GVSU uses a strong second half to beat Hillsdale 31-21

GVL / Robert Mathews 
Michael Ratay rushing the ball against Hillsdale.

GVL / Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Michael Ratay rushing the ball against Hillsdale.

Bryce Derouin

For the first time this season, the Grand Valley State University football team had its back against the wall in Lubbers Stadium.

GVSU (7-2, 5-2 GLIAC) allowed the most points they have all season at home, and trailed for the first time in Lubbers going into halftime, but the Lakers used an impressive second half to defeat Hillsdale (4-5, 4-3) 31-21.

Trailing 21-14 at halftime, GVSU dominated the second stanza, scoring 17 unanswered points.

“Similar to Northwood, we were down seven at the half,” head coach Matt Mitchell said. “No disbelief in the locker room. Guys stuck together and kept fighting and we got it done together.”

The Laker comeback started when junior running back Michael Ratay scored his second touchdown on the night, a 10-yard run to tie the game 21-21.

On the go-ahead score, junior quarterback Heath Parling found his favorite receiver of the night, sophomore tight end Jamie Potts. Hillsdale brought the blitz, but Parling beat it when he found Potts down the seam for the 19-yard touchdown.

Potts finished the night with a career-high eight catches for 157 yards.

In his first game in three weeks, Parling showed no sign of rust and exhibited control of the offense, making sure the GVSU offense was in the right play all night. He finished the night completing 19 of 29 passes for 298 yards and one touchdown.

“I think we just had some looks we knew we could exploit,” Parling said. “That opened up some things underneath for Jamie to run routes, press the coverage, and then kind of break things off.”

Freshman Joel Schipper tacked on a field goal that bounced off the upright and went through to push the GVSU lead to two scores for the final points of the night.

To start the game, it didn’t take long for Hillsdale to get on the scoreboard.

The Chargers took the opening drive 80 yards on 10 plays and it was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run from Isaac Spence. Spence’s touchdown would mark the first time GVSU has trailed at home this season.

GVSU would respond with its own rushing touchdown later in the quarter. Senior Chris Robinson scored the first touchdown for the Lakers on a six-yard run.

Hillsdale then answered with another long scoring drive. The Chargers manufactured a seven play 75-yard drive, which was finished on an 8-yard touchdown run by Wade Wood.

Not to be outdone, the Laker offense struck back. This time, junior running back Michael Ratay scored his first of two touchdowns on the night, a 1-yard score.

Hillsdale’s final touchdown of the night was a 3-yard score by senior quarterback Sam Landry, who took the shotgun snap and kept the ball himself. Landry’s score would be the last points before halftime, and the last for the Chargers.

The GVSU offense amassed 567 yards of total offense, including 269 yards on the ground. Robinson led all runners with 137 yards on 23 carries. Ratay’s night was cut short in the third quarter after he suffered a leg injury. He finished with 97 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.

“After Mike went down, I just knew I had to step-up and I had a couple coaches tell me to step-up,” Robinson said.

The first half saw the GVSU defense allow 152 rushing yards, but the Lakers made changes at halftime and limited Hillsdale in the second half to only 22 yards on the ground. The Chargers only managed 104 yards of total offense in the second half.

“We got more aggressive with our safeties,” Mitchell said about the second half adjustments. “We got Chuck Hill down around the ball a lot more. We did some things to free-up (Jordan) Kaufman with a line stunt that we did in the second half.”

Senior center Matt Armstrong suffered a leg injury and returned to the game, but only for a couple of plays before he called it a night. There was no update available at the time on Ratay’s status.

GVSU will travel to Wayne State University on Saturday, for its final road game of the regular season.