Break up the Bulldogs

FSU faces big test against SVSU with chance to take early control in GLIAC North

While many expected Ferris State’s football program to compete for championships under Tony Annese when he was hired less than two years ago, few could have said with confidence that time would come so soon.

By his own expectations, Annese might be a year behind after fielding a very competitive 7-4 team in 2012. There is little doubt, however, that the Bulldogs head into their final seven games — all against GLIAC North opponents — with a tremendous opportunity to compete for a title if a pair of early season blowout wins on the road in the GLIAC are any indication.

The Bulldogs (3-1, 3-0 GLIAC) enter Saturday’s homecoming contest against a Saginaw Valley State (3-1, 3-0) team that presently is the only other GLIAC North team with an undefeated record in conference play. A win would put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat early in the conference season against a Cardinals team that many believed to finish toward the top of the North standings.

ON A MISSION: Ferris State’s football team has rebounded from a season-opening loss to win three straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games. The Bulldogs will face Saginaw Valley State on Saturday in a battle of conference unbeatens. (Courtesy photo/Kevin McDermott)

ON A MISSION: Ferris State’s football team has rebounded from a season-opening loss to win three straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games. The Bulldogs will face Saginaw Valley State on Saturday in a battle of conference unbeatens. (Courtesy photo/Kevin McDermott)

While homecoming has been a traditional gathering of Ferris State alumni from across the country in recent years, the action at Top Taggart Field at 2 p.m. on Saturday will no doubt be focused on a Bulldog team that has a chance to steal momentum early in the conference season and make a run toward the team’s first conference title since FSU shared the 1999 championship with Northwood.

Sure there will still be plenty of football to play after this weekend, but nobody can deny that a win would put Ferris State front and center in the GLIAC North title hunt.

Yes, the real drama on Saturday will take place on the field, not during the homecoming king and queen voting.

While good starts to the season aren’t exactly a new thing to the FSU program, the program has only started to recently win big games against some of the top in-state schools.

That’s what makes Saturday’s matchup against SVSU so important for a Ferris State team that has dropped close decisions to the Cardinals in heartbreaking fashion each of the last two seasons — a 31-24 loss last season in overtime last season and a 30-27 loss in 2011.

With expected GLIAC North contenders like Michigan Tech, Wayne State, Hillsdale and Grand Valley State each suffering an early season conference loss, the Bulldogs have a chance to distance themselves against a Saginaw Valley State team that might be their toughest opponent left on the schedule.

To take that next step forward, FSU must continue to do … more of the same.

The Bulldogs continue to rack up yards and points at an alarming yet ho-hum rate to start the season. FSU once again gained more than 600 yards of total offense during Saturday’s 59-16 waxing against Walsh.

What’s changed for the Bulldogs in their second season under Annese has been the defense. After allowing 56 points to skew the defense’s statistics to start the season against FCS juggernaut North Dakota State and a 49 the following week in the home opener against Lake Erie, the Bulldogs have put the clamps on GLIAC foes Ashland and Walsh, allowing just 11.5 points per game.

Little by little, the FSU football program has taken steps in revamping its image as a GLIAC contender on the gridiron over the past two years — wins over Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech, a stellar recruiting class and fielding an offense that appears unstoppable over four quarters of football.

Now the Bulldogs could be in a position they’re sure to embrace — leaders of the pack.

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