With new quarterback, GVSU looks to defend home field versus Ohio Dominican

Brady Fredericksen

Three games into the football season, the Grand Valley State University offense has turned the ball over just twice – one fumble and one interception. In that same span, the Ohio Dominican University defense has forced 11 turnovers, including five in last week’s win over Northern Michigan University.

As they say, something’s got to give here.

With junior quarterback Heath Parling’s season over after tearing his ACL last week at Tiffin University, the Lakers (3-0, 2-0 GLIAC) will debut an offense with a first-time signal caller in sophomore Isiah Grimes Saturday against the Panthers (2-1, 1-1 GLIAC).

Mitchell and senior offensive linemen Tim Lelito and Andrew Beidenbender agreed that losing Parling isn’t the preferred situation, but that the entire team – including Grimes himself – have confidence going into Saturday.

“I actually talked to Heath last night and told him we still need him out there as a leader,” Biedenbender said. “When Isiah went in (Saturday), it really was not a big difference for us. We were all confident that Isiah was going to come in and do the job that he needed to do, and we’ve just got to take care of our own jobs.”

GVSU isn’t going to completely revamp their offense because Grimes is in and Parling is out. They’ve made running the ball a priority all season and that shouldn’t change against a Panthers’ defense that allowed 180 rushing yards to Hillsdale College’s Joe Glendenning two weeks ago.

“I think it is (important) to get the running game established, definitely,” Lelito said. “Working off that, being able to get into some play action and some passing that you know, (Grimes) can do, great.”

The GVSU defense may be coming off a shutout against Tiffin, but Mitchell has said the defense still isn’t where he wants it yet. That effort also came without the services of junior safety Erik Thompson, who is week-to-week with a foot injury, and saw the Lakers allow Tiffin tailback Dominique White to scamper for 164 yards.

Ohio Dominican is going to run the ball, too, and with a zone-scheme similar to that of the GVSU rushing offense. As Mitchell immediately noted in his Monday press conference, Ohio Dominican starts four upperclassmen on the offensive line, and it’s a line that has allowed just one sack of sophomore quarterback Mark Miller this season.

“(Last week) we did a better job at eliminating pre-snap confusion, our kids were lined up and kind of knew what they were doing,” Mitchell said. “We’re still going through this process of guys trying to figure out what they’re going to do … the zero is the product, but the process is still not good. We should not be fooled that we got the shutout.”

Mitchell compared this quarterback situation with Grimes to Parling’s first couple starts last season. The six-foot-six Grimes’ lack of on-field experience is apparent, but the confidence and big arm that coaches and teammates talk about with him is what could be the difference on the field.

“He’s confident, I mean, he’s confident in his abilities,” Mitchell said. “He’s not going to go out there and be scared, I know that about (Grimes).Isiah has a strong arm, a live arm, and he has a lot of confidence in his arm. He’s been a part of our environment, a part of our culture here for three years. I have total faith in him and his talent.”

The Lakers and Panthers kickoff at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Fans can listen to the game live on ESPN 96.1 FM or watch it on Comcast 900. Follow the action live on Twitter @GVLSports.

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