By ANDY WOLF
The University of Findlay football team will play its final Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football game Saturday afternoon.
What better way to do so than a 12-hour trip north into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?
The Oilers (5-5, 5-5 GLIAC) will do battle with Michigan Tech (4-5, 4-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sherman Field in Houghton, Mich.
UF coach Rob Keys has made two trips prior over the Mackinac Bridge and into the UP as a head coach, losing both, first to Michigan Tech 35-10 in 2012 and Northern Michigan 66-38 in 2014.
Yet Keys has stressed to his players the importance of embracing the lengthy journey.
“I told our guys, embrace it,” Keys said. “You’re lucky to be on this trip and to have the opportunity to play another game with this team.”
It equally has the feel of “just another game” for senior right guard Jason Mulligan despite being his last in a UF uniform.
He’s started all but two games in the past four years for the Oilers, 41 total, missing two games due to a knee scope surgery his sophomore year.
It’s been a journey of the usual adversity and grind for a college athlete faced by Mulligan and also one of many friendships made along the way.
“It’s amazing when you commit yourself to this program like he has,” Keys said of Mulligan. “He’s been a consistent part of that offensive line. I tell guys, if you could be there, you have an opportunity to make plays and he has. His leadership has been good as a senior and we’re going to miss him no doubt going forward.”
Here are four more things to know for Saturday’s game:
SEASON TO DATE: Both teams have faced the brunt of the GLIAC.
Of the teams with a winning record, the Oilers have faced all seven while the Huskies have only dodged GLIAC-leader and No. 2 Grand Valley State (10-0, 9-0) and Wayne State (7-3, 7-3).
Findlay is 2-4 in such games, beating Tiffin and Saginaw Valley State, while MTU is 2-3.
“(Michigan Tech) is capable of beating anybody,” Keys said. “They’re very physical on both sides. They’re very well-coached and disciplined.
GLIAC TO THE FUTURE: Findlay will begin competing in the Greater Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) in all sports beginning in the 2017-18 athletic season.
Keys sports a 33-26 record in GLIAC games. All-time, UF is 80-110 during its run in the conference.
He’s beaten every current league member at least once over the past six years and former members Notre Dame College (Ohio) and Malone, the latter of which they’ll join in the GMAC.
30 OR 30: Whether it’s for the better or worse, the nature of UF’s games aren’t quite as high-scoring in years past.
Opponents scored at least 30 points in 10 of 11 games last season. That number is down to four games — all losses.
Conversely, the Oilers have only scored 30 points four times this season and are 3-1 in such games.
Their averages of 29.1 points for and 26 points allowed are both low marks in the Rob Keys era.
“All the yards, ultimately it’s how many points are you scoring and how many are you giving up?” Keys said. “We’ve done a better job not letting teams score 40-plus points. This year we haven’t had the opportunity to put up as many.”
The Huskies are scoring 23.7 ppg and surrendering 24.7 a contest.
FRESHMEN IMPACT: Michigan Tech has a number of playmakers on defense, but two of the biggest are freshmen.
Linebacker Marvin Wright is not only the top tackling freshmen in the GLIAC, but in the country at 10 tackles per game. He’s also made three tackles for loss, an interception and three pass breakups.
Fellow frosh Travis Tidwell (51 tackles) is tied for fifth in the nation with 15 pass breakups and has four interceptions.
Two of Tidwell’s interceptions helped Michigan Tech upset then No. 9 Ashland 24-21 at Sherman Field. The last that sealed the victory two plays after the Huskies took the lead with 31 seconds remaining.
“Defensively, if you look at Michigan Tech, they’re solid against run and the pass,” Keys said. “They do a lot schematically because they blitz and give you a lot of different coverages.”
The Oilers aren’t without freshmen playmakers on defense too.
True frosh linebacker Isaac Miles is fifth with 43 tackles, averaging 6 per game since Week 5.
Defensive back Romeo Whitlow recorded his first interception last week after nearly coming up with one on two different occasions earlier in the game.
Liberty-Benton grad and defensive tackle Grant Kinsinger has helped anchor a vastly improved defensive line with 13 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a blocked extra point.
Also on the line, Justin Ellis leads the Oilers with 5.5 sacks this season.
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