BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — The Ferris State football program has made a habit out of reaching the national semifinals in recent years and for the second straight time the Bulldogs will be at home for the semi.
"I think anyone coming into the doghouse is going to have to face us, senior linebacker John Higgins said. "This is our turf, this is us, Bulldog football, it is tough."
With so much experience in these playoff games, Ferris State head coach Tony Annese says they have learned to pace themselves to make a run and play well into December.
"We try to treat it like another game, we try to not over blow it," Annese said. "We have been able to win a lot of playoff games with the philosophy of just treat it like another game."
Saturday's opponent, Shepherd, leads the nation in scoring offense at 46.4 points per game, the Bulldogs are second at 45.7.
"We just have to play it the way we usually do," Higgins said about going up against a high-powered offense. "Go out there and play tough, we feel like we can be unbeatable. They have a good offense, but we believe we have a good defense."
Ferris State was able to score 41 points last week against one the nation's best defenses in Northwest Missouri State and did it without injured quarterback Jared Bernhardt.
Annese says Bernhardt has been progressing and able to do some work in practice this week but no matter who has played quarterback this season the team has had success. A larger reason for that is the play of a strong and veteran offensive line.
"We trust any quarterback, all three of those guys have been doing great all year," senior offensive tackle Dylan Pasquali said. "We can do basically anything we want with anyone back there. The offensive line knows that our wide receivers know that, and our coaches know that, so we are ready to go with anybody behind us."
The Bulldogs average 251 yards per game running the ball and have allowed just 14 sacks on 300 pass attempts.
"Our o-line helps us to create all the numbers we create on offense," Annese said. "Protect the quarterback and execute the system and all those things so it is a big factor in our success."