Murphy sack and forced fumble leads Ferris State back to championship game

Published 5:47 pm Saturday, December 10, 2022

BIG RAPIDS – The Ferris State football team punched its ticket to the Division II Football National Championship Game.

The Bulldogs outscored West Florida 21-0 in the second half to earn a 38-17 victory in the Division II National Semifinal.

The win advances FSU to its second straight title game on Saturday, Dec. 17 in McKinney, Texas, where the Bulldogs will face the winner of Shepherd and Colorado School of Mines.

“The grit of our guys is just extraordinary,” said Ferris State head coach Tony Annese. “It was hard emotionally going into halftime tied 17-17. Things can go both ways there; fortunately, our guys stayed committed to the process… All in all, we’re going back to McKinney. Are we serious, here? I knew on defense we were good enough to get there but on offense, it’s been a work in progress all year. I’m so proud of this team.”

Marcus Taylor, a slot receiver pressed into running back duty, tallied 20 carries for 182 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Carson Gulker completed one pass for four yards and added 18 carries for 68 yards and three touchdown runs, while Dez Lyburtus added one touchdown run.

Mylik Mitchell completed 8-of-9 passes for 87 yards and added seven carries for 37 yards.

For West Florida, quarterback Peewee Jarrett completed 9-of-16 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown pass and tallied 57 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown run. Shomari Mason had 10 carries for 42 yards and David Durden tallied three catches for 98 yards and one touchdown.

On defense, Major Desmond had 12 sacks and Olalere Oladipo had four tackles and two sacks, while former Dowagiac standout Caleb Murphy tallied another sack to add to his NCAA record of 25.5 sacks and forced a game-changing fumble that led to a FSU second half touchdown.

“It’s good to be able to help the team get a turnover,” Murphy said. “To get a sack is nice after last week being my first week without a sack this season.”

Kode Lowe led West Florida with 10 tackles.

Gulker scored two rushing touchdowns to help Ferris State take a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. The second quarter saw West Florida return the favor with a 58-yard strike from quarterback Peewee Jarrett to receiver David Durden followed by a 10-yard Jarrett run to make it a 17-17 game at halftime.

The Bulldogs were able to flip the script in the second half by getting back to its run game. A trio of Bulldogs — Lyburtus, Gulker and Taylor, found the end zone for the Bulldogs to put the game away. Ferris State finished with a 309-113 advantage in running yards.

“We have a young offensive line and we were able to run for 309 yards,” Annese said. “We’ve been able to do that in previous years but this year we haven’t ran the ball as effectively as we’ve thrown it. Today I really wanted to set the tone for the run game… we set the tone as a team that was gonna be a little more tough rushing the ball and I thought that was a really big factor in the game.”

On defense, Murphy and Oladipo led a front that was able to stifle the Argos’ run game and force Jarrett into incompletions.

“In the first half, we felt like we could’ve played a lot better,” Oladipo said. “Coming into the second half, we were telling each other that it was going to be a party in the backfield and that we had to play to the best of our abilities.”

The Bulldogs are looking forward to play for a second consecutive national championship.

“It’s incredible,” Annese said. “Hopefully we go there and win; that’s the goal.”