For GVSU, there’s no time for jet lag

Jay Bushen

You’d be hard-pressed to say Grand Valley State is the No. 2 team in the nation after watching the way its offense played at Azusa Pacific on Thursday night.

GVSU came in with plenty of returning starters, one of the most efficient quarterbacks in program history, four quality running backs, promising weapons on the outside and an offensive line with enough experience to get the job done. Meanwhile, APU’s defense came in with just three returning starters.

On paper, it was a mismatch. On the field, it was a disappointing night for GVSU.

The Lakers fumbled four times, allowed four sacks and couldn’t seem to get anything going on the ground. They had 14 drives in regulation, and 12 of them netted fewer than 25 yards. It wasn’t an impressive showing by any stretch of the imagination.

Senior quarterback Heath Parling missed throws. Junior running back Kirk Spencer fumbled twice. The offensive line wasn’t on the same page. Sophomore kicker Joel Schipper played well, but missed a 25-yard attempt with time winding down in regulation.

The finger could be pointed in any number of directions, but in all fairness, this was a much improved Azusa Pacific team.

The Cougars have only lost one game since falling to GVSU in 2013, and they looked like a squad worthy of a No. 22 ranking or higher. The 2013 GNAC Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year both lived up to their respective titles, and they were playing at home.

So before we jump to conclusions and hit the panic button after one game, let’s take a step back and consider who we’re talking about here. This is GVSU football, a perennial powerhouse. Pardon my appeal to tradition, but there’s reason to believe the Lakers will work out the kinks.

Parling will be better, and these skill players have more than enough talent to make plays. I certainly wouldn’t bet against offensive coordinator Tim Morrison.

Did the offensive line play well? No. But the big men up front would probably be the first ones to admit it wasn’t their best performance – and, as a former guard, I can say that O-lines are often scariest after a rough game. They’ll figure it out.

To me, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when for GVSU.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, “when” has to be now. Right now. The need to improve is urgent, because their early-season schedule could be brutal.

Ohio Dominican, which did not lose a regular season game in 2013, is coming to Allendale on Saturday after thumping Malone University 59-14 in week one. The Panthers haven’t given up more than 24 points in a regular season contest since October 2012.

Then, GVSU travels to take on Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich. The Bulldogs beat GVSU 54-44 in 2013, and routed McKendree 75-14 in week one. When the Lakers make the trip north in week three, you know FSU will be ready.

The Lakers have the personnel, know-how and coaching staff to correct the mistakes from the APU loss. But can they do it in nine days?