GV back to normal in 35-21 win

Greg Gay celebrates after recieveing a touch down during Saturdays game against  Northwood University

Eric Coulter

Greg Gay celebrates after recieveing a touch down during Saturday’s game against Northwood University

Cody Eding

It was back to business for the Grand Valley State University football team a week after suffering the program’s second regular season loss in five years.

The No. 8 Lakers (9-1, 8-1 GLIAC) were dominant in the first half during Saturday night’s 35-21 victory over Northwood University, but, as has been the case all season, GVSU struggled at times throughout the contest.

“We fought in the second half,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “It wasn’t clean, there’s no doubt about it. It wasn’t clean, but we fought in the second half and got the win.”

After totaling only 16 yards rushing in the loss to Michigan Technological University, the Lakers responded with one of their best all-around rushing performances of the season. GVSU received big contributions from several runners, and the offensive line blew open holes all night for ball carriers.

Senior running back Justin Sherrod paced the Lakers with 141 yards and two touchdowns on 17 rushes.

“That last week, the 16 yards rushing, was in our head all week long,” he said. “A lot of the credit goes to our o-line. I mean, we’re running through, hitting the second level untouched because our o-line was just moving their d-line all over the field. Most of the credit goes to them.”

Sophomore Norman Shuford carried 14 times for 118 yards while senior quarterback Kyle McMahon had 92 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts. GVSU rushed for 354 yards as a team.

“Our offensive line played great,” Shuford said. “We had three guys that pretty much rushed for 100 yards. When you can put anybody in our system, they can pretty much do exactly what we did. It’s not like we’re special backs.”

The Lakers led 21-0 at halftime but could have scored more. McMahon was solid behind center, but a few overthrown balls and dropped passes left potential points off the scoreboard.

Still, the offense executed well. GVSU converted 8-of-12 on third down attempts and totaled 490 yards of offense. Junior wide receivers Greg Gay and Jovonne Augustus also hauled in touchdown passes for the Lakers.

GVSU played strong defense with few exceptions, holding Northwood’s option offense mostly in check. The Lakers were gashed for touchdown runs of 49, 32 and 27 yards in the second half, the final of which brought Northwood within a touchdown, 28-21, with 11:25 to play in the game.

Junior safety Zach Breen had 11 tackles and a sack to lead GVSU. Senior defensive lineman Steve Gawronski totaled 10 tackles and added two sacks. The Lakers held Northwood to 79 yards of offense in the first half.

“This is our playoffs right now,” Gawronski said. “We gotta come out and we have to play to the best of our ability here in order to keep this thing rolling as long as possible.”

Injuries are beginning to take a toll on the team. GVSU’s defense is nearing double-digit losses in players, and the injury bug bit again Saturday. The Lakers lost several men during the game to minor injuries, and the defense began to weaken with the backups seeing extended playing time.

“We had some guys start going down,” Mitchell said. “It got to be a little of a mash unit there in the second half … We gave Northwood some extra possessions there in the second half that led to at least one, if not two, of the drives they had.”

The victory was sweetened by the news that Augustana College (S.D.) lost to Wayne State College (Neb.) 26-14. In the first NCAA Super Region polls released Nov. 1, GVSU was No. 3 behind Augustana and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

A win next week against Saginaw Valley State University means the Lakers could move into the top-two spots in their Super Region. The top-two seeds receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs and host the second-round game.

That made Saturday’s game all the more important. While GVSU did not play to its full potential, the Lakers took care of business and moved onto next week with a victory.

“Looking back on the deal, I’m proud of our kids,” Mitchell said. “I mean, we had some go down and get injured. Our kids were out there fighting and battling.

“Was it clean? No, it wasn’t clean all the time,” he added. “We were fighting and competing out there. We gave ourselves a chance to share the GLIAC conference championship and keep everything alive when our backs were against the wall.”

[email protected]