Laker football preview: GVSU to take eight-hour trip to struggling Truman State

GVL / Emily Frye 
GVSU Football takes on Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Saturday October 7, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye GVSU Football takes on Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Saturday October 7, 2017.

Brady McAtamney

Remember that time we said the Grand Valley State Laker football team was rolling?

We’re going to say it again.

The Grand Valley State Laker football team is rolling.

They’ve won their last five games with an average margin of victory of 35.6 points. All of those games were against GLIAC opponents. That did not change with their 45-27 rout of the Wayne State Warriors Saturday, Oct. 7, in Detroit, where the Lakers’ first-team units outscored the Warriors 45-7. 

The wheels on the team bus will be singing a different tune this week as the No. 7 Lakers (5-1, 5-0 GLIAC) will buckle up for an eight-hour road trip to Kirksville, Missouri, to face off with non-conference foe Truman State (1-4, 0-3 GLVC) .

Compared to last season, Truman State is looking like a very different team. The Bulldogs, whom the Lakers defeated 41-3 during last year’s homecoming game, had an impressive 8-3 (7-1 GLVC) campaign last season. Time hasn’t aged the Bulldogs well, though, as they have already eclipsed 2016’s loss total by two games. With several key pieces being replaced on the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs are surrendering 166.3 rushing and 193.8 passing yards en route to allowing 28.2 points per game to opponents this season.

Truman State won’t have much time to effectively improve their defense, as the Lakers’ offensive attack enters the game on a hot streak. After scoring 45 points in three quarters in their victory against Wayne State, GVSU’s attacking unit is finally coming together as one that is healthy and prepared.

With early season struggles and a case of the “injury bug,” the Lakers are fortunate to have other players step up to fill the roster spots. GVSU quarterback Bart Williams appreciates the myriad of weapons he has at his disposal at this point of the season.

“It’s obviously good to get some of those guys back, like (wide receivers) Urston Smith and Nick Dodson,” Williams said. “(Running back) Marty Carter came back again strong this week, but also credit to some of the guys who stepped up before. I don’t think there was any kind of discomfort from the quarterback position with some guys that filled in. …

“Even though we have some guys back, it’s good to have them back. They’re some good playmakers, but really credit to the guys who filled in while they were kind of banged up.”

This season, Williams has completed 89 of 140 passing attempts for 1,225 yards, with 15 of those completions coming as touchdowns.  

However, the Bulldogs will bring a strong starting quarterback of their own with sophomore Jaden Barr. The reigning GLVC Freshman of the Year finds strength in his passing game throwing for 954 yards and six touchdowns. One knock on his resume, though, has been turnovers: he has thrown seven interceptions, which were good for every turnover the team has committed this year.

Alongside Barr is running back Jordan Salima who, like his quarterback, is a multi-talented player. He has 124 rushes for 541 yards and five touchdowns to go with his 21 catches for 190 yards and two scores, making him the team’s second leading receiver.

“The quarterback is a playmaker: He’ll run it, he’ll throw it. You look at the stats and he’s their second leading rusher,” said Laker head coach Matt Mitchell. “Some of that is designed quarterback runs, and others is when he’s extending plays with his feet and making things happen. It’s an important game when you look at it for us to continue to play Grand Valley football. 

“I thought we practiced really well (last week), and we need to string those together and perform and trust the process here as we continue on in this game.”

The Bulldogs and Lakers have a pair of common opponents on their schedules this year, and among them is the University of Indianapolis—the only team to upend GVSU so far in 2017. The Greyhounds bested Truman Saturday, Sept. 30, by a score of 34-19, compared to week one when they beat the Lakers 24-20. That victory was earned by a strong running game against a defense that was relatively new, but that caveat has since gone by the wayside, according to first-year transfer defensive lineman Demetrius Farmer.

“(I appreciate) the trust that everyone has with each other on the defense,” Farmer said. “The defensive line trusts the linebackers, the linebackers trust the safeties and the corners… It’s just all about trust there on the defense. We trust each other, we trust that we’ll do our jobs, one as 11, making plays because you know that the guy next to you, your brother, is going to make a play, that we’ll be fine.”

With an offense that is clicking and a defense that has confidence in one another, the Lakers stand a tall test for the Bulldogs to take on for their homecoming football game.

The game is scheduled to kick off Saturday, Oct. 14, at Stokes Stadium at 3 p.m. (2 CT) and can be streamed online on the GLVC Sports Network.