Three point stance: GVSU football preview vs. NMU

GVL / Kevin Sielaff -  Alton Voss (4) brings down an Ashland offensive attack.  Grand Valley defeats Ashland with a final score of 45-28 Nov. 22 at Ashland University.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Alton Voss (4) brings down an Ashland offensive attack. Grand Valley defeats Ashland with a final score of 45-28 Nov. 22 at Ashland University.

Beau Troutman

Grand Valley State football (2-0) has outscored its opponents 63-0 in the first half this season.

After this upcoming Saturday, that number could be even higher.

The Lakers, ranked No. 2 in the latest AFCA national poll behind only Northwest Missouri State, will take on the Northern Michigan Wildcats (1-1) this Saturday at home at 7 p.m. The Lakers will look to win their third consecutive home game before starting a two-game road trip the following week.

One: The cardiac cats

NMU is coming off two overtime games at the start of the season, having most recently lost to Angelo State, 47-41 in overtime. In their season opener, the Wildcats defeated the Lake Erie Storm—which the Lakers handled 55-7 this past Saturday—38-35 in overtime. By comparison, the Lakers had the Storm up 42-0 at halftime.

Despite the Lakers’ dominance against a team the Wildcats fought with until the very end, GVSU coach Matt Mitchell doesn’t want his team to fall into the fallacy of a common opponent.

“I don’t like the comparable score thing, I hate that,” Mitchell said. “Venues are different, personnel is different, styles of offense and defense are completely different. I think there may be some people outside of this building that may jump to conclusions given the fact that our common opponent is Lake Erie College here in the last two weeks.

“Our staff will not make that, and hopefully our players will not make that mistake also.”

The Wildcats feature a high octane spread offense led by quarterback senior Shaye Brown (468 yards, three touchdowns, one interception). Though Mitchell noted the Wildcats’ “explosivity” on offense, Brown has only completed 45 percent of his passes this season.

The Wildcats graduated Marcus Tucker, their leading receiver from last season, who led the team with 79 catches—the second and third receivers had 79 catches combined.

It’s apparent the Wildcats are still breaking in their passing game. No receiver has more than nine catches on the year. While the team struggled to run the ball last season, the Wildcats average four yards per carry and have eight rushing touchdowns on the year.

Mitchell said GVSU has shown improvement from week to week, most notably the offensive line. The Lakers have yet to turn the ball over this season, and despite Mitchell’s disdain for the common opponent, the Lakers are taking on a team that barely scraped past a Lake Erie team that GVSU outgained 412-77 in offensive yardage in the first half alone.

If the Lakers match or improve upon their team output from the last two games, it is very likely this team will be 3-0 heading in to their first road game of the season next week against Walsh Saturday, Sept. 24.

“When you have expectations at Grand Valley, every game is important,” Mitchell said. “We say that all the time. This meeting is the most important meeting of the year, this press conference is the most important press conference of the year because it’s the next one, and that’s how we feel about this game. That’s the sense of immediacy we have. The most important game for Grand Valley is the one coming up.”

Two: Voss back

GVSU senior defensive end Alton Voss played his first game of the season against Lake Erie after sitting out the Tiffin game with a concussion. The 28-year old veteran made his presence on the defense known against the Storm, finishing with five tackles and two sacks in just one half of action.

“It was my first game back, I felt comfortable,” Voss said. “I was waiting to get back on the field Saturday.”

Voss rejoins a defensive end group that includes himself, Dylan Carroll and graduate transfer Sydney Omameh. Carroll has 1.5 sacks on the year and Omameh, a proven pass rusher from Ohio Dominican, has a half a sack as well.

If this group can stay healthy, the Lakers have three more than capable pass rushers at the position, not to mention interior linemen DéOndre Hogan and Mark Rosenquist.

“If I have to come out, I can rely on Dylan or Sydney, and same thing goes for the inside,” Voss said. “We have a lot of depth and experience, and guys can make plays.”

Three: No Matt, no problem

Senior wide receiver and top target from last year Matt Williams has only three receptions for 59 yards on the season. Through the first two games last season, Williams had 10 catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns.

The lack in production is not due to poor performance. The Lakers’ starters have only played five meaningful quarters this season, as opposed to last year where their margin of victory in the first two games were eight and three points.

Williams almost broke the top of the Tiffin defense in the first game—a tough catch that was dropped in the endzone, and even cause the fireworks at Lubbers to go off in a premature celebration. Williams’ absence highlights a receiving corps that is strong top to bottom and doesn’t rely on any one player.

“I don’t view it as a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 receiver, we view it as a unit,” Mitchell said. “Matt is an important part of that unit. We look to try and attack the defenses with all of them. We place Matt to the field at our X position a little bit more, and sometimes the throws that are available to Matt might be a dependent more of what the defense is giving us on a specific down.”

Prediction: GVSU 49, NMU 10.