Coming off loss, GVSU look to rebound at Northern Michigan

Coming off loss, GVSU look to rebound at Northern Michigan

Brady Fredericksen

Matt Mitchell isn’t happy with the Grand Valley State University defense. He said they’ve allowed too many big plays, too many yards rushing — he said they’ve put too much pressure on its offense, culminating in a 40-23 home loss to Ferris State University on Saturday.

Couple that with a consensus that they just aren’t playing to the level they need to, and you’ve got a head coach on a mission to try to correct those mistakes as his team hits the road to take on Northern Michigan University (1-5, 0-5 GLIAC) on Saturday.

“It starts with our defense, we can’t sit here and keep giving up as many points as we’re giving up and expect to win ball games,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to have some energy, get back to work here … and go to work and head up (to Northern Michigan).”

Luckily for GVSU (5-1, 4-1 GLIAC), they’ll be greeted by an offense that is scoring just 12.8 points per game and has struggled with turnovers throughout the season.

After completing just 11-for-24 for 63 yards and an interception last week, Northern Michigan also made a change at quarterback, benching freshman Ryan Morely in favor of senior Cody Scepaniak.

It’s unclear whether the move was made due of injury or lack of production, but the threat of a second quarterback, one willing to scramble, will be of notice for Mitchell and the GVSU defense.
But that plan starts with slowing down senior tailback Prince Young.

“I’m sure that they’re going to try to establish the run with a new signal caller in the backfield, and we’ve got to do a better job, obviously, of getting that shut down,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to do a good job on first and second down of not letting Prince Young beat us and move the sticks. From what I’ve seen on tape, they’ve been committed to try to establish a run and protect their quarterback.”

For as well as the Lakers’ offense has played this season, last week’s 40-23 loss to Ferris State was one of the first times they were truly contained. Part of that was the lack of production from sophomore quarterback Isiah Grimes, who struggled with accuracy throughout the contest.

“Our team put him in a very difficult situation late in the third and in the fourth where, in effect, we’re down two scores and you’ve got to drop back and throw it every time,” Mitchell said. “Quarterbacks get too much of the blame and too much of the credit, we’ve got to do a better job as a team of not putting him into those situations where they’re pinning their ears back and coming after him.”

Luckily for Grimes and the GVSU offense, Northern Michigan’s young secondary is one that has been susceptible to big plays in the passing game this season.

The unit has allowed 302 yards per game through the air against Division II opponents, including three games where opposing quarterbacks threw three or “We’ve got to go out there and do our thing, do what we do best,” said senior offensive guard Tim Lelito. “Establish the run like we have in the past and stop the run, whatever, just forget last week and go on and try to get this next win versus Northern.”

GVSU had some success running with sophomore Mike Ratay and freshman Kirk Spencer combining for 149 yards and a touchdown. Even with the struggles of their quarterback, and the entire offense, senior receiver Israel Woolfork’s focus is on what’s to come.

“We’ve got to start looking forward toward Northern Michigan — it’s kind of just a make it or break it time,” Woolfork said. “We have one loss. The whole GLIAC, everyone else, has one loss and if we continue to win each game then we still have some of the goals and some of the things we want to get accomplished this season still ahead of us.”

The Lakers will take the field in Marquette, Mich. on Saturday at 1 p.m. Fans who don’t make the trek to the Upper Peninsula can catch the game on the radio on ESPN 96.1 FM.
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