Big Rapids, Mich. - For the fifth different week this season, the Ferris State University football program has had at least one student-athlete honored as a National Player of the Week.
This week, following the Bulldogs' 54-44 win over archrival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic on Saturday (Oct. 12) night at Top Taggart Field, three Bulldogs were honored at the national level by at least one organization for their efforts.
Sophomore quarterback Jason Vander Laan (Frankfort, Ill./Chicago Christian) was one of the national offensive award recipients by Beyond Sports Network and also tabbed as an honorable mention player of the week choice by USA Football. In addition, senior cornerback James Stewart (Detroit/University Prep) attained USA Football National Defensive Player of the Week Honorable Mention laurels while senior kicker Austin Kantola (Ravenna) picked up honorable mention player of the week recognition from USA Football in the special teams category.
Both Vander Laan and Stewart were also recognized individually by the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) this week as the league's offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively.
Overall, a total of four different Ferris State football student-athletes have now combined to receive National Player of the Week honors a total of 14 times over the course of five different weeks from the three primary media outlets that recognize players on a national level in Division II - D2football.com, Beyond Sports Network & USA Football.
Vander Laan keyed the Bulldogs' win over the 24th-ranked Lakers as he ran for 210 yards on 27 carries (7.8 avg.) with two TD's on the ground as Ferris State rolled up a school-record 465 yards rushing. He also threw for 118 yards on nine-of-16 passing with two scores under rainy conditions as the Bulldogs netted 583 yards of total offense.
FSU ran for nearly 300 yards in the second half to beat GVSU for the first time in Big Rapids since 1995 and it also marks the first time since 1994-95 in which the Bulldogs have beat the Lakers in back-to-back seasons. Vander Laan engineered a key Bulldog drive late in the third quarter after GVSU had taken a 23-20 edge as he moved FSU 81 yards in five plays to give the Bulldogs the lead for good. His 27-yard touchdown run with 2:52 to play sealed the victory for FSU with the win enabling the Bulldogs to keep pace in the GLIAC North.
Meanwhile, Stewart made a critical play in the Bulldogs' victory at Top Taggart Field. After the Bulldogs had taken a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter in the back-and-forth contest, Stewart intercepted a tipped Laker pass and raced 62 yards to the endzone on the pick six to push the margin to 17 points, which helped clinch the win. He finished the game with six tackles as the Bulldog defense limited GVSU to 340 yards of total offense in the contest.
Finally, Kantola had another strong outing for the Bulldogs in Saturday's win as he connected on a pair of field goal tries in the first half from 27 and 22 yards, which kept FSU in front in a tight contest. Kantola had 10 kickoffs for 572 yards with three touchbacks under rainy conditions in the game and he converted six of seven PAT tries as FSU beat GVSU for the second-straight season.
The victory was the Bulldogs' sixth all-time series' triumph over the Lakers in Big Rapids and the first at Top Taggart Field since 1995. With the win, Ferris State vaulted up 11 spots to 15th nationally in the CompughterRatings.com national poll with the victory.
This week, the Bulldogs will hit the road as FSU visits Hillsdale on Saturday (Oct. 19) for a 2:30 p.m. (ET) league kickoff at Muddy Waters Stadium in Hilldale, Mich. Both teams have only one loss in GLIAC play entering Saturday's matchup.
Below are Ferris State's National & GLIAC Player of the Week Award recipients by game date this season:
Jason Vander Laan
D2Football.com National Player of the Week (Sept. 14)
USA Football National Player of the Week (Sept. 14)
Beyond Sports Network National Player of the Week (Sept. 14 & Oct. 12)
USA Football Honorable Mention National Player of Week (Sept. 28, Oct. 5, Oct. 12)
GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 14 & Oct. 12)
D2Football.com National Player of the Week (Sept. 21)
USA Football National Player of the Week (Sept. 21)
Beyond Sports Network National Player of the Week (Sept. 21)
USA Football Honorable Mention National Player of Week (Oct. 5)
GLIAC Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 21)
USA Football Honorable Mention National Player of Week (Sept. 28 & Oct. 12)
USA Football Honorable Mention National Player of Week (Oct. 12)
GLIAC Defensive Player of the Week (Oct. 12)