No. 15 Ferris State (12-2) at No. 1 Northwest (13-0)
2:30 p.m., today at Bearcat Stadium
Stream — ESPN3; Radio — KXCV 90.5 FM; KRNW 88.9 FM; KKWK 100.1 FM; KZLX 106.7 FM; KMA 960 AM; KCXL 102.9 FM, 1140 AM
When Northwest Missouri has the ball
The Bearcats are facing a team that is a lot more suspect defending the pass than the run. Northwest enters with the 14th best offense in Division II with a 485.7 yards-per-game average in 13 games, and the offense is churning out 47.5 points per game, second in D-II. With Kyle Zimmerman, the Super Region 3 offensive player of the year, running the helm, the Bearcats could have a good day passing. Northwest enters with a 296.8 average per game and will be facing a Ferris State squad that is 44th in the nation in points allowed at 22.7 and is ceding 266.1 yards per game passing. The Bearcats continue to spread the ball around on offense with nine different players recording at least one catch and eight had two or more. WR Dre Washington became the latest guy to step up with Shawn Bane Jr. still not playing. The St. Louis product had seven catches for 135 yards – the only Bearcat to crack the century mark since Shane Williams did so against Pittsburg State in Week 9. The story of the year has been balanced among the receivers. Entering this semifinal game, 11 players have at least 100 yards receiving. Bane is still the team leader with 707 yards, 10 TDs, but in his stead, FB/TE Jordan Grove (48 catches, 534 yards, 5 TDs), Washington (36/508/4) and George Sehl (31/477/7) are the top targets for Zimmerman. Northwest did struggle to run against Harding’s No. 1-ranked defense, garnering 57 yards – the lowest total of the season and only the second time this year a team has held the Bearcats below 100 yards. The last time below 100 yards came in Week 2 against Washburn. Grove had only two carries last week but made the most of it with two touchdowns on 3 yards rushing. Ferris State has its own version of Collin Bevins in sophomore DE Zach Sieler, an AFCA All-American. He has 73 tackles, 18 ½ sacks, 27 ½ TFL, four forced fumbles and two recoveries. He is fourth in D-II in sacks and seventh in TFL. LB Anthony Darkangelo leads the team with 133 tackles, while fellow LB Nick Huckabay has 107. DB Tavierre Thomas, an all-region pick, has a team-high six interceptions, one more David Churchwell.
When Ferris State has the ball
The Bulldogs have been operating under a two-QB system this year, but Trevor Bermingham has became a monster over the past four games, racking up 20 total scores – 16 on the ground. He ran for only 51 yards against Grand Valley State in last week’s quarterfinal, but his four second-half scores helped the Bulldogs rally for a 47-32 win. The senior has been solid in the postseason, part of Ferris State’s eight-game winning streak. He ran for 126 yards and five TDs in the playoff win against Midwestern State, but showcased his arm against Colorado Mines, throwing for 392 and five total TDs. Bermingham wrestled the job away from one-time Division I player Reggie Ball, an Eastern Michigan transfer that at one point this season averaged 312.7 yards of total offense. The Los Angeles native has thrown for 2,073 yards and 11 TDs, while running for 1,156 and 16 TDs – both team highs. He has played in two of the three playoff games, racking up a combined 27 yards passing and running for 75 yards and a single score. Despite the transition in QB play, the Bulldogs possess two solid WRs in Malik Taylor and Shakur Sanders, who had eight catches for 214 yards vs. Colorado Mines. Taylor has four 100-yard-plus games and leads the team with 958 yards receiving, while Sanders has 845. Both have 45 catches. While Bell leads the team in rushing, RB Jahaan Brown has run for 952 yards and seven sTDs but has only 179 the past four games. Ferris State, though, hasn’t faced a defense quite like this. Northwest is No. 1 in the nation in total defense (240.7 yards), rush defense (68.2) and scoring defense (12.1), and 16th in passing yards allowed (172.5 per game). The past three teams the Bulldogs have faced haven’t exactly been top tier like this Bearcats defense. The playoff run has pitted Ferris State against Midwestern State (106), Colorado Mines (122) and Grand Valley State (61).
This is the first meeting between the two schools. This marks the first time Ferris State has played an MIAA school and its first game played in Missouri. Northwest has played two other GLIAC schools, going 4-2 against Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State.
The ESPN trucks and lights arrived in Maryville on Thursday. … This marked the eighth playoff trip for Ferris State, which started playing football in 1900, with nine years without teams. Overall, the Bulldogs are 426-440-40. … This is the third straight playoff berth for the Bulldogs, who were ranked as high as No. 2 last year. … Ferris State K Wyatt Ford is one of 10 finalists for the Fred Mitchell Award, given to the top non-Division kicker. Ford, one of three D-II finalists, has hit 16 of 21 FGs and 67 of 70 PATs. … Ferris State has won 38 of its past 42 games, losing to Ashland and Grand Valley State this season. … Northwest is 9-1 in semifinals game and 8-0 in Maryville. Ferris State is 0-1 in semifinals, falling to North Alabama in 1995. ... In last week’s semifinal win, Ferris State held off a late rally from Grand Valley State, which pulled within 40-32. Grand Valley went for an onside kick and KC Zenner recovered and ran it back 56 yards for the game-ending score for the Bulldogs.