Lakers look to rebound against Tiffin

GVL/ Eric Coulter
Grand Valley football versus Findlay

Eric Coulter

GVL/ Eric Coulter Grand Valley football versus Findlay

Brady Fredericksen

And if there’s ever been a time when misfortune and hard times had been associated with the Grand Valley State University football team, it’s this season.

The Lakers (1-3, 0-3 GLIAC) are off to their worst start since 2001 and will look to halt their current three-game losing streak – and find that resiliency – on Saturday in a GLIAC matchup against visiting Tiffin University.

“Basically, at this point, we’re playing for each other, that’s why we’re coming out here,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “That’s who we are. We’re resilient, we’re tough, we’re fighters, and we just have kept that message consistent.”

Despite the recent stretch, the team is in good spirits. With its upcoming match up with Tiffin (0-4, 0-3 GLIAC), a team the Lakers defeated by a whopping 61 points last season, the team will look to worry more about its play and less about its opponent.

“It’s never about the team we play – it’s always about us,” senior receiver Greg Gay said. “With three straight losses, we need to get back to the things that we need to focus on and work on the little things — execution and stuff like that.”

That execution will have to improve in order for the Lakers to break out of their current funk. Early in the season, the defense struggled while the offense played well, but in last week’s loss to the University of Findlay, those roles were reversed.

The defense allowed 192 rushing yards, and the offense turned the ball over six times – the most in a single game since last season’s playoff loss to Augustana College, when it also had six.

“I think Saturday night, more so on offense than defense, we played a little tight,” Mitchell said. “I think there was a fear of making a mistake, (and) you can’t play football scared to make a mistake. We’ve lost three — it’s time to play free and go out there swinging.”

Even with six turnovers, the team was still within a touchdown when the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Lakers have been loose in practice, and they’ve heeded to their coach’s mindset to keep swinging.

“My mindset is we’re play as if we are going to the playoffs,” said junior defensive tackle Ricky Thomas. “If we come out practicing hard, we’re going to play hard. We’re approaching this like it’s a game with our backs against the wall.”

Tiffin comes into Lubbers Stadium with a pass-heavy offense. Their quarterback, James Capello, is a transfer from Iowa State University and is the GLIAC’s leader in pass attempts.

Although the offense has struggled, Capello’s ability to move around in the pocket should not be underestimated Saturday, especially with GVSU’s inconsistent play in the secondary, Mitchell said.

“They throw it so much that they’ve had a hard time running the ball, and our defense needs to be ready to pin their ears back and get after that quarterback,” he said. “(Capello) is good and shifty, so it may not be the first guy who gets him, but we have to have a relentless pass rush.”

Turnovers aside, the Laker offense was productive on Saturday. Sophomore quarterback Heath Parling made some questionable descions, but with the thunder and lightning duo of juniors Norman Shuford and Hersey Jackson at running back, the offense is beginning to find its balance.

Teams have been able to run up the score on Tiffin this season – the Dragons allow 48.3 points per game – and as long as the Laker offense can avoid turnovers, it should see similar results.

GVSU will keep swinging against Tiffin on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on 107.9 WMUS and on Comcast channel 900/901.

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