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Football: Big game in Big Rapids



University of Findlay football coach Rob Keys was really keen to Tyler Long as a prospect out of nearby Tiffin Calvert High School.

He checked both boxes of measurables and the intangibles.

Though Long, an all-Ohio quarterback, played his first two years at Division I Fordham, he’s been starting at linebacker for UF ever since he transferred in 2017.

“The biggest thing Tyler brings to the table is his intangibles,” said Keys. “His leadership, his toughness, his intelligence, he does so many things so well. He’s a high character kid.”

“I’m just so fortunate that he came to the University of Findlay the last couple of years because he’s made our defense so much better.”

As Keys found a quality linebacker who made 53 tackles in his first season, Long found exactly what he was looking for in a school.

“Obviously Findlay is a great group of people,” Long said. “When Keys always tries to sell the program, he says it’s the people and he means it.

“…The coaches, they coach you up and make you a better player and a better person. That’s really the big thing I enjoyed when I wanted to come here.”

Long started all 13 games last season and earned second-team all-Great Midwest Athletic Conference honors.

He makes up one-third of UF’s veteran linebacking corps with Isaac Miles and Justice Jenkins.

“He’s really the third safety in our package, kind of the hybrid guy,” Keys said.

“We like to be vocal leaders and lead by example so we’ve been working on that, being an older group,” Long said.

No. 19 Findlay, up from No. 25 in the latest AFCA poll, will put its experienced defense to the test this week at No. 9 Ferris State in nonleague play 7 p.m. Saturday in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Here are four more things to know:

LAST WEEK: Both started the season with very convincing wins.

Ferris State scored the first 35 points in defeating nonleague opponent East Stroudsburg 49-17.

Findlay routed conference foe Kentucky Wesleyan 69-19 on the road despite leading only 11-7 after one quarter.

SERIES HISTORY: Findlay is 11-15 all-time against Ferris State since first meeting in 1934.

Since jumping from NAIA to Division II, the Oilers are 4-12.

They’ve met in each of the last four years with Ferris State winning every time all while ranked in the top 13 nationally, twice in the top four. Each time the Bulldogs went on to the playoffs.

“It’s one of those games that can set you off through the rest of the season on a high note,” Keys said. “They’re a premier team.”

RUNNING WILD: Ferris State and Findlay both rank third and fourth in rushing yards nationally after one week.

The Bulldogs piled up 389 yards against East Stroudsburg behind a tandem of dual-threat quarterbacks.

Jayru Campbell (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) made his first career start and totaled 100 yards on 12 carries and a 4-yard score. He also was 7 of 14 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns.

The junior spent 2015-16 at Garden City Community College where he helped the Broncbusters win a national title as a wide receiver.

“I’ve had a chance to play against (Jason) Vander Laan and (Reggie) Bell,” Keys said of FSU’s last two dual-threat quarterbacks. “… He’s kind of a conglomerate of the two and that’s bad thing for opponents.”

His backup Travis Russell played the final 18 minutes against ESU and ran for 79 yards — the bulk of it on a 49-yard touchdown run up the gut.

Meanwhile, the Oilers racked up 384 yards with five backs chipping in at least 49 yards.

Michael Campbell (104, 2 TDs) and Richard Wilson (101 yards) saw the bulk of the early carries and both topped the century mark.

DOMINATING DEFENSES: Findlay was one of four Division II teams to yield a negative amount of rushing yards (minus-9).

Only one carry by KWC went beyond 10 yards.

Long was one of six senior starters on UF’s veteran defense.

“It’s really fun to go out there,” Long said. “Not only do we work hard but we have fun with it because we can.

“We’re experienced and we enjoy perfecting our craft every day.”

Ferris State proved stout against the run as well, yielding 39 yards on 30 carries.

The Bulldogs’ defense is a quick rework from losing 12 seniors and 13 of their top 18 tacklers.

Four were first-team all Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference picks, two were second-team and five more earned honorable mentions.

Three even made NFL rosters: defensive end Zach Sieler (Baltimore), cornerback Tavierre Thomas (Cleveland) and defensive tackle Chris Okoye (Cincinnati).

Keys knows while the current FSU defense doesn’t have the same type of production, the Bulldogs does “replace with the same type of talent”.

“They aren’t as experienced but there are no signs they don’t know what they’re doing out there,” Keys said.