Lakers head to Big Rapids for rivalry game

Cody Eding

An old rivalry has been renewed.

When the No. 1 Grand Valley State University football team travels to face Ferris State University Saturday afternoon, more than just a victory will be on the line for the two schools that are separated by less than 70 miles.

After going winless in the GLIAC and finishing 1-10 overall last year, Ferris State has jumped out to 5-2 record (5-1 GLIAC) this season, adding extra weight to this weekend’s matchup.

A Ferris State victory would put the Bulldogs into a tie with the Lakers for the GLIAC lead and give them a legitimate chance of making the NCAA playoffs in heading toward the end of the season.

“If they lose to us, that will be three losses,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “For them, this is a playoff game. It’s a conference championship game, and it has to be the same thing for us. It’s a conference championship game, it’s a playoff game, and we have to approach it that way.”

The Bulldogs have not defeated the Lakers since 1999, but the proximity of the two schools lends itself to a natural rivalry. In last season’s meeting between the teams, GVSU narrowly won 17-10.
“Rivalry games are always special because its a rivalry game, you always got to get up for it,” said junior wide receiver Greg Gay. “It seems like it is always a close game because both teams bring their A game.”

Ferris State started its GLIAC schedule with a 5-0 record by knocking off then No. 16 Saginaw Valley State University 21-17 on Sept. 11 to earn the team’s first victory in more than a year. The Bulldogs ran off victories against Ohio Dominican University, Tiffin University, Lake Erie College and the University of Findlay before dropping a 22-20 decision against Northern Michigan University on a late field goal last weekend.

For the third week in a row, the GVSU defense will attempt to contain a dual-threat quarterback. Ferris State’s Tom Schneider has amassed 1,241 passing yards with 12 touchdowns in addition to 61 rushing attempts for 259 yards in the Bulldogs’ balanced spread attack.

“We recruited him out of high school,” Mitchell said. “He’s a former state champion wrestler, and you can see his competitiveness and you can see his athleticism.”

Schneider’s go-to guy is receiver Mike Ryan, who has grabbed 34 catches for 424 yards and four touchdowns.

“When you play Ferris, you know that you’re going to get their best shot every week,” said senior safety Matt Bakker. “I think this week in practice we’re going to have a little bit more focus, especially, I know, on the defensive side after how we played this past weekend. We’re going to have to make sure that we’re coming with intensity everyday and just really focus on what we have to do.”

Ferris State’s defense is allowing 302.4 yards per game to opposing offenses. GVSU averages 463.7 yards of offense per game.

“Their defense is very strong upfront,” Mitchell said. “Their four down guys are very good. They are very physical, very big. They’ve got a couple good corners. They do a good job on defense. I was very impressed with their defense having watched the tape.”

While the Bulldogs have played one of the easiest schedules in the GLIAC so far – the combined record of the five teams they beat is 6-28 – Ferris State cannot be underestimated, Mitchell said.

“I don’t want to hear anybody talk about who they’ve played,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve watched the tape – they’re good.”

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