Don’t lose hope yet

Tradition. Excellence. Success.

Those are the words that come to mind when one thinks about athletics at Grand Valley State University. Those three words constitute the way GVSU projects its athletic and academic prowess to its students, other universities and surrounding communities.

And in the university’s recent athletic history, it’s been difficult to argue against that image. Since 2002, GVSU has garnered 11 NCAA national championships (four of which were in football), six straight NACDA Division II Director’s Cups and 11 national runner-ups. The GVSU football team won the GLIAC Championship eight times in the last 10 seasons and has made the playoffs in each of those 10 seasons.

But after a rocky start to this year’s football season, the Lakers have had to cope with a new description, one with which the Lakers have not identified in more than a decade: vulnerability.

The football team lost its third straight game in a row Saturday in a 26-20 loss against the University of Findlay. The loss marks the team’s largest losing streak since losing three straight in 2000, before any of the university’s national championships. It also leaves the Lakers winless in GLIAC play through four games this season.

It’s been unsettling — to say the least — to see this team struggle in recent weeks, especially in turning the ball over six times against Findlay. In the past, GVSU used discipline and play execution on both sides of the ball to win a great deal of its close games. So far in GLIAC play this season, the Lakers have not been able to sustain its play on offense and defense at the same time, instead relying on one or the other to keep the team afloat.

But while these have definitely been tough times for the team, it is not the time for GVSU fans to give up on this football season. Two of the team’s three losses came on last-second scores, the latter of which — a 34-33 loss to the University of Indianapolis — came right after sophomore quarterback Heath Parling engineered a drive to take the team’s first lead of the game with 36 seconds left. It’s not as if the Lakers have been playing terribly in these past few weeks (outside of Saturday’s game, which was terrible), they just haven’t been able to pull it together in clutch situations. Had just a few things gone differently, we wouldn’t even be talking about the team since success has become the standard at GVSU.

At three losses, GVSU no longer “controls its own destiny,” as so many sports analysts continually say, but four three-loss teams did make the playoffs last season. One of which, Delta State University, made it all the way to the NCAA National Championship game before losing 20-17 to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, who ended the season undefeated. Another loss would be cataclysmic, but until that happens, let’s not be bandwagon fans. This team is very young and will have a bright future, so let’s give these players the support they need to make it through these tough times.