NCAA Division II Super Region Three Finals


Harding will make its second straight appearance in the NCAA Division II Playoffs national quarterfinals and Super Region Three final Saturday. The Bisons, No. 7 seed in Super Region Three, will travel to meet No. 4 seed Ferris State, the second-place regular season team in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. Kickoff at Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Michigan, will be at noon local time and 11 a.m. Central Time.

Harding and Ferris State are the only two teams in NCAA Division II that have reached the national quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons.

Harding is playing postseason football for the ninth time in program history. The Bisons played in NAIA bowls in 1972 (Cowboy) and 1976 (San Jacinto Shrine) and in the NAIA playoffs in 1989 and 1992. Harding has played in the NCAA II Playoffs in 2012 and 2014 and reached the national quarterfinals last season. The Bisons also played in the 2013 Live United Texarkana Bowl.

Harding enters the matchup on an 10-game winning streak, the second longest in program history. The streak came after the Bisons opened the season with three consecutive losses.

Harding enters the game as the NCAA Division II leader in rushing TD (50) and rushing yards (4,565). Harding has rushed for more than 300 yards nine times this season and for 200 or more yards in 26 straight games.

Harding will be playing four consecutive road games for the first time since 1982 (Southeastern Oklahoma, Evangel, Arkansas Tech, Rhodes). In the 1927-28 seasons, Harding played 10 consecutive road games.

The Coaches
Harding’s Paul Simmons is in his first season as the head coach of the Bisons. He is in his 12th season at Harding and had been Harding’s defensive coordinator since 2010. Simmons was a three-time All-American defensive end and linebacker at Harding.

Tony Annese, a 1983 Alma graduate, is in his sixth season as head coach of the Bulldogs. He is 51-12 at Ferris.

Series History
First meeting between Harding and Ferris State

Home/Road Records
Harding is 7-1 on the road this season and has won its last seven, the second-longest road winning streak in Division II. The Bisons are 13-2 on the road in the last two seasons with five road wins coming against nationally ranked teams. Ferris is 6-0 at home this season and has won 12 straight at home, tied for the second-longest home winning streak in Division II.

Streaks, Trends and Records
Zach Shelley averages 8.8 yards per carry in his career, which is the highest among active players at any level in the NCAA (min. 2,000 yards) — Bernard McDondle (Colorado St.-Pueblo) is second at 8.4 … Shelley ranks fourth at Harding in career rushing yards (2,614) and fifth in career rushing TD (22) … ranks seventh with 3,508 all-purpose yards, 313 behind Santiago Collins (3,821, 2000-03).

Harding has 4,565 rushing yards, second in program history behind only last season’s 5,079 yards … the Bisons have scored 450 points, the fourth-highest total in program history.

Junior linebacker Sam Blankenship has 118 tackles, the most tackles in a season since the NCAA standardized tackle stats in 2000. His 69 solo tackles are four behind Said Perez’s record 73 in 2000.

The last Harding player from Michigan to appear in a regular season game was defensive back Ben Theisen in 2014. A native of Howell, Theisen (pronounced Tyson) appeared in three games and earned Academic All-GAC honors in 2013.
With 10 points against Ashland, senior Tristan Parsley moved into second place in career scoring at Harding. Parsley has 252 career points, trailing only Park Parish’s 272 points from 2012-16.

Harding has won the time-of-possession battle in all 13 games and ranks second in Division II at 34:59 per game. The Bisons had the ball 129 minutes more than their opponents. Harding has won TOP in 27 of its last 29 games.

In the last five games, HU has converted 41-of-66 third downs, 62 percent. In the last seven games, Harding opponents have converted only 28-of-89 third downs, 31 percent.

Harding freshman Cole Chancey has 1,153 rushing yards, sixth in an HU single season. He is four yards behind fifth place (Park Parish, 1,157, 2016) and 24 yards behind fourth place (Chris Pierson, 1,177, 1996).

Harding completed three passes against Ashland for a season-high 126 yards after not completing a pass in both of its previous two games.

Seniors Zach Shelley and Tristan Parsley will become the first Harding players to play in 50 games when they appear against Ferris State.

A Quick Look at Ferris State
Ferris State’s lone loss came on Sept. 23 at Ashland (20-3) … Ferris has won nine straight since that loss … no Ferris State opponent has scored more than 27 points in a game this season … second in D2 in third-down conversion defense at 24.4 percent … Ferris was eighth of nine teams in the GLIAC in red zone defense, opponents scored on 24 of 28 red zone trips with five rushing TD, nine passing TD and 10 field goals … Ferris allowed only five rushing TD in the red zone while Harding scored 42 rushing TD in the red zone … senior defensive back Tavierre Thomas is fourth in D2 with 1.8 passes defended per game … Thomas has four interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

Team Leaders (National Rank in parenthesis)

Rushing – Cole Chancey: 200 rushes, 1,153 yards (20th), 13 TD (27th); Zach Shelley: 104 rushes, 803 yards (88th), 5 TD; Grant Kimberlin: 77 rushes, 773 yards (96th), 3 TD; Terrence Dingle: 166 rushes, 674 yards, 18 TD (7th)
Passing – Terrence Dingle: 30-of-70, 671 yards, 4 TD
Receiving – Andrew Dather: 12 receptions, 275 yards, 1 TD
Tackles – Sam Blankenship: 118 tackles (42nd); Devyn Comer: 13.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks (81st); V’Onte Williams, Dra Smith: 3 INT
Punting – Tristan Parsley – 34 punts, 38.0 avg.
Kicking – Tristan Parsley – 12 of 17 FG (50th), 56 of 57 PAT

Rushing – Jahaan Brown: 117 rushes, 615 yards, 5 TD
Passing – Travis Russell: 95-of-188, 1,242 yards, 9 TD, 7 INT; Reggie Bell: 74-of-136, 1,122 yards, 7 TD, 1 INT
Receiving – Malik Taylor: 56 receptions, 849 yards (47th), 6 TD (86th)
Tackles – Nick Huckabay: 79 tackles; Zach Sieler: 20.0 TFL (18th), 7.0 sacks (79th)
Punting – Jackson Dieterle: 38 punts, 41.1 avg.
Kicking – Wyatt Ford: 11 of 14 FG (21st), 49 of 49 PAT

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