It’s do or die for GVSU football

GVL / Robert Mathews
Head Coach Matt Mitchell

GVL / Robert Mathews Head Coach Matt Mitchell

Bryce Derouin

For the Grand Valley State University football team, it’s simple. Win, and you’re in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Lose, and your season is over.

If GVSU (8-2, 6-2 GLIAC) is going to make the postseason, they’ll have to earn it by defeating its rivals, Saginaw Valley State University (9-1, 9-0 GLIAC), who locked up the GLIAC North title, and enters this week’s game with the No. 3 ranking in the Super Region Four. GVSU sits at No. 5 in the region.

“Based on looking at the thing on paper, the emotion heading into the game, what’s at stake, and everything that’s involved, it’s gonna be a great game,” GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said. “This is one of the reasons why I think you sign a letter of intent to play at a place like Grand Valley, because you’re involved in these types of ballgames.”

Unlike 2012, the 2013 Lakers have been consistently strong on the defensive side of the ball. GVSU leads the GLIAC in yards against per game (349.2), passing yards allowed per game (176.4), and is first in the GLIAC North in points allowed (23.8).

But on Saturday, GVSU will face the most explosive offense in the GLIAC. The Cardinals average the most points per game in the conference (41.2).

“Our defense is going to be under some serious duress on Saturday because of all the playmakers that they have on the offensive side of the ball at every position,” Mitchell said.

One of those playmakers is SVSU senior quarterback Jonathon Jennings. Jennings has completed 68 percent of his passes on the year for 2,978 yards and 30 touchdowns.

“I think the things that jump off the tape at you… He’s got an incredibly strong arm,” Mitchell said. “The ball is not in the air very long. As a result, you don’t have as much time to react in the secondary. He’s accurate too. There are some really tight windows that he puts it in, with not a lot of reaction time by the secondary.”

In addition to his arm, Jennings is also a threat with his legs. He has nine rushing touchdowns on the year, and exhibits a strong pocket presence.

“He can also beat you with his feet,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s something that’s probably undervalued in his game. The first guy, a lot of time that gets back there, doesn’t get him down. It’s hard to get pressure on him because he is elusive and he extends plays and they’re not afraid to run him.”

Jennings’ favorite target is senior wide receiver Jeff Janis, who leads the GLIAC with 14 touchdown receptions and 1,149 yards receiving on 68 catches.

Senior cornerback Reggie Williams and senior safety Erik Thompson will be tasked with slowing down the SVSU passing game. Williams and Thompson are tied for second in the GLIAC with four interceptions.

“They’re good, no doubt,” senior GVSU cornerback Reggie Williams said. “They throw a lot of good balls and make a lot of good catches, but we got some good guys on the defense too. We’re not gonna back down from anything. We’re gonna come in, we’re gonna play aggressive, and we’re just gonna get after it. When it comes down to those types of offenses, you have to get pressure on the quarterback and you gotta make plays when you get the opportunity.”

GVSU is undefeated at Lubbers Stadium this year, going 6-0 on its way to outscoring its opponents 39.8 to 15 in the six games. But on Saturday at 1 p.m., the stakes won’t be higher.

“It’s a big game. Win or go home, pretty much for us,” senior center Matt Armstrong said. “Obviously not making the playoff the last few years, this game is one of the most important games in awhile. We just got to be ready and try to play to the best of our ability.”

[email protected]