10 Years Running

GVL Archive 
A Laker defender takes down the Bulldog defense

GVL Archives

GVL Archive A Laker defender takes down the Bulldog defense

Brady Fredericksen

Rivalries are prevalent throughout all of college football, and that’s no different for the Grand Valley State University football team and the one game on the schedule that means a little more than the others, this weekend’s match up against Ferris State University (5-2, 4-2 GLIAC). The Lakers (4-3, 3-3 GLIAC) will battle not only a major rival in the Bulldogs but also the team currently leading the GLIAC’s North Division, a spot usually held by GVSU.

“There’s a natural rivalry with both athletic departments, and we’ve also got this Anchor Bone Trophy – our seniors have always held that thing up after each win,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell, whose team defeated Ferris State 41-0 last season. “We have pride in our locker room, and we don’t want that trophy heading up to Big Rapids, so we’re going to try to do everything we can this week to take care of things.”

Taking care of things in this game has not been a problem for GVSU in recent years. The Lakers have won 10 straight games and have held onto the Anchor-Bone Trophy, awarded to the winning team in the rivalry, since 2003. Throughout the season, the Laker offense has seen inconsistencies at different positions, and the most consistent position, an offensive line that has only yielded six sacks this season, will take to the field Saturday without injured All-GLIAC lineman Matt Armstrong.

Despite that, senior offensive lineman Jim Hardy said the line will do its part in working toward a win Saturday. “We have a short memory on all of the plays, especially game to game,” he said. “If we make a few mistakes, we get them taken care of in the meeting room and just come to work every day trying to get better. Giving the backs the same looks every week, making sure they have holes to run through, it’s good for them. And for Heath, knowing that he’s protected and can sit back there, pat the ball and throw it – that’s big,”

Not only has the pass protection been a key, but the line’s ability to open holes in the running game has also been vital. As Mitchell said, Ferris State’s defensive front is aggressive, as shown by 12 sacks and 19 forced fumbles. Led by linebacker Tayo Moss, the Bulldogs have been the top pass defense in the GLIAC (163.6 yards allowed per game) but have allowed 175 rushing yards per game, which could mean big play opportunities for GVSU’s running backs.

Coming off a week where he was honored as the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week, junior Norman Shuford applauded his offensive line for its ability to help him and the rest of the running backs.

“I could go on for days about them,” he said. “It’s the core of our offense and everything starts with them. The big names are always the skill positions, but a lot of times the offensive line is left out. Ours doesn’t really care about that big fame, but the team’s performance these last three weeks is just a true testament to our offensive line.”

Shuford, however, left practice Tuesday with an apparent knee injury and was scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday. His status for Saturday is unknown, and if Shuford misses the game, the Lakers will lean on sophomore Hersey Jackson and freshman Michael Ratay on the ground. Defensively, GVSU will face an offense with a variety of plays and personnel groupings. Quarterback Tom Schneider has led the GLIAC’s top offense, and the senior look to lead that attack against a GVSU defense that struggled until the fourth quarter last week against Lake Erie College.

“This week we have to focus a lot on playing just Ferris and focus our game plan,” said senior linebacker Brad Howard. “They have a couple plays that they run out of a lot of different formations. We just have to come out and know those formations, and know what they‘re going to run out of each formation.”

While the Lakers could be without their leading rusher, the Bulldogs will also be a man down as starting tailback Skyler Stoker is out for the season after breaking his right ankle against the University of Findlay on Oct. 8.

“They run an Oregon-style offense, so there’s the threat the quarterback runs, and the wide receivers go on fly sweeps, so it’s a challenge for us because you can’t load up and focus on one guy,” Mitchell said. “They basically have one personnel groups and run like 60 different formations, and if Stoker isn‘t in there that may actually force us to do some different things.”

The Lakers will take to the field on Saturday at 7 p.m. on “Laker Blue Night” at Lubbers Stadium. Fans can catch the action on Comcast 900/901 and WMUS 107.9 or follow the game on Twitter at @LanthornSports.

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