Findlay and Michigan Tech meet this week in the Upper Peninsula
By Kevin Schrock
The University of Findlay will not be participating in playoff football this year. The squad has been through the gauntlet playing four teams ranked in the top 25 in the nation. Still, the group will head into their last game of the season sporting a 5-5 record. Oddly enough, the Michigan Tech Huskies are on the same type of mission with their 4-5 record. One team will leave beautiful Sherman Field on Saturday with a record of at least .500, and one will not.
“There’s such a big difference between 5-6 and 6-5 that you cant even measure it,” said Findlay coach Rob Keys. “I’ve been on both sides of it.”
Coach Keys and the Oilers have actually been on a different side of this exact scenario each of the last two years. Two years ago in 2014 the Oilers made the trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan with a 5-5 record and lost to Northern Michigan University 66-38. A year later they played host to the same school when both squads entered with a 5-5 record. This time it was a Tyler Bugeja field goal on the final play of the game that gave Findlay a 45-42 win and a record over .500.
“If you know me you know I hate losing,” said Keys. “There is nothing worse on earth than losing and it’ll never change.”
With the potential for a losing season looming in the balance, on Thursday the Oilers start the long trip back up north to the home of the Yoopers. This year instead of having Northern Michigan waiting for them on Saturday it will be Michigan Tech, a team that has come back on a mission to salvage their season after starting the year 2-5. The Huskies knocked off no. 9 Ashland two weeks ago before stealing an overtime thriller from Northern Michigan the following week.
“It’s just another game where we have to play even better,” said Keys. “We have yet to cross the bridge and get a win with this staff. It’s a big, big challenge for us and we’re going to have to be better than we were the last couple weeks if we want to get the win against Michigan Tech.”
The Huskies, who do not feature quite the weapons on offense that the Oilers do, try to make up for it with their defense. Michigan Tech finds themselves tenth in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference averaging 360.3 yards per game. That’s 82.9 yards less than the fifth ranked Oilers who put up 443.2 yards per game.
Keep an eye on Chauncey Bridges in this matchup. So far this year the Oiler offense goes in the direction he goes. When the junior cracks 100 yards on the ground this year the Oilers are 5-0. When he does not eclipse that mark Findlay is 0-5.
“If you can run the ball it’s tough not to win,” said Keys. “It makes offense so much easier, especially with the weapons we have on the edge.”
One last disclaimer for the 2016 finale: watch out for the Michigan Tech secondary. Rhys Gervais has already thrown 12 interceptions this year and he is matched up against a secondary that has picked off 12 passes this year. Those 12 interceptions rank Michigan Tech third in the GLIAC in that department.
Saturday’s outcome will define the Oiler season as either a winning one or a losing one. They are scheduled to kick off in Houghton, Michigan at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.