Twice as nice: GVSU football dominates SVSU 40-7 in first round of the playoffs

GVL / Robert Mathews
Quarterback Heath Parling

GVL / Robert Mathews Quarterback Heath Parling

Bryce Derouin

If there were any doubts about who the best team was after the first Battle of the Valleys, those were put to rest on Saturday.

With the assistance from the inclement weather, the Grand Valley State University football team (10-2, 7-2 GLIAC) shutdown the most prolific offense in the GLIAC regular season, as GVSU pummeled Saginaw Valley State University (9-3, 9-1 GLIAC) 40-7.

The win allows GVSU to move onto the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs, where they will travel on the road to face top-seeded Colorado State Pueblo University.

After both teams got off to slow starts as they tried to acclimate themselves to the 25 mph winds, GVSU got on the scoreboard first on a wide receiver double reverse that went to senior wide receiver Brandan Green.

Sophomore running back Kirk Spencer came in motion before the snap from the right side of the formation and junior quarterback Heath Parling pitched it to Spencer, who tossed it to Green as he made his way to the right. Green found an alley to run through as he outran the SVSU defense on the 53-yard touchdown.

Freshman kicker Joel Schipper converted his first field goal of the game, a 35-yarder that gave GVSU a 9-0 lead.

With the wind at their backs in the second quarter, GVSU capitalized a five play, 80-yard touchdown drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass, as Parling found senior running back Chris Robinson in the flats, who broke a couple of tackles on his way to the end zone.

GVSU went into the half with a 16-0 advantage. The stingy Laker defense limited the Cardinals to only 127 yards of total offense in the first half.

SVSU quarterback and GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year Jonathon Jennings didn’t complete his first pass until midway through the second quarter and completed just 4 of 14 passes for 45 yards and one interception in the opening half of play.

It wasn’t any better for Jennings and the Cardinals in the second half.

SVSU received the ball to start the half and managed to make its way into GVSU territory. Facing a fourth-and-one from the GVSU 35, SVSU decided to go for it. The Cardinals ran senior running back Norman Shuford up the middle, but he was stopped short and GVSU took over on downs.

The Lakers responded with a 27-yard field goal from Schipper—his second of the game.

The first GVSU touchdown of the second half came on a 17-yard pass from Parling to junior wide receiver Darryl Pitts. Parling threw it up into the wind along the left sideline, Pitts adjusted to the ball and came down with it, while the SVSU cornerback lost track of Pitts and the ball. Pitts’ score made it 26-0.

GVSU’s defense made one mistake the entire game, and SVSU managed to take advantage of it. Jennings found senior wide receiver Michael Albrecht wide open down the middle of the field for the 41-yard touchdown in an attempt to spark a comeback.

That comeback would never come to fruition. GVSU forced Jennings into his second interception of the game, which resulted in another Laker touchdown. This time, Parling found Green on a flag route for the 20-yard touchdown pass.

For safe measures, GVSU tacked on another touchdown late. Junior quarterback Isiah Grimes replaced Parling after the game was well in hand, and Grimes found senior wide receiver Billy Seiler all alone in the back of the end zone or the 2-yard touchdown pass.

While 40 points by the GVSU offense was impressive given the conditions, the story of the game was the Laker defense.

SVSU came in averaging 40.5 points per game and Jennings was the top passer in the conference (298.5 passing yards a game). But on Saturday, he was anything but impressive. Jennings finished the day completing 13 of 28 passes for 156 yards passing, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

Senior wide receiver Jeff Janis—GLIAC leader in reception yards and receiving touchdowns—was limited to only 31 yards receiving on five catches.

Junior Deonte’ Hurst led the Laker defense with 12 tackles and one interception. Junior defensive tackle Isiah Dunning was the other Laker in double digit tackles, racking up 10 stops.

Senior Jordan Kaufman and junior De’Ondre Hogan were the other two players to record interceptions for GVSU.

On offense, senior running back Chris Robinson led all GVSU runners, tallying 120 yards rushing on 24 carries.

After battling the wind and cold, Parling managed to post a solid stat line. He fared much better than his quarterback counterpart, as Parling completed 15 of 27 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

GVSU is now one of 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Division II playoffs. They’ll face the No. 3 team in the country and the region’s top seed, Colorado State University-Pueblo on Saturday.

Look for the full recap in Monday’s edition of the Lanthorn and be sure to follow @GVLSports on Twitter for GVSU football updates.