Spencer’s career day leads GVSU to senior day win over Wayne State

GVL / Eric Coulter
Michael Ratay carries the ball as Charles Johnson leaps over a defender during Fridays matchup against Wayne State University.

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Michael Ratay carries the ball as Charles Johnson leaps over a defender during Friday’s matchup against Wayne State University.

Brady Fredericksen

Kirk Spencer had no idea what he’d done following Saturday’s 38-13 win over Wayne State University.

The redshirt freshman sat relaxed, smiling after the Grand Valley State University football team (8-2, 7-2 GLIAC) took out its eastside rivals on senior night and sat in sole possession of first place in the GLIAC North division.

“I thought I had probably like 120 (yards), I didn’t really think I had that many yards — had no clue until we got back into the locker room,” Spencer said.

That might have been an understatement.

Going up against one of the conference’s better defenses in Wayne State (5-4, 5-4 GLIAC) didn’t slow Spencer. Big run after big run helped the freshman to a career-high 228 yards and a touchdown, the fourth-most yards ever for a GVSU player.

“Kirk’s a great back, we always look forward to him to break a big run,” said senior receiver Charles Johnson. “Even when I’m not in the game, I’m watching when they give him the ball. I mean, his nickname is breakaway and he likes to break away from the line.”

The player they call “Breakaway” did just that on Saturday. Spencer out-played his better-known Wayne State counterpart, Toney Davis, and keyed a GVSU offense that had its eyes on the ground game all week long.

Spencer and sophomore tailback Mike Ratay — who ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns — have each produced 100-yard games in the last two weeks, but it’s been Spencer who has gained experience and led the way on the ground.

“He’s been getting better and better every week of the season,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “I think, again, that has to come with experience and him getting more comfortable within our runs and how we’re running the ball.”

Just a few weeks ago, Spencer was suffering from ball control problems and fumbles. Saturday, the only problem he had was coming up 28 yards short of the school rushing record.

“Give a lot of credit to him because it wasn’t too long ago against Northwood, we have a few fumble issues, and he went to Hillsdale — over 100 (yards) — and today over 200 and ball security was not an issue,” Mitchell said.

It wasn’t just Spencer on Saturday for the GVSU offense. Quarterback Isiah Grimes struggled at times, throwing his first two interceptions since the Ferris State game on Oct. 6. The sophomore did, however, connect with Johnson 10 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

The game marked the sixth time Johnson had gone over 100 yards receiving in a game this season.

While the GVSU offense was clicking on all cylanders, the defense was quietly putting together a game of its own. Arguably the top performance of the defense this season, the Lakers held the Warriors to just 251 yards of total offense — the lowest total of any GVSU opponent this season.

“We’ve had a lot guys that have been banged up and when they come back, they’re excited and ready to play football,” said junior linebacker Charles Hill, who finished with 10 tackles. “We’re kind of getting to that mindset that we’re getting guys back (and) we can do this — we can go out and execute everything that’s drawn up on the board and that’s just what we’ve been doing.”

With all that has occurred during the season, the Lakers are at a point where they can decide their own fate; starting with Saturday’s season finale at second place Saginaw Valley State University.

“We just kept working, coaches and players,” Mitchell said of his team since dropping two-straight games. “I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet; we’ve gotten better though. Being this late in the year and where we’re at with the injuries, everything is still right in front of us.”

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