Out for revenge

GVL / Robert Mathews
Sophomore Kirk Spencer

GVL / Robert Mathews Sophomore Kirk Spencer

Bryce Derouin

The last time the Grand Valley State University football team saw Ferris State University, the Bulldogs were celebrating at midfield of Lubbers Stadium.

Now, No. 24 GVSU (4-1, 2-1 GLIAC) will look to return the favor Saturday night at Top Taggart Field in this year’s battle for the Anchor Bone Trophy.

Last year was the first time since 1999 that a Ferris State team defeated GVSU. The Bulldogs accumulated 457 rushing yards in a 40-24 victory.

If the Lakers want to reestablish their dominance in this rivalry, they will have to find a way to stop the option-run offense of Ferris State, and that begins with stopping sophomore quarterback Jason Vander Laan.

Vander Laan averages 122 rushing yards per game—the fourth most in the GLIAC—and has scored 10 rushing touchdowns this year. In last year’s match-up, he torched the Laker defense for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

“It starts with their quarterback Vander Laan,” GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said. “He’s obviously their leading rusher, so they run him quite a bit. Their offense is very multiple and has a lot of moving parts.”

Vander Laan wasn’t the only Bulldog to have success on the ground against GVSU last year. Running back Korey Ringer tallied 131 yards on the ground and a touchdown, while Jamaal Jackson ran for 107 yards and one score.

Going against a read-option offense presents different challenges for GVSU. Unlike traditional run-offenses where flying to the ball and getting up-field might be initial keys on defense, maintaining discipline and knowing the assignment is vital against a read-option offense that has the ability to create various opportunities.

“It’s critical,” Mitchell said about his players maintaining discipline on defense. “If we got guys who don’t know what they’re doing or are confused or trying to do too much, you give up a big play. It’s going to come down to a lot of one-on-one matchups with our defense against their offense.”

After limiting Tyler Scarlett—one of the best quarterbacks in the GLIAC—and the Michigan Tech offense to three points, the GVSU defense is putting that game behind it, knowing a new challenge is waiting.

“We just have to prepare for another game and execute the same way,” senior linebacker Luther Ware said. “If one person messes up and doesn’t go to their man, he’s going to be wide open. Everyone has to be locked into what they’re doing. It has to be one of 11; everybody has to do their job.”

On offense, GVSU will look to build on last week’s 49-point performance against Michigan Tech. On the year, the Lakers average 34.8 points per game, while the Bulldogs surrender 31.8 points per contest.

Despite Ferris State giving up the seventh most points per game in the conference, junior quarterback Heath Parling came away impressed with the Bulldog defense after watching footage of the squad.

“They have really good athletes,” Parling said. “They’re probably the first defense we faced that is just as athletic as us. It’s going to come down to execution and how well we’re prepared and then whoever makes plays on Saturday.”

Coming off of its best win of the season, the Lakers are not looking to rest on their laurels. Mitchell has emphasized to his team how important it is for them to not get caught up in one strong performance.

“Biggest thing I told the team after the Tech performance—hopefully we don’t breathe a sigh of relief and think we’re okay,” Mitchell said. “No, we’re not okay. We can still get better and still improve.”

Students interested in attending can pay $20 at the ticket office to ride a bus to Ferris State for the 7 p.m. game. The ticket also includes a t-shirt, game ticket and food.