2024 GLIAC Football

GLIAC Football In The NCAA DII Playoffs: GVSU Vs Ferris State Rematch

GLIAC Football In The NCAA DII Playoffs: GVSU Vs Ferris State Rematch

Grand Valley State and Ferris State will square off in a rematch just over a month after GVSU knocked off the then-No. 1 Bulldogs in Allendale.

Nov 16, 2023 by Ron Balaskovitz

One thing that makes the Grand Valley State-Ferris State rivalry special is that for many years, there's been more than one game between the two in-state rivals.

Yes, there’s always a showdown on the regular season schedule, usually set for sometime in October as the stretch run of the GLIAC season sets in.

But dating back to 2015, the two rivals have met in the playoffs for what will be the fifth time this coming fall. That’s not a shock when you consider that over the past decade, these are two of the most consistent Division II football programs in the country, while Ferris State has become the gold standard the last two years after GVSU set the standard two decades ago.

While the Anchor-Bone trophy that goes to the regular season isn’t on the line Saturday, the bragging rights from ending your arch-rival’s season are probably better than a rivalry trophy that sits in a case until next season’s game.

Grand Valley State and Ferris State will square off in a rematch just over a month after GVSU knocked off the then-No. 1 Bulldogs in one of the strangest regular season games in the rivalry’s history.

The Lakers picked up a 49-28 win in Allendale, which set the stage for them to win the GLIAC, returning to the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, and sending Ferris State to the unranked spots in the region, despite finishing in the Top-10 in the major Division II football polls.

That game just over a month ago had some of the biggest momentum swings in any college football game, with GVSU roaring out of the gate to a 35-0 lead, having everything go right, and looking like they were going to turn the game into a laugher, and possibly their largest win over the Bulldogs since 2011. 

But despite the loss, Ferris State showed why they’re the two-time defending national champions, storming back with 28-straight points to pull within a touchdown, and putting thoughts of the biggest comeback/collapse in rivalry history squarely on the table.

However, it was GVSU that found a way to steady the ship down the stretch, getting two more touchdowns to claim the win by 21.

If the first game between these two taught us anything, it’s to expect points on Saturday. 

Grand Valley State set the standard across Division II football this season, leading the nation at 51.8 points per game, while also boasting the best defense in the GLIAC, giving up just 16.7 points per game, despite facing five ranked teams on the schedule. Add it all up, and it’s a point differential of nearly 35 points per game. For the season, the Lakers outscored its opponents 518-173, a difference of 345 points. To give you an idea of how dominant that was, only one other team in the GLIAC even scored more than 345 points this season, Ferris State, who were among the Top-10 in the country in scoring offense, and just outside the Top-20 in scoring defense.

As we noted in our preview of the regular season edition of the Anchor-Bone, the two teams are looking in the mirror at each other. They finished the year within 100 yards of each other on offense, with Ferris State the better passing attack, and GVSU the better rushing attack.

But make no mistake, these are two teams who try to establish the running game to make their offense hum, and do so with multiple threats out of the backfield or under center to make it happen.

GVSU is paced by quarterback Cade Peterson, who led the GLIAC with 18 touchdown passes this season, but also rushed for nearly 500 yards along with six touchdowns. Running back Tariq Reid was second in the league in rushing scores with 11. While those two are the main attraction for GVSU, it was backup quarterback Avery Moore who proved the difference in the regular season, taking a pair of long rushing scores to the house, and giving Ferris State a dose of its own medicine.

The Bulldogs will try to counter with as many as three quarterbacks who see time. Mylik Mitchell is the most polished passer of the three, but Carson Gulker wasn’t far behind for FSU, passing for nine scores while leading the GLIAC in rushing touchdowns with 14 on the year.

If there’s a key to winning this game and advancing in the playoffs, it is limiting the big play. Back in October, of GVSU’s seven touchdowns, four came on touchdowns of more than 20 yards, a fifth was on a pick-six, and the other two were from 15 and 16 yards out, while Ferris State had three touchdowns from outside of 15 yards.

If one team can find a way to limit the opposing running game and take away the big plays, it could go a long way in determining a winner.

One other interesting note is dating back to the first playoff matchup in 2015, the team that won the regular season matchup, is just 1-3 in the playoff rematch. The only team to sweep both games during that time was in 2021, when Ferris State won at GVSU, and then dominated the rematch in Big Rapids. Last season, GVSU won the regular season game at Big Rapids, then saw Ferris State take the playoff game in Allendale.