Ferris State left little doubt all season who was the best team in Division II football.
And the Bulldogs put a huge exclamation point on the 2021 with a dominating performance to win their first national championship.
Jared Bernhardt had 14 runs for 148 yards and three touchdowns as Ferris State beat Valdosta State, 58-17, on Saturday night in McKinney, Texas. Tyler Minor added eight carries for 125 yards and a TD, and Jeremy Burrell added four rushes for 103 yards.
Ferris raked up 459 yards on the ground and averaged 10 yards per play, staying true to its rush attack that helped carry the team all season.
THE DREAM IS REALITY - THE FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS ARE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SCHOOL HISTORY!
BUSINESS FINISHED. pic.twitter.com/unklE5GllK
— Ferris St. Football (@FerrisFootball) December 19, 2021
Bernhardt finished the season with 1,421 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns as a quarterback. He also passed for 1,322 yards and 11 more scores.
The former lacrosse star at Maryland broke off a 56-yard TD run within the first two minutes. But Valdosta State (12-2) answered with a touchdown and an extra point to take a 7-6 lead halfway through the first. Bernhardt had a 5-yard TD run, and later Burrell reeled off a 78-yard run for another score, but Ferris only led, 20-17, after the first quarter.
But in the second quarter, a Cyntel Williams interception set the table for Ferris State to add to the lead. After a first-down incomplete pass, Ferris ran nine straight times for 44 yards, capped by Bernhardt's third TD, a 2-yard plunge.
Following a Valdosta State punt, Minor's 1-yard score put the Bulldogs ahead, 34-17.
On the ensuing drive, Valdosta turned it over on downs with 55 second left at their own 37-yard line. On first down, Mylik Mitchell was sacked and fumbled, but offensive lineman Adam Sieler recovered it for a 10-yard loss.
On the next play, Mitchell hit Tyrese Hunt-Thompson for a 47-yard touchdown catch-and-run to virtually put the game away.
Mitchell finished the game 3-for-6 passing for 122 yards and that touchdown.
The Bulldogs (14-0) blew away the competition in the playoffs, winning by an average of 36 points in their four games. Their closest margin of victory all season was a seven-point win over Grand Valley State on Oct. 16. But the Bulldogs backed that up by beating the Lakers by 34 in their first playoff game the next month.
Ferris State was No. 1 in the nation in Division II much of the season and delivered the first Division II national championship for coach Tony Annese. The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer who won two national titles in Division II junior college brings a title to Big Rapids after the team's second appearance in the D-II final in four years. Saturday was the 101st win in nine seasons for Annese at Ferris State.
Contact Kirkland Crawford: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ferris State wins national title in blowout over Valdosta State