McKissic, GVSU escape Ohio Dominican 24-21

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Devin McKissic (30) and company celebrate his game winning interception. The Lakers square off against the Panthers of Ohio Dominican University Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 and win with a final score of 24-21 in Columbus, OH.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Devin McKissic (30) and company celebrate his game winning interception. The Lakers square off against the Panthers of Ohio Dominican University Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 and win with a final score of 24-21 in Columbus, OH.

Beau Troutman

Clinging to a 24-21 lead on the road late in the fourth quarter, Grand Valley State football appeared to be on the brink of its first loss of the season.

Ohio Dominican quarterback Grant Russell had driven the Panthers’ offense to the GVSU 15-yard line against a tired Laker defense. Facing a third down and four yards to go with just 24 seconds remaining, Russell dropped back to pass.

Russell let the ball fly. GVSU cornerback Devin McKissic cut off the pass—interception with 17 seconds left. Game over.

McKissic’s late interception saved GVSU’s undefeated season (5-0) and sealed a 24-21 win over the ODU Panthers (2-3) Saturday, Oct. 1. The Lakers narrowly escaped a game in which they led 17-0 at halftime, but were outscored 21-7 in the second half.

Not only did McKissic’s pick save an undefeated season, but it ended a game that featured eight total turnovers (six committed by the Panthers) and a combined 21 penalties for 191 yards (12 for 125 by GVSU).

It is the Lakers’ closest margin of victory this season, after they won each of their previous four games by at least 26 points or more. It was also the first time this season the Lakers’ starters played all four quarters of a game.

“We showed some resolve,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “We didn’t panic. You didn’t see any panic on our face. Obviously, it got really tight there in the fourth quarter with a chance for them to win the game. We still kept finding a way to get the win.

“We were going to have adversity today whether we won or lost—I’m glad that we won, and can still have some of that adversity in that back-and-forth feel that you’re going to have in good football games.”

Though Russell was able to move the ball throughout the game, the Lakers were able to pressure him into bad throws and sacks. By the end of the third quarter, the Laker defense had one interception and sacked Russell four times.

Enter the fourth quarter. The Lakers led the Panthers 24-14 at the beginning of the final frame, and the defense was able to get two interceptions early on Russell. However, the offense imploded on both of their opportunities to seal the game.

The first pick came from GVSU cornerback Jailyn Harden deep in Laker territory in the first four minutes of the quarter. The offense though, only managed five yards on a drive that resulted in a Dan Madden punt.

About four minutes later, GVSU safety Donte Carey picked Russell off at midfield, but a personal foul and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play moved the Lakers back to their own 19-yard line.

On the first play of the GVSU drive, quarterback Bart Williams fumbled the ball after taking the snap. The Panthers recovered, setting ODU up at the GVSU 14 yard line.

Two plays later, ODU’s Russell hit receiver Dar Stanford in stride for a 13-yard touchdown pass just under six minutes remaining in the game.

The Laker offense had one more chance to put the game away, and were set up nicely after return man Christian Lumpkin got the ball to the GVSU 45 yard line on the kickoff. But, as was the case for the entire quarter, GVSU stalled. The Lakers mustered up only six net yards, and ended the drive with a thud after Bart Williams was sacked on a crucial third down with nine yards to go.

The Lakers were outgained 136-17 in net offensive yardage in the fourth quarter, and 464-353 for the game.

Despite the Laker offense’s impotence in the fourth quarter, Russell and the Panthers had a long way to go—which proved to be no problem against a defense that had been out on the field for much of the game. The Panthers had a 35:41-24:12 advantage in time of possession. The Panthers drove 58 yards to the GVSU 15 on a drive that included a conversion on a third down and 18.

That set up McKissic’s late-game heroics.

“We gave a press-man (coverage) look, and we bailed into cover-two (zone),” McKissic said. “We were deep in the red zone, so they didn’t have a lot of field, so I knew they couldn’t throw the ball that deep. Their No. 1 man went inside, so I bailed out and the flat receiver came over top.

“I was right there in good position to jump up and grab the pick.”

Bart Williams finished 21-of-34 passing for 280 yards and one touchdown. Martayveus Carter had 82 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns and his first lost fumble of the season. Matt Williams led all receivers with nine catches for 172 yards and a touchdown, and went over 100 career catches in the game.

Former ODU Panther and current graduate transfer defensive end Sydney Omameh had a big day in his first and last game back at Panther Stadium, finishing with seven tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery that set up a field goal just before halftime and two sacks.

Omameh said it felt good to get a win over his former team, especially after opposing players had “harassed” him and called him a “traitor” throughout the game.

“It had a little extra spice to it with me having a homecoming, knowing a lot of the competition,” Omameh said. “We knew that they were a good team, they weren’t just going to give up and fold. In the second half they were crawling their way back, but it comes down to T.N.T, takes-no-talent, just be doing your job, and that’s what we did at the end of the game.”

The win sets up GVSU’s GLIAC heavyweight bout with the Ferris State Bulldogs (4-1) next Saturday, Oct. 8 at home.

“Every week is a championship-level week,” Mitchell said. “That won’t be any different next week. The GLIAC championship is on the line, so every game is going to be critical. We’ll be glad to get back home, I’ll tell you that.”