Both the offense and the defense line up before the start of the play during the Sping game on Saturday.

Eric Coulter

Both the offense and the defense line up before the start of the play during the Sping game on Saturday.

Greg Monahan

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Through sheets of rain and gusting winds, the Grand Valley State University football team returned to the gridiron on Saturday for a showcase of the new talent that will take center stage when the season kicks off on Sept. 1 against Western Oregon University.

The weather nullified any semblance of a passing game, and the defense dominated the game after the first drive, coming away with a 76-46 win in a scoring system that awarded points to long runs, touchdowns, sacks and tackles for loss.

“It’s very difficult for us to get a great evaluation of our players when the conditions are like that,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “You can’t throw the ball down the field at all. It’s too windy and the ball is wet. If we had to play a game in those conditions, you better be able to run the ball. I know that.”

The offense was able to run the ball, especially early on. The team marched down the field on its first drive, capped by a 38-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Hersey Jackson.

“The game went really well,” said Jackson, who ended up with 62 rushing yards on 5 carries. “The linemen were doing what they were supposed to, (and) I just read it right. I’m glad, and confident with my teammates.”

Jackson was joined by freshman tailback Chris Robinson as the players who accounted for most of the carries. Robinson ended up with nine carries and 36 yards and scored the only other Laker touchdown of the afternoon with an 18-yard scamper in the second quarter.

“What you can take away from today is that we have some good running backs, some bigger tailbacks than we’ve had at Grand Valley in the past,” Mitchell said. “The cumulative effect will be us rotating through some bigger backs and maybe punish some people. That’s the thing I was impressed with, our bigger backs that run hard.”

The rain kept the majority of the passing game at bay, which did not allow fans to get much of a feel for the ongoing quarterback competition. Sophomore Heath Parling got the start and completed three of six passes for 34 yards, the majority of which were short dump-off throws.

Freshmen Isaiah Grimes and Taylor Copacia each saw action as well, both notching four completions on six attempts. Mitchell said after the game that the quarterback job is still up for grabs, but Parling is likely the front-runner at this point.

“Heath has probably given himself an advantage heading into the summer and fall,” Mitchell said. “I thought he did a good job of throwing the football during the spring practices. We didn’t do it a ton today, but throwing the ball and making good decisions, and that’s the number one thing for a quarterback – we don’t want to turn the ball over, and Heath has done a good job of that throughout the course of spring ball.”

Despite battling it out with four other quarterbacks on the roster for one starting spot, Parling said there is no animosity between himself and the rest of the signal callers.

“It’s fun competing with people you care about because it’s going to make you try that much harder,” Parling said. “It’s healthy for the team as well when you have a good quarterback competition. Because it’s not like we’re all going for each other’s head, we love each other and it’s going to be fun out there just competing with our friends, so it should be good for the whole team.”

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