Put a leash on ’em

GVL Archive
The GVSU Defense pulls down a Michigan Tech offenseman duing last years matchup

GVL Archives

GVL Archive The GVSU Defense pulls down a Michigan Tech offenseman duing last years matchup

Brady Fredericksen

Going into its game against Michigan Technological University last season, the Grand Valley State University football team was riding high as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation and had its eye on securing a first-round bye in the NCAA Playoffs.

Those undefeated Lakers left that game with their first loss, a 20-17 decision, and allowed Michigan Tech tailback Phil Milbrath to gash their defense for 298 yards.

This season’s Lakers (5-3, 4-3 GLIAC) aren’t in position to aim for a first-round bye, and Michigan Tech (5-3, 4-3 GLIAC) doesn’t have Milbrath and the home-field advantage it enjoyed last season, but GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said his team will still need to perform in order to come out with a victory in Saturday’s homecoming game.

“I think 2011 is a lot different than 2010,” he said. “Last year we went in their feeling pretty good about ourselves and rolled up there and kinda got punched in the mouth. You don’t really use the revenge thing – we’ve lost some games since then – so it’s not like we’re looking back towards that.”

This year’s matchup will pit the GLIAC’s top-ranked total offense in GVSU against the GLIAC’s top total defense in Michigan Tech.

The Huskies boast the conference’s No. 1 pass defense, allowing only 154 yards per game, and the second best rushing defense, holding opponents to 126 yards on the ground.

Despite the defense’s record, GVSU wide receiver Charles Johnson said he does not see Michigan Tech having any intimidation toward the Laker offense.

“I think our running backs are excellent, and I would take our receivers over any receivers in the nation right now,” Johnson said. “We feel like if we can get one-on-one coverage, we’re going to win and convert when we have to.”

Converting on offense will be key against a defense that has held its opponents to only 31 percent in third- and fourth-down conversions.

GVSU will also face a defensive line that rivals its own sack-happy line. The Huskies have recorded only four fewer sacks this season, and the play of the line has been key in leading a top-ranked rushing defense.

“With their big D-ends, you have to be able to protect the quarterback, I think that’s key,” Mitchell said. “Inversely, you can’t go out there and expect to convert a bunch of third-and-longs. If we have 10 or 12 third and longs, it’s going to be a long night.”

Michigan Tech will use its running game to dictate the time of possession, but quarterback Tyler Scarlett has been a reason for the team’s success this year. The red-shirt freshman has played well in his first year as the Huskies starter, and Mitchell said it’s thanks to his running game.

“They’re a hard-nosed football team, and we’re going to have to play tough,” said senior safety Zach Breen. “We’re going to do a lot of stuff in the back end to try to confuse him, and we’re just going to try to pressure him and try to get after him.”

The Lakers will play without their leading rusher, injured junior Norman Shuford, for the second-straight game and will look to continue the machine-like efficiency the offense has seen during this four-game winning streak.

“We do have to continue this streak — we’ve been executing and we haven’t had breakdowns, so if we can do the same things this week, I think we’ll continue it,” Johnson said. “They’re a pretty good defense, but we’re not intimidated by anyone. We just need to come out, execute the game plan and hope it works.”

Fans can catch the Homecoming game at Lubbers Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on WMUS 107.9 and Comcast 900/901. Follow the action live on Twitter @LanthornSports.

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