Sinking Lakers look to right the ship

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Kirk Spencer

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Kirk Spencer

Jay Bushen

A sellout crowd is expected to fill Lubbers Stadium this weekend as the Grand Valley State University football team takes on an unranked opponent for the first time this season.

GVSU (0-3) will look to get its offense going against Lake Erie College (1-2) after a trio of uninspired outings against Azusa Pacific, Ohio Dominican and Ferris State. The Laker offense has not been able to move the ball consistently this season, and has not scored more than 24 points in a single game.

“We’ve got to work harder to develop an identity offensively to try to create some excitement,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell at Monday’s media luncheon. “We don’t have much excitement in our offense right now because we’re not really making any plays.”

Playing a porous Lake Erie defense could be just what the Lakers need to gain some confidence. The Storm give up 50 points and 596 yards per game, and are the most penalized team in the GLIAC.

The GLIAC’s worst statistical rushing offense to date, however, belongs to GVSU. 

The Lakers rank last in rushing yards (213), yards per carry (2.2) and rushing first downs (12). The aerial attack hasn’t been much better, as GVSU is also last in passing yards per attempt (5.7).

“We have guys that did it last year and have done it their whole careers here, but there comes a point where we’ve got to figure out a way to score,” said junior wide receiver Jamie Potts.

Senior quarterback Heath Parling practiced this week but no official decision has been made for Saturday’s game. If Parling is still sidelined with the upper-body injury, senior Isiah Grimes will start.

Grimes started at Ferris State on Saturday, but he and the GVSU offense were unable to keep pace with Jason Vander Laan and the undefeated Bulldogs, who easily took a 42-17 victory. So far this season, Grimes has completed 15-of-38 passes for 205 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The Laker offense was inefficient in the red zone at Ferris State, which has been a major problem all year for GVSU. The Lakers have made 12 trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line this season, but have scored on just six of those trips, and only four have resulted in touchdowns.

“The offense, we’re obviously frustrated,” said Potts, the team’s leading wideout. “We’re having a really hard time scoring points especially in the red zone.”

Defensively, the Lakers are coming off their worst performance of the fall campaign, and they’ll be tested again this week against a Lake Erie offense that runs the ball more than 50 times per game.

It all starts with junior running back Anthony Bilal, an electrifying 5-foot-7 speedster who ranks first in the country with 12 rushing touchdowns and second with 196 yards per game. While limiting Bilal is obviously GVSU’s top priority, Mitchell said a primary focus is minimizing lapses in the secondary.

Another area of emphasis for the team is moving forward with optimism. Starting 0-3 has not been easy for the Lakers but, for senior leaders like nickelback Deonté Hurst, rolling over is simply not an option.

“You’ve just got to keep pushing,” Hurst said. “You never know. The GLIAC is a tough league. Teams that we already played could end up losing; I mean anything could happen. You’ve just got to have the mindset of ‘we can still do this thing at the end,’ just keeping everybody motivated and humble.”

The game will kick off at 7 p.m. in Allendale. Follow us on Twitter @GVLSports for live updates of the action, or pick up a fresh copy of the Lanthorn on Monday for news and analysis.

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