Central Missouri running back Devante Turner makes a cut during the Mules 37-27 win over UIndy in the opening round of the NCAA Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Walton Stadium.

For the second time in program history, Central Missouri will face the No. 1 seed in the Central Region in the regional semifinals when the Mules take on Ferris State at noon CT on Saturday, Nov. 30, in Big Rapids, Michigan.

The Mules are coming off a 37-27 win over the University of Indianapolis to begin their playoff journey.

The Bulldogs received a bye in the opening weekend of playoff action and played just 10 regular season games — all wins — leaving three weeks between their regular season finale, a 21-16 win over Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic, on Nov. 9 and Saturday’s contest.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two programs. Central Missouri is 3-3 all-time in the playoffs and 1-0 in the regional semifinals, beating No. 1 seed Abilene Christian 55-41 in 2010.

The Bulldogs are coming off a deep playoff run in 2018, reaching the Division II National Championship for the first time in program history. Ferris State started the season ranked No. 2 nationally and have maintained that ranking throughout the season.

UCM Offense vs. Ferris State Defense

The No. 1 offense in the nation will face its toughest test in the Great Lakes State.

The Mules roll into Big Rapids averaging 561.3 yards per game, the best mark in the nation, and 47.7 points per game, the second best mark in the country.

Quarterback Brook Bolles, a Harlan Hill nominee, leads the nation in passing with 4,037 yards for an average of 367 yards per game and 42 touchdowns, four off the single-season record mark held by Eric Czerniewski.

The senior signal caller threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the win over UIndy.

Hauling in a lot of Bolles passes has been Shae Wyatt and Zach Davidson. Wyatt went for 176 yards on nine receptions and two scores in the opening round of the playoffs. Davidson racked up 90 yards and a score against the Greyhounds.

Wyatt needs 53 yards to tie the single-season receiving record as he sits at 1,405 yards through 11 games.

Devante Turner and Koby Wilkerson continue to own the running game for the Mules. Turner is nearing 1,000 yards on the year with 960 going into Saturday. Wilkerson scored the lone rushing touchdown for the Mules against UIndy.

Ferris State has limited teams to just 262.2 yards per game and 13.7 points per game. No team has scored more than 28 points on the Bulldogs this season. The Mules have been held under 30 points just once this season — the 45-23 loss to Northwest Missouri State — and scored over 40 points seven times.

The Bulldogs are led by senior defensive end Austin Edwards, a Harlon Hill nominee. Edwards has lived in the opposition’s back field, racking up eight sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss as part of his 45 tackles on the year. The senior also has one forced fumble and fumble recovery.

UCM Defense vs. Ferris State Offense

The balanced Bulldog attack has put up an average of 513.3 yards per game, ranking fifth in Division II, which is split nearly 50-50 at 255.6 passing yards and 257.7 rushing yards for an average of 39.1 points per game.

The offense looks a bit different than last season’s attack that took them to the national title game. Ferris State is without the 2018 Harlan Hill winner Jayru Campbell, who played off and on in his senior year. Campbell underwent ankle surgery on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and will miss the remainder of the season in hopes of an NFL future.

He accounted for 1,306 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air and 236 yards and six scores on the ground.

In his place, Travis Russell will be the signal caller, who started the final three games of the regular season. The senior quarterback has played in six games in total, throwing for 963 yards with five touchdowns to three interceptions. Russell also has rushed for 211 yards and two scores.

Ferris State will also deploy Evan Cummins as both a passer and a runner, though the sophomore has had more success with his legs, churning out 418 yards and eight touchdowns, tied for the most on the team.

Juniors Marvin Campbell and Tyler Minor combine for the bulk of the Ferris State rushing attack. Campbell is the workhorse with 108 carries for 444 yards while Minor has 495 yards on 48 carries and eight scores.

Eleven different Bulldogs have scored a rushing touchdown on the season.

Ferris State deploys a pair of dangerous pass catchers in Sy Barnett and Xavier Wade. Barnett tops the receiving group with 32 catches for 765 yards and five scores. Wade has four touchdowns on the year in 24 receptions for a total of 603 yards.

Central Missouri brings to the table a defense that has allowed an average of 407.7 yards per game and 29.2 points per game.

The Mules defense is led by safety Codie Bell, who has racked up a team-high 74 tackles on the year. Linebacker Marques Cooper is second on the team with 50.

Central Missouri has forced 22 fumbles on the year, recovering 11 and caught 12 interceptions.

Ferris State has fumbled the ball 29 times, losing 18 and thrown 12 interceptions.

The winner between UCM and Ferris State will face the winner of No. 3 Northwest Missouri State and No. 7 Lindenwood in the quarterfinals.

Sports Editor Randy Speer can be reached by emailing randy.speer@dsjnow.com, by calling (660) 747-8123 or on Twitter at @RandySpeer_DSJ.

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