GVSU looks to improve defense in first GLIAC road game

GVL / Robert Mathews
Freshman running back Kirk Spencer (27) speeding past a defender.

GVL / Robert Mathews Freshman running back Kirk Spencer (27) speeding past a defender.

Last season’s 70-7 victory over Tiffin University doesn’t matter, and neither does the Grand Valley State University football team’s 71-0 victory over the Dragons in 2010. And last week’s 37-point victory over Notre Dame College? Head coach Matt Mitchell said that one doesn’t matter this week, either, and that’s the outlook the entire team has adopted going into their first GLIAC road game at Tiffin on Saturday.

“It’s the next game; it’s the next test. Any prior results against Tiffin University have no impact whatsoever in this game. Any prior results versus Notre Dame College, some good or bad, don’t necessarily have to have an impact on this game,” Mitchell said. “We need to come in here, prepare and do what we need to do to get to 2-0 in the GLIAC.”

The Lakers (2-0, 1-0 GLIAC) will travel to Tiffin (1-1, 0-1 GLIAC) to take on a team with an offensive approach going completely against what the team saw against Notre Dame College.
Led by former Iowa State University quarterback James Capello, the GVSU defense will be looking at an offense that ran just 10 times in last week’s loss at Michigan Tech and threw the ball 40 times in a 51-15 loss.

“They definitely like to throw the ball around. They got down last week against Michigan Tech and kind of abandoned the run in an effort to catch back up,” said Mitchell, whose defenses has allowed 1,015 offensive yards to open the season. “We’re going to have defenders who have to make one-on-one tackles and be in a position to make some plays.”

Those plays are going to come in space. Like many in college football today, Tiffin’s offense is going to look to spread out the GVSU defense and find players in space to make plays. Capello’s main target is senior receiver Obadiah Dykes, whom he hooked up with seven times last week. “We are still, on the defensive side of the ball, moving guys around, trying to find the best combination of people relative to their skillsets,” Mitchell said. “There’s still a growth process for us as coaches finding about players. We’ve got the guys we’ve got, it’s just looking at what positions we might put them in or what we might do.”

While the defense is still a puzzle yet to be put together, the offense looks to already be in midseason form. They’ll be without junior tailback Hersey Jackson again, who is week-to-week with an undisclosed injury, but the offense still found a way to score 11 touchdowns last week in their record-breaking win.

Much of that production can be linked to the success of junior quarterback Heath Parling, who has yet to turn the ball over this season, but the success of the GVSU running game — sans Jackson — has also been a factor.

Sophomores Chris Robinson, Michael Ratay and freshman Kirk Spencer did what they had to on Saturday. The trio accounted for 304 all-purpose yards to go with eight of GVSU’s 11 offensive touchdowns.

“The line did a great job (Saturday) blocking up the people they were supposed to block. The offensive coaches got us in great looks,” said senior guard Tim Lelito, whose line was named Beyond College Sports Network’s Division II Offensive Line of the Week. “The backs obviously did a great job of reading their keys and making the right cuts.”

Despite the inconsistent results on defense last week, the team isn’t divided or pointing any fingers. Mitchell said the team is sticking together and that’s a sentiment echoed by senior receiver and captain Israel Woolfork.

“We’re not always going to score 83 points,” he said. “We just have to know as a team that some days our offense is going to be hitting and some days the defense is going to be hitting. We all have to be one collective unit and be there for each other and lean on the other side of the ball when the time is needed.”

The Lakers will take the field at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Frost-Kalnow Stadium. Fans can hear the action on the radio via ESPN Radio 96.1 FM and 107.9 WMUS.
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