The Ouachita Tigers' football team (9-3) came up short in the first round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs Saturday afternoon as the Tigers lost to the Ferris State Bulldogs (10-1) by a final score of 24-19.
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – The Ouachita Tigers' football team (9-3) came up short in the first round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs Saturday afternoon as the Tigers lost to the Ferris State Bulldogs (10-1) by a final score of 24-19.
Ouachita scored its only touchdown of the game early on. Austin Warford found Kris Oliver across the middle for a 71-yard score on just the third play of the game. The Ferris State defense was able to hold Ouachita out of the end zone for the remainder of the game, however, and forced Ouachita to kick four field goals while the Tigers had possession inside the red zone.
The Tigers managed to score the first 13 points of the game before Ferris State finally got in the end zone with 3:37 remaining in the second quarter. Ferris State's scoring struggles were not for lack of opportunity, however. The Bulldogs were able to move the ball quite well in the first half, but turned the ball over four times. Ferris State fumbled the football three times, including once when the team was within the Ouachita five-yard line, and threw one interception.
Ferris State's turnover struggles ended in the second half, however, and Ouachita's turnover struggles picked up. After only turning the ball over one time in the first half, Ouachita turned the ball over three times in the second. These turnovers limited the Tigers' offensive capability and they were only able to score through two Cole Antley field goals.
Ferris State took their final 24-19 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the game, and Ouachita had three attempts to put the ball in the end zone and take the lead. The Tigers were unable to do so, however, and their season ended when Austin Warford threw an interception with three seconds remaining and Ferris State took a knee to run out the clock.
Despite traditionally favoring the run, the Tigers relied on their passing game Saturday afternoon due to Ferris State's stout run defense. Ouachita gained 219 yards through the air, while only gaining 100 yards on the ground.
Austin Warford completed 17 of his 40 pass attempts for all 219 of Ouachita's passing yards. Warford threw one touchdown and two interceptions. The redshirt-senior also rushed for 16 yards in his last game in a Ouachita jersey.
Ouachita's junior running back Kris Oliver rushed 21 times for 62 yards on the afternoon while also catching seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Drew Harris caught four passes for 62 yards. Junior kicker Cole Antley was the Tigers' leading scorer as he converted all four of his field goal attempts.
On defense, senior linebacker Luke Holt led all Tigers with 10 total tackles. Fellow senior linebacker Elijah Jones had eight tackles, while senior defensive lineman John Rachal had eight tackle as well. Sophomore defensive back Keandre Evans intercepted a pass in the second quarter, while fellow defensive backs Tevin Jones and Shaq Hunter each forced a fumble.
Ferris State was able to pick up a majority of their yards through the running game. The Bulldogs rushed for 291 yards behind a big offensive line. The team utilized a two-quarterback system and its two quarterbacks, sophomore Travis Russel and senior Reggie Bell, were its two leading rushers. Russell ran for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Bell ran for 96 yards. The Ouachita secondary was able to hold Ferris State to only 53 passing yards.
The loss draws the Tigers' season to a close, but it was a successful one nonetheless. The Tigers finished the season as undisputed GAC champions and with a top-25 ranking.