ASHLAND — On the night Ashland University celebrated 100 years of football, Ferris State quarterback Jared Bernhardt put on a show for the ages.
A former Division I lacrosse star for Maryland, Bernhardt rushed for a jaw-dropping 210 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries as the No. 2 Bulldogs pounded Ashland 45-19.
“I was on the sideline (as the University of Akron head coach in 2000) when Michael Vick was at Virginia Tech. He was pretty fast and athletic,” AU coach Lee Owens said. “I’m going to tell you, I’ve never seen a kid with that kind of quickness. First of all, just the quickness. But also the acceleration and the speed.
“We can run in the secondary. We’ve got guys who are fast. He just went by us.”
Bernhardt, who won the Tewaaraton Award as college lacrosse’s most outstanding player last spring, orchestrated an 11-play, 68-yard drive on Ferris State’s first possession and capped the march with an 18-yard touchdown run. The AU defense had a chance to get off the field early in the drive, but Bernhardt ran for 29 yards and a first down on 3rd-and-21 from his own 31-yard line.
Ferris (2-0) went deep into the playbook on its next possession to take a 14-0 lead. Slotback Marcus Taylor took a lateral from Bernhardt and lofted a pass toward wideout Xavier Wade, who used the entirety of his 6-foot, 3-inch frame to haul in a fingertip grab without breaking stride and coast into the end zone for an 83-yard touchdown.
AU put together its best drive of the opening half on its next possession, but had to settle for a 23-yard Jackson Welsch field goal to cut Ferris State’s lead to 14-3. The Bulldogs answered with a field goal of their own to make it 17-3.
AU put together a promising drive late in the half, but came away empty-handed when quarterback Austin Brenner’s fourth-down pass intended for Keshun Jones fell incomplete.
“I think if we a score right before we go in it helps us a little bit,” Owens said. “Do you try to kick a 47-yard field goal to only get six? I think we’re going to have to score touchdowns.”
Bernhardt all but iced the victory on the second play of the third quarter, zig-zagging his way through the AU defense for an 81-yard touchdown and a 24-3 advantage. Ferris added two short touchdown runs to make it 38-3 late in the third.
AU’s Gei’vonni Washington hauled in a 24-yard scoring pass from Brenner to make it 38-11. A 7-yard Brenner TD run midway through the fourth made the score 38-19 before Bernhardt, who had been lifted earlier in the period, came back on to orchestrate one final touchdown drive.
Ferris (2-0) rushed for 351 yards and piled up 520 yards of total offense. The Bulldogs punted only once all evening.
“That’s so unlike us, to not be able to stop a team,” Owens said. “That was probably the most frustrating part of it."
Ashland managed 165 rushing yards and 327 yards of total offense.
“On both sides they just dominated the line,” Owens said. “Then you add to that the acceleration and speed and athleticism of their back end. That’s why they are No. 2 in the country and I voted them No. 1 in the country.
“It’s the kind of team, I just told our guys, if you want to talk about trying to win a national championship, that’s the team you have to beat.”
Brenner led the Eagles with 79 yards rushing on 12 carries. He completed 13-of-25 passes for 162 yards.
Marvin Campbell backed Bernhardt with 76 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries for the Bulldogs. Bernhardt completed 8-of-10 passes for 86 yards and Sy Barnett caught four passes for 44 yards.
“It was a tough night,” Owens said. “We’ve got a good football team. You may not have thought so tonight if you watched the game, but I’m still convinced we’ve got a good football team and we’ll win a bunch of games before the year is over.”