Michigan Tech presents ‘next challenge’ for Lakers

Michigan Tech presents next challenge for Lakers

Cody Eding

Past successes aside, the Grand Valley State University football team will face another formidable opponent when it travels to the Upper Peninsula to face Michigan Technological University this weekend in Houghton.

The Lakers defeated the Huskies 55-7 in last season’s meeting between the two teams and lead the all-time series 21-2. GVSU has won 16 straight games against Michigan Tech, but Saturday afternoon’s game has big implications for both the conference and for the Lakers, said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell.

No. 1 GVSU enters the game as one of the few unbeaten teams remaining in the country (8-0, 7-0 GLIAC), while Michigan Tech takes a 5-2 overall and GLIAC record into the matchup. The Huskies have not lost a game at home this season.

“It’s big for where we are at right now for the 2010 Lakers and taking that next step,” Mitchell said. “I thought we had a solid game against Ferris (winning 41-0 last weekend). We need to continue that type of play up and this is going to present the next challenge.”

Last year, Michigan Tech faced the Lakers without the services of starting quarterback Steve Short and starting running back Phil Milbrath. Both missed the loss due to injuries.

Healthy this season, the pair of seniors spearhead an offense that is averaging 407.1 yards and 35 points per game – the second highest total in the GLIAC behind the Lakers.

“It seems like we’ve have to defend Steve Short and Phil Milbrath now for about eight years,” Mitchell said. “Flipped them on, they’re on tape again.”

Short has passed for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns while Milbrath has racked up 971 yards rushing on 146 carries through just seven games. Short is second on the team with 251 rushing yards.

“Steve Short is a very athletic quarterback that can hurt you both with his arm and his legs,” Mitchell said. “He’s got a lot of experience up there in their system.”

In last weekend’s 62-30 win against Northwood University, Milbrath scored five touchdowns – three rushing and two receiving. Two touchdowns came on runs of 63 and 76 yards.

“We were fortunate not to play against them last year,” said senior linebacker Justin Victor. “They’re definitely athletic players. Short can make a lot of plays on his feet, and Milbrath is a pretty powerful back. We’re just going to have to do a good job pressuring Short and keeping him contained in the pocket. And not missing any tackles on Milbrath because it usually takes more than one to bring him down.”

The Huskies also have a strong defense that is allowing only 19 points per game to opponents. Junior defensive back Jesse Vandenberg leads Michigan Tech with 60 total tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.

GVSU will leave for Houghton today to split the more than 500 mile trip into smaller chunks. The Lakers have performed well away from Allendale this season, winning by more than 43 points on average in the team’s first three games on the road.

“So far this year, it’s almost looking forward to the road trips more than the home games just because we’re so locked in and everyone knows what they’ve got to do,” Victor said. “It’s fun playing at Lubbers Stadium in front of that crowd, but it just feels like when you’re with that close-knit group of guys going on a business trip. There’s just something special about that.”

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