BIG RAPIDS, Mich. -- Ferris State's semifinal opponent Saturday, Minnesota State has been the the top ranked Division II team in the country the entire season.
"They run the ball great, they defend the run great," Ferris State head coach Tony Annese said. "They are tough."
What else would you expect when you get to this level? The Bulldogs are tough too, though, scoring 37 points last Saturday against Ouachita Baptist, the second-ranked scoring defense in the country.
"We are out here installing plays and running around with our receivers," junior slot receiver Jevon Shaw said. "The things that we are coming up with are things that we have not been doing the past few years that I have been here, so to see the caliber at which we are affecting plays is just amazing."
Ferris State has been running behind an "energetic" offensive line, as Annese calls it, to the tune of 357 yards last week.
"It is really our preparation for that we go same routine everyday," senior right guard Nick Sawyer said, "the same routine the last couple weeks, no matter if it is Davenport, Saginaw or a playoff game."
The defense has been a pleasant surprise, ranking 15th in the country against the run and 18th in scoring. Not bad for a unit that didn't return a single full time starter from last season.
"I felt sneakingly optimistic about our ability to play good defense," Annese added. "But I think they have even exceeded my expectations."
A win Saturday would advance Ferris State to the national championship game for the first time in school history.
"I tell our guys, 'Focus on us, so if we are the best version of us.' I feel good about who we are and our capacity to win games," Annese said. "If we just play our best, that is all we can ask. I believe our best is good enough to win another game in the playoffs."
Saturday's game is scheduled to kickoff at 3 p.m. Eastern time.