For the second-straight Saturday, Northwest football will play a playoff game in Michigan, this time around the opponent is Ferris State.
The Bearcats (10-2) and Bulldogs (12-0) will face off with a chance to keep their seasons and championship hopes alive Nov. 24 in Big Rapids. Last time out in Michigan, Northwest took down Grand Valley State 42-17 with a dominant performance from the rushing attack.
Both running backs, junior Isaiah Strayhorn and senior Josh Caldwell, ran for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns against the Lakers. For coach Rich Wright, it was the adjustments made early on that made the difference at Grand Valley State.
“We adjusted, we adapted and we started to hit them (Grand Valley State) with some things and once we did I think our kids finally saw exactly how good we could be,” Wright said. “It was fun to sit back and watch.”
To take down a Ferris State team that was ranked as the second-best team in the country before the opening round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs, the Bearcats will need to contain Bulldog quarterback Jayru Campbell.
Campbell leads Division II in points responsible for with 264 points on the season, coming from 20 rushing touchdowns and 23 passing touchdowns. While being accountable for 43 touchdowns, Campbell has given up a mere eight turnovers with five interceptions and three lost fumbles.
A factor in controlling Campbell's productivity will be the defensive line for the Bearcats and how well they contain him.
“You have to try and contain his (Campbell) runs and you have to understand where he likes to go and what he likes to do,” Wright said. “We have to be cognizant of how we rush. We talk that all the time, we don’t rush as individuals we rush as a front.”
Containing opposing quarterbacks has been something the Bearcats have done well all season. They have applied plenty of pressure as well as Northwest is averaging three sacks a game and has totaled 100 tackles for loss this season resulting in 403 lost yards for opponents.
The defensive front is led by senior defensive end Austen Eskew and sophomore defensive tackle Sam Roberts. Eskew leads the team with 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, while Roberts is second in both categories with 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Controlling the line of scrimmage will be crucial for Northwest not only on defense to contain Campbell but on offense to keep the ground game going. In the Grand Valley State game, the Bearcats racked up 356 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
Offensive consistency has been something Northwest has struggled with this season. Senior wide receiver Shawn Bane Jr. said the performance against Grand Valley State was a step in the right direction.
“Once we saw what we could do up there in Michigan I feel like we are way more confident,” Bane said. “We are believing in what we do and we are just playing really well right now.”
Northwest will follow the same routine for the Ferris State game including the same departure and arrival time and even staying in the same hotel.
With kickoff set for 12 p.m., the Bearcats seek to duplicate the results of trip one to Michigan in Big Rapids against the Bulldogs.