU allowed Northwest to rush for 356 yards tells you all you need to know – if you can’t stop the run, you can’t expect to win games of this magnitude. The 356 rushing yards and 42 points surrendered by GVSU’s defense were both season highs. GVSU’s defense simply was not ready to handle the offensive firepower of Northwest Missouri State.

But the defense isn’t totally to blame. The Lakers’ offense had its fair share of struggles also contributing to the losing effort. The Bearcats’ defense was able to limit GVSU to just 239 yards of total offense, also a season worst for the Lakers. For Bart Williams, his illustrious career and phenomenal 2018 campaign in which he became the school’s all-time leading passer abruptly ends with his least productive game of the season. Williams accounted for just 108 yards passing, zero touchdowns and one interception against a talented Northwest Missouri State defense. The 108 yards passing are a season low. Williams was also sacked four times in the game, a season high.

On both sides of the ball, Grand Valley State was outmatched, and thus the 42-17 season-ending defeat.
In a single-elimination, winner-take-all format, it’s paramount to be at your best and avoid being out of sync. This is part of what makes football the greatest game in the world. In other sports, if you have an off day in the post-season, you try to bounce back the next game and win the series. That’s just not the case in football, and unfortunately for Laker Nation, they learned this the hard way as a promising season comes to a screeching halt. GVSU goes home, and Northwest Missouri State moves on to play….

The other GLIAC team in the playoffs that remained unbeaten despite a close call and valiant effort from Harding. Ferris State sprinted out of the gates on Saturday to the tune of a 21-0 halftime lead, but give the Bison a ton of credit for coming back. Harding mounted 19 unanswered points to pull within two, and even had the ball with an opportunity for a game-winning drive, but FSU’s defense stood tall and forced the Bison into a turnover on downs and eventually prevailed, 21-19.
Harding is a unique animal when it comes to its offensive attack – the triple option. Personally, I love this offense, and it gave FSU all it could handle as the Bulldogs allowed a season-high 280 yards on the ground. Looking ahead to next week, albeit different types of rushing attacks, when Northwest Missouri State comes to town, this Ferris State defense better be ready to stop the run game or it’ll be a long day at Top Taggart Field.

We’ll look ahead in more detail later on this week. As for FSU’s offense, they were completely slowed down in the second half and held without a first down until the last possession of the fourth quarter. This could be cause for concern. Again, Harding’s style of offense prevented FSU’s high powered offense from being on the field, but it’s still worth noting Ferris State’s offense was held to a season-worst 153 total yards of offense. The next lowest offensive output for FSU was against Grand Valley State in which FSU accounted for 391 yards of total offense. Quite the difference! Perhaps equally alarming was the way in which Harding shut down the rushing attack, holding the Bulldogs to a season low 68 yards. The first time FSU has been held under the century mark all year. Adjustments will be needed for Ferris State in round two.

While I’ve been quick to give Harding credit for its comeback, there is one thing I’d like to point out about that game – Why did Harding go for the two-point conversion after scoring its second touchdown? The first PAT was blocked, making the score 21-6, and after the Bison scored again, they elected to go for the two-point conversion and failed, leaving the score 21-12. I’m no mathematician, but 21-12 keeps it a two possession game! Why not kick the PAT to make it 21-13, and make it a one possession game? If you know you have to go for two at some point, it should be on the last score, thus keeping it a game as long as possible. Why in the world are you chasing points at 21-12 instead of making it a one possession game?! Am I crazy for questioning the coaching staff’s judgement here? If they kick the PAT on the second score (making it 21-13), then when HU scores a third time to make it 21-19, you can go for the two-point conversion to tie the game. Instead, when they score a third time it’s 21-18 and they have to kick the PAT to make it 21-19. I know it doesn’t really matter because ultimately you have to convert the two-point conversion regardless, but it seems foolish to chase the points after the second score.

Maybe I’m missing something, but that’s my two cents.

All that said, I go back to my original declaration – survive and advance. That’s what the playoffs are all about, and Ferris State did just that, and they’ll once again be at home for another playoff showdown in Big Rapids.

Will the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats be GLIAC killers this post-season? Or will Ferris State remain undefeated and move on?

We’ll dissect the matchup later this week.

And just because Ferris State is the only GLIAC team left in the playoffs does not mean I become FSU’s beat writer!
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  1. Redwing's Avatar
    Can't deny it.... this one was painful to read. Nice recap though.