Preview: GVSU football gets back to work against familiar foe

The Laker football team gears up for a game.  GVL / Spencer Scarber.

The Laker football team gears up for a game.  GVL / Spencer Scarber.

Brady McAtamney

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally back.

College football has arrived in Allendale, and the Grand Valley State Lakers are chomping at the bit to hit the field to do battle with the Indianapolis Greyhounds – one of only three teams to beat GVSU last year. 

Before they can focus on UIndy, though, the Lakers have had to step back and focus on themselves. 

“In order to win Thursday, we must continue to do what we have done since the summer,” said wide receiver Austin Paritee. “Play hard, execute and know our assignments. Last year we had a lot of independent contractors on both sides of the ball. Now this year we have everyone working together to be one out of 11. If we get everyone to trust their assignments and know their role on the team we will be able to get the job done.” 

During 2017’s loss to the Greyhounds, the Lakers made a few costly mistakes, including a missed extra point, six penalties for 50 yards, eight failed third down conversions and three failed fourth down conversions. 

“It’s been my experience in openers, a couple things can make a big difference,” said head coach Matt Mitchell. “The turnover margin is always critical. In practice we’ve been dealing with live contact, but it seems to be a little more ferocious in the game so limiting turnovers, hopefully we’re not coughing the ball up, and special teams.

“It still comes down to us. Indy’s not the type of team to beat themselves, and we can’t be the team to beat ourselves.”

Indianapolis went 11-1 in 2017 with their only loss coming in the Division II playoffs against eventual semifinalists Harding. The season came as a surprise to many, including the Lakers, as the Greyhounds finished a pedestrian 6-5 the previous season.

“Last year we underestimated UIndy and didn’t prepare properly for the game,” Paritee said. “Throughout camp, our upperclassman and leaders took it into their hands to build a better culture than last season so we believe we can compete with and beat anyone that is on our schedule.”

One major challenge that comes with preparing for a season opener is that there is no game tape on the opponent from this season – only old footage from last year that may be outdated. 

This works as an advantage and disadvantage for each team, as the Lakers may not know what to expect from UIndy, but the Greyhounds may be surprised by what they see from GVSU too. 

Mitchell is no stranger to season openers in Allendale, as this will be his ninth season as the man in charge for GVSU. While UIndy is clearly a worthy opponent, the Lakers feel confident in what to expect from the 2017 playoff team.

“We obviously take a look at last year’s tape, the game we played against them and some other games from later on in their season,” Mitchell said. “They have a lot of returning starters back. Their quarterback is back, their leading rusher is back, pretty much the entire defense is back, so you can take a look at their personnel and see that it’s the type of program that’s not going to beat itself. Last year they had a really successful season, we’ll probably anticipate a lot of the same fundamentals this year too. I think with openers, it’s good to have teams like Indy because you know what you’re going to get with style of play, but you’re also going to have to be adaptable.”

While the Greyhounds will return a healthy chunk of their contributors, the Lakers will bring in some fresher faces as a number of key pieces from last year’s team have since moved on including their leading rusher, top two receivers and top four tacklers. This gives them a chance to reinvent themselves and take their week one adversary by surprise. 

Kickoff between UIndy and GVSU is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30 at Lubbers Stadium. The game can be streamed live on ESPN3 or heard on ESPN 96.1.