GVSU football prepares for first road test

GVL / Robert Mathews
Junior Darryl Pitts

GVL / Robert Mathews Junior Darryl Pitts

Bryce Derouin

When the No. 9 Grand Valley State University football team makes its first road trip of the year on Saturday and lines up across from Ohio Dominican University, they’ll essentially be looking into a mirror.

After three games, both teams sport 3-0 records – the only 3-0 teams in the GLIAC – but the
similarities don’t end there.

Both programs have posted similar averages in the three games they played. Points per game (GVSU
37, ODU 36), points allowed per game (GVSU 16, ODU 19) first downs (GVSU 21, ODU 20.7), rushing
yards (GVSU 234, ODU 221.3), and rushing yards allowed (GVSU 131.7, ODU 132.7) are just a few
stats that showcase how identical the two teams are.

According to GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell, the similarities between the two schools run deeper than
numbers: the two programs share almost identical schemes and philosophies.

“There’s a lot of similarities,” Mitchell said. “On the offensive side of the ball, they run a lot of zone
run game. They use the run game to set up play-action pass. Defensively, they play a lot of four-down
front and happen to get good linebacker play and good run support. The formula is not too dissimilar
from what we believe in too.”

One of the differences between the two teams is that one knows who will be their starting quarterback
this weekend. As of now, that team is not GVSU (3-0, 1-0 GLIAC).

Heath Parling is still dealing with his shoulder injury. The junior quarterback practiced and threw for
the first time this week since the 38-17 season-opening win over Azusa Pacific University. Mitchell
expects to make a decision sometime after Thursday’s practice on whether it will be Parling or junior
quarterback Isiah Grimes who will lead the offense against the Panthers (3-0, 2-0 GLIAC).

“It’s really going to be dictated on Heath’s health and how he’s feeling and his ability to practice and
second, on how he performs,” Mitchell said. “That’s why the practices are critical. I gotta feel like he’s
back to where he was. If he’s not, then Isiah doesn’t have any rust and has been playing well, so you
go with Grimes.”

The other major injury on the offensive side of the ball was suffered by junior running back Chris
Robinson. Robinson suffered a concussion in the contest against Truman State and sat out last week’s
game. However, Mitchell expects him to be ready to go this week.

Robinson, along with fellow running backs junior Michael Ratay and sophomore Kirk Spencer, expect
to share carries this weekend.

Defensively, GVSU has had a litany of injuries to deal with in the early portion of its schedule, but
besides missing junior defensive end Matt Judon (torn ACL), the Lakers expect everyone to be ready to
play on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’re looking pretty healthy,” Mitchell said. “A couple guys who missed last week, we’re getting back
on the defensive side of the ball. As much as we can be at Grand Valley State, we’re probably going to
be as close to full strength as we’ve ever been here four weeks into the season.”

Last game, the Laker defense held their opponent under 100 rushing yards for the first time this year,
as GVSU only allowed Tiffin to accumulate 87 yards on 33 carries.

Stopping the run will be critical again for the Lakers, as Ohio Dominican was able to rack up 395 yards
in last year’s matchup, a 46-41 win by GVSU.

“Our team is very talented,” said junior defensive end Matt Mosley. “With us, it’s just if you do your
job, we will be very successful. We have so much individual talent and depth that it makes the whole
team play better.”

This weekend’s matchup features two of the three remaining undefeated teams in the GLIAC (Michigan
Tech is 2-0). While it’s only week four, this game has GLIAC implications. However, the players aren’t
letting that distract them.

“Every game we play as a big game,” senior center Matt Armstrong said. “We try to be ready for every
game, and we try to treat each opponent equal and we play and look at it as a championship
conference game.”

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