Five home games in Big Rapids along with a memorable appearance in the "Battle At The Ballpark" highlight the 2009 Ferris State University football schedule, which was announced today by FSU Athletics Director Tom Kirinovic.
The Bulldogs will play three of their first four contests at home in 2009 and the schedule includes a number of special promotional events as the program embarks on its 101st season of varsity competition this fall. Four night games are also on tap with three during the opening month of the season on the Mondo Ecofill artificial-playing surface at Top Taggart Field.
FSU's 11-game regular-season schedule features home matchups against two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) teams (Grand Valley State and Ashland) which reached the NCAA Division II Playoffs a year ago.
"In our conference, you have to be ready to play well each and every Saturday and this season should be no different," said Ferris State head coach Jeff Pierce, who enters his 15th season at Ferris State this fall. "We're also extremely excited to do something different and out of the box by playing at Fifth Third Ballpark, which should be a unique and entertaining event for both our players and the fans.
"Like every year, our schedule is certainly challenging and we'll have to be prepared to play every week," added Pierce, the school's all-time winningest coach.
The Bulldogs will open the 2009 slate at home with their lone non-conference outing against Tiffin (Ohio) Saturday, Aug. 29, in the second-ever series' meeting against the Dragons starting at 7 p.m. (EDT). The season-opening tilt will mark the final year of a home-and-home scheduling agreement between the two GLIAC counterparts, who were not slated to play each other during the conference portion of the schedule in either 2008 or 2009. The game will take place during FSU "Welcome Week" activities and be part of a true "Community Football Day" atmosphere as Big Rapids High School will also open its 2009 season versus Holton earlier in the day in the same facility and a rocket football contest will be part of the FSU halftime events.
Ferris continues its season-opening homestand with its first GLIAC game Saturday, Sept. 5, versus Ashland. The Eagles finished 15th in the final 2008 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches' Top 25 Poll with a 9-4 overall mark, including a 25-24 home setback to the Bulldogs in week two. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (EDT) and the game will be part of the area's annual Riverdays Festival with the traditional Fireworks Night festivities taking place following the contest.
A special "Kids Corner" featuring inflatables will be available at FSU's first four home contests in the turf practice area on the northeast side of Top Taggart Field and also be part of the activities surrounding the "Battle At The Ballpark". The kids area will be sponsored by Sgt. Shawn Fries and the National Guard.
After the two back-to-back home games to open the year, the Bulldogs finally play their first road game Saturday, Sept. 12, by visiting Findlay for their first afternoon tilt at 12 p.m. (EDT) in Ohio.
Ferris State returns home to square off against defending GLIAC champion and perennial national power Grand Valley State on Sept. 19 in Big Rapids. The league matchup will represent the 38th meeting in the all-time series between the West Michigan archrivals with the game's winner being presented with the eighth annual Anchor Bone Trophy, which is sponsored by Huntington Bank. Grand Valley State concluded the 2008 season ranked fourth nationally with a 11-1 overall mark after falling to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth in overtime during the national quarterfinals. For the second year in a row, Ferris will also sponsor a Blues and BBQ Tailgate event in conjunction with the game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. (EDT).
The Bulldogs then close out September by traveling to Northern Michigan on Sept. 26 for their lone indoor contest at NMU's Superior Dome in Marquette.
FSU will play a second consecutive Upper Peninsula school the following week (Oct. 3) as the Bulldogs tangle with Michigan Tech in the "Battle At The Ballpark" to be played at minor league baseball's Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich. Ferris will serve as the home team for the game under the lights with kickoff set for 7 p.m. (EDT) and it will be hosted in conjunction with the West Michigan Whitecaps organization.
The Bulldogs will be back in Big Rapids the next week to host Indianapolis in the 83rd annual Homecoming contest on Oct. 10. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. (EDT) for the homecoming game.
The following weekend (Oct. 17), the Bulldogs venture to the Motor City to take on Wayne State at 12 p.m. (EDT) and Ferris then completes a two-game road swing by visiting Northwood the week after (Oct. 25) for another noon kickoff in Midland.
The school's final home encounter will be against Hillsdale on Oct. 31 and serve as the 10th annual Hall of Fame Game. It will also coincide with the annual Halloween Parade in Big Rapids and the program's senior class will be honored in conjunction with Senior Day festivities. Kickoff for the regular-season home finale is at 2 p.m. (EDT).
Finally, FSU wraps up the campaign by venturing to Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 7 for a 12 p.m. (EDT) kickoff in University Center, Mich.
Ferris has compiled a combined 147-157-13 (.485 winning pct.) all-time record against its 2009 opponents. The opposition for the 2009 season registered a combined 62-59 (.512) ledger a season ago.
The Bulldogs registered their fifth winning season in the last six years with a 6-5 overall record in 2008. It represented the program's ninth winning campaign in 14 years under Pierce and marked the 14th time in the last 20 years the Bulldogs have finished above .500 for the year. FSU was an even 5-5 in GLIAC action during the '08 campaign, which represented the program's 100th season of varsity competition.
Tickets for all home games in 2009 will be available at the gate and more information on ticket sales will be available in the near future.