Prepare to Taste Victory

Bryce Derouin

The Grand Valley State University football team is tired of sharing. After winning the GLIAC North Division outright six straight years, GVSU has had to settle for only a share of the title the last two seasons.

No. 10 GVSU (2-0) will start its quest for the program’s 18th GLIAC title this Saturday, as they begin
conference play against Tiffin University (0-2).

“If you want to take things out of the hands of regional ranking committees and you want to control
your own destiny, then you need to win the GLIAC, and obviously that starts Saturday,” GVSU head
coach Matt Mitchell said.

While Tiffin may sport a winless record early in the season- a 32-28 loss to McKendree University and
a 40-14 defeat to Michigan Technological University – Mitchell is convinced Tiffin is a better team
than what its record shows.

“If you look at their games, they’re probably a dozen plays away from being 2-0,” he said. “They
squandered a lead against McKendree late with some special teams errors and the score with Michigan
Tech is deceiving. They dropped a lot of balls that game. They had some opportunities to score and
the receivers didn’t necessarily help the quarterback out when they were in.”

After facing two new and unknown opponents to start the year, GVSU now has the luxury of preparing
for a familiar GLIAC opponent. For the coaching staff, it makes their jobs a little easier.

“I would say when you start getting more into the GLIAC, it comes down more to the players and
execution and those type of things instead of some massive chess battles schematically from the two
teams playing,” Mitchell said.

In the first two games, it was primarily the defensive lineman and linebackers who were challenged, as
Azusa Pacific University and Truman University tried to move the ball on the ground. However, this
Saturday, it is the Laker secondary that is expected to get a workout.

“Offensively, they like to throw the ball around,” Mitchell said. “I think the challenge for us is mostly
the last two games the ball was stuck between the tackles a lot and this ball is going to be split 53
and a third wide and down the field. It’s going to put more pressure on us to make tackles in space.”

That could prove troublesome for GVSU, as they could be without both starting safeties. Mitchell
already ruled out senior Erik Thompson (pectoral muscle), and sophomore Brad Horling (groin) will
most likely be a game-time decision.

Redshirt freshman Branden Delk made his first career start last game and junior Bobby Wunderlich was
the other safety that took over for Horling.

“Delk played well last week, but that was confined space,” Mitchell said. “I’m a little worried about our
safeties heading into this game because we might not have our two starters out there.”

Thus far, the defense has only allowed 17 and 15 points in each of the two contests, a far cry from
last year’s 31.5 points allowed per game.

Senior linebacker Luther Ware said the key to changing the defense this year is “just practicing
everyday and making sure everybody knows what we’re doing on defense and just working as a team
and being one of the eleven on the team.”

On offense, it’s still up in the air over who will be leading the Laker attack this Saturday. With Parling’s
health (shoulder) still in question, Mitchell wasn’t ready to name this weekend’s starter. They plan on
evaluating Parling’s health and Grimes’ performance later on in the week.

For the rest of the offense, the focus remains the same.

“It’s just the same every week,” said junior running back Michael Ratay, who leads the team with four
touchdowns. “Just don’t try to play out of our element. Just know what we’re supposed to do and just
do our alignments and our assignments. Our goal is to get points every time we get the ball.”

The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. The Lakers will be sporting black uniforms with camouflage
numbers to honor the military as they celebrate Military Appreciation Night.

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