No. 17 Lakers escape with win over Tiffin

GVL / Kevin Sielaff -  Head coach Matt Mitchell consults his men on the sideline.  Grand Valley squares off against Michigan Tech Oct. 17 at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale. The Lakers defeated the Huskies with a score of 38-21.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Head coach Matt Mitchell consults his men on the sideline. Grand Valley squares off against Michigan Tech Oct. 17 at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale. The Lakers defeated the Huskies with a score of 38-21.

Adam Knorr

Halftime brought change for the Grand Valley State football team.

After surrendering 28 points in the first half, the No. 17 Lakers came out of the locker room and held the Tiffin Dragons (5-5, 4-5 GLIAC) to 14 second-half points en route to a 49-42 win on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m not going to apologize for winning,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “There’s certainly things we can improve on — we still make things more difficult on ourselves than we need to. We’re happy we went to Ohio and got a win against a team on the road.”

For the second consecutive week, the GVSU defense struggled, allowing the opposing offense to move down the field and into the end zone with ease. Unlike last week against Ashland, however, the Lakers (8-2, 7-2 GLIAC) found answers after allowing a mountain of early points.

Tiffin quarterback Antonio Pipkin was as elusive as advertised. The junior quarterback kept broken plays alive with his feet, giving his receivers time to find holes in the GVSU defense.

Pipkin’s scrambling allowed him to avoid a cascading Laker pass rush, for the early part of the evening. Senior defensive end Matt Judon has forced teams to grab his jersey, double-team him or pay the price this season.

Saturday evening was no different.

Judon recorded his 18th sack of the season in the fourth quarter, giving him the record at GVSU for single-season sacks, breaking former Laker standout Mike McFadden’s record of 16.

“Man, I don’t know. It hasn’t hit me yet, I’m still sore from the game,” Judon said. “Just to be mentioned in the same breath as some of those guys, Dan Skuta, Danny Richard, Mike McFadden… I’m just so blessed and I just love what I do.”

GVSU’s quick-strike offense forced its defense back onto the field for a large chunk of the contest. The Lakers surrendered 533 yards of total offense to the Dragons, but recovered two fumbles in the second half.

GVSU’s defense has been far from a shutdown unit yardage-wise in 2015, but its ability to force turnovers has been a hallmark all season.

It saved the Lakers again against Tiffin.

The Lakers have now forced 25 turnovers on the season. Judon was solely responsible for one, as he was credited with both a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

The Lakers took a slim 34-28 lead into the second half. Pipkin found Charles Holland on a 9-yard touchdown to push the Dragons ahead 35-34 early in the third quarter.

GVSU struck back with consecutive touchdowns, as Bart Williams found Jamie Potts for a short score, and Kirk Spencer rushed in from nine yards out.

Spencer’s touchdown put GVSU ahead 49-35, and allowed the Laker defense to take more risks and open up the pass rush.

Pipkin threw for 460 yards and six touchdowns, but his Laker counterpart, Williams, was just as effective.

Williams, a sophomore, completed 20-of-30 passes for 306 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. His supporting cast, however, helped the Lakers surge to a much-needed victory.

Spencer was three parts physical and one part elusive, turning in one of his best performances of the season. The running back had 10 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He also pulled in four catches for 36 yards.

“(Our offense) is as lethal as we make it,” Spencer said. “We play Grand Valley football. No other team matters. As long we stick to that, no one can stop us. We have so many weapons.”

Junior wide receiver Matt Williams showed out, catching eight passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Potts hauled in five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns of his own, while true freshman Nick Dodson added a 26-yard receiving touchdown.

Judon recorded three-and-a-half sacks and five total tackles. Nickelback Marquez Gollman led the Laker defense with 12 total tackles, but was ejected for targeting late in the second half.

With the win, the Lakers kept their playoff chances alive. GVSU must win out to maintain a strong shot at a playoff berth, and, with one regular season game remaining against lowly Saginaw Valley State (1-8, 1-7 GLIAC), GVSU has a good shot to again boost its playoff resume.

“Right now we got our backs against the wall and we’re just fighting and scratching and clawing to win games,” Judon said. “We just want to go 1-0 every week.”

The Battle of the Valleys game between GVSU and SVSU will kick off at 1p.m. at Lubbers Stadium on Nov. 14.