GVSU tops Texas A&M Commerce 55-32 in second round of playoffs

GVL / Emily Frye 
Brandon Bean hurdles over the opposing team to make the touchdown during the playoff game against Texas A&M Commerce on Saturday Nov. 26, 2016

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Brandon Bean hurdles over the opposing team to make the touchdown during the playoff game against Texas A&M Commerce on Saturday Nov. 26, 2016

Beau Troutman

Bart Williams knew he made a mistake.

The Grand Valley State quarterback threw an interception that was returned 97-yards for a touchdown by Texas A&M Commerce cornerback Yusef Sterling-Lowe, cutting the GVSU lead to just seven points early in the third quarter.

Williams and the Lakers didn’t fold after the tough play—they responded.

The Lakers (12-0) pulled away from the Lions (11-2) in the second half and won 55-32 at home in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday, Nov. 26.

“I feel like I let the team down a little bit,” Williams said. “But at the same time, it’s my job as the quarterback to go out there and make the plays necessary to win the ball game. I feel like I did that, and we did that as an offense.”

It was the Lakers’ first program win over the Lions. Formerly East Texas State, the Lions were 2-0 against the Lakers all-time, claiming playoff victories in 1990 and 1991—the latter is their last playoff win to date. The Lions were the Lone Star Conference champions this season.

With the win, GVSU advances to the NCAA Quarterfinals against rival Ferris State next Saturday, Dec. 3 in Allendale. The Lakers defeated Ferris 35-23 earlier this season at home Saturday, Oct. 8.

GVSU could have potentially gone up by three possessions had Williams not thrown the interception. Instead, the offense had to come back out on the field with just a seven-point lead. The Lakers’ ability to keep the momentum on their sideline proved to be the difference in the game.

“It was a great job,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “We throw the pick-six, and all (of a) sudden you go back to a one score game. We kind of slumped it off offensively, we didn’t let it affect us. That’s the best thing about our team. Things have happened back-and-forth all season, nothing gets to them.”

GVSU rode on the back of Martayveus Carter to victory. He finished with 217 yards on 33 carries and was relied upon on several third downs throughout the game. With his performance, he broke the GVSU single-season rushing record (1,633) set by Michael Tennessee in 2003.

“(Carter) is the best offensive player we’ve played against maybe since I’ve been here,” said A&M coach Colby Carthel. “I was telling our coaches, ‘we need to recruit some guys that look like that.’”

Carter consistently broke long runs throughout the game. When he hit the second level of the Lion defense, Carter’s mindset was simple.

“Everybody executed well,” he said. “Getting to the secondary, it was pretty much a ‘me versus you’ type mindset. It was either me or him, and I wasn’t going to take the loss.”

The Lions offense only managed nine yards in the entire third quarter, much of which had to do with GVSU’s ball control—the Lions had the ball for only one minute and nine seconds in the third.

“It’s kind of tough being on the sidelines sitting in the cold just waiting for your time to come,” said A&M quarterback Luis Perez, who finished with 319 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. “It’s real tough to just sit there and just wait.”

The pick-six came at the end of a five-minute GVSU drive that started the second half. The Lakers went on another long drive after that, which was capped off by a two-yard score by Terrell Dorsey to make it 38-24 Lakers.

The Lions offense finally had an opportunity to capitalize with about five minutes left in the quarter, but went three-and-out. The Lions attempted a fake punt, but it failed and the Lakers regained possession at the A&M 44-yard line. Carter scored on a four-yard touchdown run a few plays later to put the game out of reach.

Carthel regrets not being able to capitalize on the pick-six.

“That could have been a spark for us,” Carthel said. “We’ve kind of been a momentum team throughout the year, but tonight we just couldn’t sustain that momentum.”

Brandon Bean led the Lakers with six catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Bean’s first touchdown was a 25-yard score in which he hurdled a defender to get into the end zone. The play was featured on ESPN’s must-see plays of the day.

“Track season’s coming up,” Bean said jokingly. “No, I saw two defenders coming, I just tried to make an athletic play.”

Williams finished 17-of-26 for 311 yards, four touchdowns and three sacks. Garrett Pougnet led the defense with 10 tackles and an interception. Tre Walton had six tackles in his second game back from an injury suffered in GVSU’s win over Northern Michigan Saturday, Sept. 17. Donte Carey also had an interception.