GVSU completes undefeated season with 24-21 win over Wayne State

Beau Troutman

Grand Valley State came into the regular season finale against Wayne State as the only undefeated team left in the GLIAC and its region.

The Lakers walked out of Adams Field in Detroit with their record still unblemished, as the team used clutch defense and a late field goal to down the Warriors 24-21 Saturday, Nov. 12.

The win puts GVSU at 11-0, its first undefeated season since 2008. It is the first time a Matt Mitchell-coached GVSU team has finished the regular season undefeated, and the eighth time in the program’s 45-year history.

“It’s hard to achieve perfection,” Mitchell said. “There’s an incredible amount of parity in this league. It’s a huge accomplishment to finish a season undefeated, it’s very, very difficult.”

The Lakers were named the top seed of the Super Region Four Sunday, Nov. 13, which gives them a first round bye in the 2016 NCAA Division II Playoffs.

No. 4 seed Texas A&M Commerce and No. 5 seed Colorado Mesa will play Nov. 19, and GVSU will face the winner of that game Nov. 26 in Allendale. Should the Lakers win that game, they would also host the Regional Championship Dec. 3.

The Lakers had a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter, but the Warriors scored 14 unanswered points, tying the score 21-21 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game.

On the ensuing GVSU possession, the Lakers drove down the field and faced a first down and 10 at the Warriors’ 13-yard line. Quarterback Bart Williams lofted a jump ball to receiver Urston Smith in the end zone, who appeared to make the catch over a defender and get a foot in-bounds, but the officials ruled the pass incomplete.

Two plays later, Williams again heaved the ball toward the end zone, this time to receiver Nick Dodson, who made an acrobatic jumping catch. The officials, however, again ruled the pass incomplete despite the video replay showing Dodson appearing to get a foot in-bounds.

“I didn’t agree with (the referee), but I couldn’t let that affect me,” Dodson said. “I knew that we have too good of a team to just look down on one play.”

There are no coach challenges or video reviews in Division II. Earlier in the game, the officials failed to call a penalty for not enough men at the line of scrimmage on the Warriors, and the play resulted in a 34-yard pass that set up the Warriors with one of their three touchdowns.

“I’ll probably get fined for it, but I don’t care,” Mitchell said. “That was one of the worst officiated games I’ve ever seen, and I’m proud of our coaches and players for fighting through a lot of adversity.”

After the incomplete pass to Dodson, the Lakers settled for a Joel Schipper field goal that gave them a three-point cushion late in the fourth quarter.

“Everybody is complaining about the refs, complaining about this and that, there’s just pandemonium around the stadium, and (Schipper) locked in and made what ended up being the game-winning field goal,” Williams said.

The Laker defense stopped the Warriors on their next possession thanks to defensive end Dylan Carroll, who sacked Warriors quarterback Donovan Zezula on fourth-and-one in GVSU territory. The offense, though, gained only 10 yards on eight plays and punted the ball back to the Warriors with 1:37 on the clock.

Trailing by three points with no timeouts, the Warriors didn’t get off to the start they had hoped for. A holding penalty on second down pushed them back to their own 10-yard line. On the next play, GVSU’s Carroll came up big again, and appeared to sack Zezula in the end zone. That would have resulted in a two-point safety, which would have ended the game, but the officials ruled the sack occurred at the one-yard line, keeping the drive alive.

“That should’ve been a safety, and the game should’ve been over right there,” Mitchell said.

GVSU safety Donte Carey intercepted Zezula on the next play with 15 seconds left—this time, the game was over.

GVSU running back Martayveus Carter finished with 165 yards and one touchdown—a 60-yard run in the first quarter. Carter finished the season as the leading rusher in the nation with 1,590 yards, 18 touchdowns and a 7.8 yard-per-carry average.

“It was good for me, but the O-line made it happen,” Carter said. “I always give all my credit to my offensive line because (they’re) out there working, getting banged up.”

Williams finished with 175 yards on 12-of-19 passing and two touchdowns, both of which were to Dodson, who totaled six receptions for 61 yards. Linebacker Collin Schlosser led all defenders with 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.