By ANDY WOLF
For the first time in four seasons, the University of Findlay football team will start someone other than Rhys Gervais at quarterback for Week 1.
That someone is junior college transfer Matt Winzeler.
That’s “Wins-ler” and the Oilers hope to get many out of him, like they did Gervais.
Gervais rewrote the UF record books as a four-year starter, breaking nearly every major and minor passing record along the way.
Most notably were his career marks for yards (9,601) and touchdowns (86) plus his single-season marks of 3,353 yards and 33 touchdowns in his first campaign in 2015.
Gervais also quarterbacked UF to the 2017 Division II playoffs, even winning the first-round game 29-17 at No. 2 Shepherd.
In all, he started 36 of the last 46 games for the Oilers, winning 21, but missed the last seven games of 2018 to injury.
Adam Bertke, who completed the 2018 season, also graduated.
UF coach Rob Keys kept the starting job open throughout spring ball, summer drills and fall camp.
By fall, he narrowed it down to three guys: Winzeler, senior Parker Gdula and another JUCO transfer Jay Vanderjagt.
Gdula was Bertke’s backup last season but attempted all of his 12 career passes in garbage time in two seasons.
Vanderjagt came in in the spring from Ventura College (California).
“(Matt) has outperformed Parker Gdula in the overall aspect and we feel that’s who we’re going to go with,” Key said. “Parker is nipping at his heels as a close second.”
Gdula is in his fourth year at UF and will back up Winzler.
“One thing (Gdula) does, is he has a grasp on what we’re trying to do,” Keys said.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Winzeler, who started off at the University of Toledo, played the past two seasons at ASA College of Miami.
Winzeler signed with UF in May, noting being close to home as a big factor as a Toledo St. John’s grad.
“As soon as I got here, everybody just took me in, made me feel as if I was a part of the team,” he said. “It made an easy transition. I’m just really happy to be here.”
Winzeler noted they’ve kept the camaraderie in the QB room despite competing against each other.
He also believes he’s earned the job plus the trust of the coaches and the players.
With that comes the reins of a highly-potent UF offense.
The Oilers have averaged 40 points in each of the past two seasons and at least 30 ppg since 2012.
Keys put it simply as “(Winzeler) fits within the offense we’re going to run with him.”
Winzeler went more in depth.
“This offense is definitely geared for a quarterback to have a lot of production,” Winzeler said. “I’m able to push the ball down the field to our deep threats, I can get the ball to our checkdowns, my running backs, my tight ends when I need to and we have a great running game that sets that all up.”
First career starts don’t get much tougher than what Winzeler will be bracing for.
The Oilers open their season 7 p.m. Thursday night at No. 2 Ferris State.
The Bulldogs were the Division II runner-up last year and are 72-15 in seven years under Tony Annese.
Ferris State is also riding a 19-game home winning streak.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be a test but our expectation is to win the game.” Winzeler said.
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