Bisons Football arrived in Big Rapids, Michigan, after a long day of traveling Friday, Nov. 15 and are making preparations for their game today against the Ferris State University (FSU) Bulldogs.
Harding is making their third-straight appearance in the Super Region Three playoffs and are in a familiar spot. Last year, the Bisons played in Big Rapids for the Super Region Three championship, winning 16-14 on a walk-off field goal by then senior place kicker Tristan Parsley.
A lot has changed since that game; the Bisons, who were picked to finish first in their conference, had two losses and were uncertain if they would even be back in the playoffs after their final game against Arkansas Tech University on Nov. 10. Now in Big Rapids, the Bisons are hoping their experience will pay off on game day. Head Football Coach Paul Simmons wants his team to recognize the importance of the position that they are in.
“You have no idea how many special Bison warriors have been through this program and never had a chance to be where you are, to have a chance to go play in the playoffs,” Simmons told his players in a team meeting Friday night.
Senior wide receiver Kohl Blickenstaff said that experience is key in any post-season game and that he likes the Bisons’ chances against the Bulldogs.
“We may be the underdogs to some people, but we have no doubt about what’s going to happen [on the field],” Blickenstaff said.
The Bisons’ defense will have their hands full with the FSU’s junior quarterback Jayru Campbell, who is second in the nation in passing efficiency (177.7) and yards per completion (17.58). He leads Division II in points responsible for with 24.6 per game. Campbell lead the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 22 passing touchdowns and 19 rushing touchdowns. Campbell, a former power-five Division I recruit, received offers from Michigan State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Louisiana State University; however, due to unforeseen circumstances, Campbell was forced to spend his first two years of eligibility in junior college before transferring to FSU. Simmons said containing Campbell both in the air and on the ground will be key for the Bisons to come out with a win in Big Rapids.
“We can’t let [Campbell] get out of the pocket and have big runs against us. He’s pretty dangerous,” Simmons said. “If we make them earn it the long way and we have long drives, our chances of succeeding go way up.”
Senior defensive back Brandon Brice echoed Simmons’ remarks and said the defense needs to be disciplined in order to stop Campbell and the Bulldogs’ offense.
“We need to play trusting our instincts,” Brice said. “We can’t play slow, and we need to believe in what our coaches put us out there to do.”
The game between the Bisons and Bulldogs will kick off today at 12 p.m. CST. Should the Bisons win, their next game will be on the road against the winner of Grand Valley State University and Northwest Missouri State University, who plays today at 12 p.m. CST.