Defense wins, ask Northern Michigan

Defense wins, ask Northern Michigan

Brady Fredericksen

They say defense wins championships.

I’m not sure who “they” are, but they’re usually right: the team that allows the least amount of points wins.

That’s why the Grand Valley State University football team’s 42-7 victory over Northern Michigan University this weekend was the most important game of the Lakers’ season.

Not only did the win help bring the team’s record back to .500, but it also served as a reminder that this is a team capable of playing good, ball-hawking defense.

Throughout the team’s decade of dominance in the 2000s, turnovers and defense were the staple, and this year’s defense, while talented, had not been able to force turnovers or, well, stop anyone.

That all changed on Saturday.

I know, your knowledge of GLIAC football personnel might be a little rusty, but Northern Michigan runs out a very dangerous offense. Their quarterback, Carter Kopach, is one of the top dual-threat signal callers in the conference, and the Lakers’ defense made him look confused throughout.

Whether it was constant pressure from the defensive line, or the linebackers keeping him stuck in the pocket, Kopach wasn’t able to get into any sort of comfort zone — and that led to the interceptions.

As for his receivers, they looked about as comfortable as a nerdy kid is when an attractive girl sits next to him on the bus.

I’m sure you’re all aware of the term “alligator arms,” which in football is basically short-arming a catch. Well, as far as the Northern Michigan receivers knew, they were all playing like Wally Gator (look him up, he’s seriously the only famous alligator ever created).

Regardless, it was the ability of the GVSU secondary to make plays on the ball and be physical with the receivers that caused that. GVSU color commentator Rob Rubick noted it during the game, but by the fourth quarter the Northern Michigan receivers were intimidated, almost afraid to catch the ball.

Whether that led to the Huskies’ numerous dropped passes is something I can’t fully answer, but that physicality by the defense was reason No. 1 for the team’s win.

It also helps that the defense was coming away with interceptions and not just batting down passes too. Sophomore safety Erik Thompson has the speed to take any interception back for a touchdown — and fans saw that on Saturday with his 95-yard return touchdown.

Big plays like that help all facets of the game. It gives the offense more chances, and as senior receiver Jovonne Augustus said Saturday, it can totally change a game’s momentum.

If junior corner back Kenny Veal doesn’t pick off Kopach in the first quarter, Northern Michigan scores. If sophomore corner back Michael Hatcher doesn’t intercept Kopach’s failed flea-flicker pass in the third quarter, the Huskies probably are in position to score.

Defense and turnovers matter, and as the Lakers showed this weekend, they can win you a game. Apparently, those ‘they’ guys actually do know what they’re talking about.

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