McKINNEY, Texas — The Valdosta State Blazers won their fourth Division II National Championship with a compelling 49-47 win over the Ferris State Bulldogs on Saturday night at McKinney ISD Stadium.
The Blazers (14-0) won a game with seven lead changes and didn’t have the game clinched until the Bulldogs (15-1) failed to score on a 2-point conversion attempt with 40 seconds left. The Bulldogs were unable to recover the onside kick and the Blazers ran out the clock.
Valdosta State had a 49-38 lead with 11:36 left in the game after quarterback Rogan Wells connected with wide receiver Ivory Durham for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Well, a sophomore, had a huge game, throwing for 349 yards and 5 touchdown passes a day after losing out on the Harlon Hill Trophy to Ferris State quarterback Jayru Campbell. The Harlon Hill Trophy is given to Division II’s top player.
Ferris State was unfazed and mounted a comeback. The Bulldogs gained three points on their next drive on a 31-yard field goal by Jackson Dieterle with 5:31 left. The Bulldogs ultimately forced the Blazers to give up the football on downs with 2:17 remaining at the FSU 34. From there Campbell — who rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown and threw for another 99 yards and a touchdown — marched the Bulldogs swiftly down the field in five plays, with the drive ending on Sy Barnett’s 5-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 49-47.
The Bulldogs, trying to win their first national title in Division II football, scored the most points of any runner-up in this game, dating back to 1973.
Along with the lead changes and late drama, the game featured one of the more bizarre plays one is likely to see in a football game. Late in the third quarter Campbell scrambled to his left trying to find a receiver but ended up throwing the ball out of bounds. Unfortunately for Valdosta State, one of its defensive backs jumped from the end zone and into the air, caught the ball briefly and threw it back into the end zone. There, Ferris State’s Keyondre Craig caught the ball for a touchdown, which cut Valdosta State’s lead to 42-38 at the time.
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