GVSU routs Tiffin 45-7 in season opener

Beau Troutman

Grand Valley State football took to the field for the first time Thursday night since their national semifinal loss to Shepherd last season.

And they didn’t disappoint.

The Lakers jumped out to an early lead and toppled the Tiffin Dragons 45-7 in their season home-opener Sept. 1.

“Tiffin had our full attention,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “A lot of people outside the place were talking about the semifinal run, things like that. In the 2016 season, we never looked past Tiffin. We weren’t scared of Tiffin, but we respected Tiffin’s program and we respected (Antonio) Pipkin.”

Bart Williams led all of Division II with 45 touchdown passes last season, and he started 2016 off with a bang. Williams play-faked and launched a 43-yard bomb to receiver Urston Smith, who made the grab and gave the Lakers an early 7-0 lead nine minutes into the game.

“Getting the post ball to Urston Smith to start the 2016 season is the way we like to operate,” Mitchell said.

Later in the quarter, the Lakers faced a third-and-one from the Tiffin 9 yard line. Running back Marty Carter broke free to the right side and walked into the end zone to extend the Laker lead to 14-0.

The Tiffin offense, led by senior quarterback Antonio Pipkin (3227 yards, 32 touchdowns in 2015), could not find continuity throughout the course of the game. Last season, Pipkin gashed the Laker defense for 460 yards and six touchdowns in an early November matchup.

This year, Pipkin and company could hardly make it into Laker territory. At halftime, the Lakers held a 278-129 lead in total offensive yardage. Pipkin often found himself scrambling and unable to find open receivers downfield, and GVSU made short work of receiver screens and perimeter passes.

Mitchell’s young defensive secondary passed its first test of the season.

“I did think that our corners played better,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think with their passing game the safeties were stressed much tonight, it was more on the edges and a little bit quicker stuff. It felt like they reacted and responded better, made some tackles and made some plays when the ball got spread out across the numbers.”

Midway through the second, Williams and the Laker offense again found themselves inside the Dragons’ 10-yard line. Facing second and goal, Williams hit receiver Nick Dodson on an out route, who accelerated past a defender for the score, giving the Lakers a 21-0 edge.

Tiffin failed to advance the ball past the 50-yard line once in the second quarter.

On Tiffin’s first drive of the third quarter, Pipkin finally found someone downfield—GVSU linebacker David Talley, who took an interception 15-yards to the house for a touchdown, extending the Laker lead to 28-0.

“I showed up like I was blitzing off the edge, and they ID’d me,” Talley said. “My job was to drop back and reroute the No. 2 to the boundary. I dropped back and then I saw him looking straight at me and I just jumped in front.”

The Dragons’ offense was again stuck in neutral in the second half, and only managed 33 total yards in the third, giving the Lakers an easy victory lap.

When the starting defense was out, the Lakers only allowed 167 yards. Pipkin finished with 191 yards and 2 touchdowns.

“We plan on being stingy, being dominant, running to the ball,” Talley said. “That’s what we all trying to do when we go out there every day.”

In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Ollie Ajami added two rushing touchdowns and kicker Joel Schipper made a 44-yard field goal.

Quarterback Bart Williams finished the night 15-of-25 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Carter (57) and Dorsey (100) lead a Laker rushing attack that amassed 277 yards. Brandon Bean led the Lakers with six catches for 112 yards. Defensive end Dylan Carroll had 1.5 sacks and linebacker Colin Schlosser led with six tackles.

The attendance for the opener came in just as strong as the team’s field performance, with a total of 13,588 spectators in the stands.

“The new video board, all the hype, young players tend to lose their head a little bit,” Mitchell said. “I actually felt like we had some younger players in the program and some newer guys that stepped in and held their own in a very hectic environment.”