Three keys for GVSU against Wayne State

GVL / Archive  
Heath Parling


GVL / Archive Heath Parling

Jay Bushen

What’s the cure for overcoming an uncommonly cold 0-3 start?

For the Grand Valley State University football team, the remedy has been a process of punishing GLIAC opponents in back-to-back blow-out wins, and a victory against Wayne State University (3-2, 2-2 GLIAC) could certainly help to further distance the Lakers from their disappointing debut.

Here are three things to keep an eye on in Saturday night’s homecoming contest at Lubbers Stadium, where GVSU will attempt to lengthen its 25-game win streak against the Warriors:

1: Offensive balance

Healthy doses of the aerial attack and ground game have made for an explosive offense in the last two weeks.

Such balance was on display in the first half at Hillsdale College on Saturday, when a healthy Heath Parling led the offense to 350 total yards –180 through the air and 170 on the ground.

“Just from a leadership standpoint, we know he’s going to get in there and compete,” said junior wideout Jamie Potts, who leads the GLIAC with five receiving touchdowns. “I know a lot of guys in our offense feel comfortable with him in there and want to compete for him.”

Potts was the primary target for Parling at Hillsdale. He had six grabs for 109 receiving yards and two scores, while senior Keontre’ Miskel caught four balls for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Both playmakers will need to get open quickly Saturday against the Wayne State defense, which has victimized opposing quarterbacks with a GLIAC-leading 15 sacks this season.

Counteracting the Warrior pass rush with an effective ground game will be key for GVSU.

The team is still without sidelined running back Michael Ratay, but Chris Robinson and Kirk Spencer haven’t missed a beat in the last two weeks. The duo has racked up 439 yards and six touchdowns in that span behind a new-look – yet effective – offensive line.

2. The offensive line

Skyrocketing per-carry averages indicate the O-line has made considerable progress in the last two games, even though the unit has had to deal with a number of injuries.

Tackles Eric LaBuhn and Cameron Hobbs could return Saturday, although that doesn’t mean sophomore Aaron Cox and redshirt freshman Dan DeLuca are heading to the sidelines. On Monday, coach Matt Mitchell said he wasn’t sure who the team’s starting tackles would be.

“There’s going to be some competition to figure out who our five starters are,” Mitchell said. “There really wasn’t much competition heading into the season at offensive line. We’ve got redshirt freshmen that are developing, playing better and are continuing to grow.”

Mitchell said the team has also been better at tight end, which has had a lot to do with the improved ground game.

3. An opportunistic defense

Wayne State junior quarterback Carl Roscoe and the Warrior offense could be in for a long night if they don’t protect the football against GVSU’s defense.

The Lakers rank fourth among NCAA Division II teams with 16 takeaways (nine interceptions and seven fumble recoveries), and the defensive line has had a lot to do with it.

The group is second in the GLIAC with 11 sacks this season, and at times has shown the ability to wreak havoc in opposing backfields – which can lead to turnovers.

“We’re getting back to having fun,” said Judon, who leads the nation in forced fumbles with four. “We’re having a lot of fun on that side of the ball. When you can stop the run, pin your ears back and get after the quarterback as a defensive line, you get to be a little bit more creative with your technique and it becomes a lot more fun when you’re winning and up on the scoreboard.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Follow us on Twitter @GVLSports for live updates of the game.