GVSU falls to Ferris State for second straight year, 54-44

GVL / Robert Mathews 
Darryl Pitts reaches for a pass against a Ferris State defender.

GVL / Robert Mathews Darryl Pitts reaches for a pass against a Ferris State defender.

Bryce Derouin

It may have taken him a little while to get started, but once Ferris State University quarterback Jason Vander Laan got things going, there was no stopping him.

Vander Laan ran through the Grand Valley State University defense for 222 yards on 27 carries and scored two touchdowns. Through the air, he completed 9 of 16 passes for 118 yards, two touchdowns and one interception as the Bulldogs outscored the Lakers 54-44.

For the second consecutive year, GVSU (4-2, 2-2 GLIAC) had no answers for Vander Laan and the Ferris State (4-2, 3-1 GLIAC) read-option offense, as the Bulldogs accumulated 465 yards on the ground and 583 yards of total offense.

“The first half, I thought the defense hung in there,” GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said. “Offense, too many threes-and-outs. Second half it was kind of the other way around. We held them to 20 points midway through the third, and they started running all over us. We started to crumble a little bit on defense.”

The GVSU defense was able to contain Vander Laan for much of the start, but with two minutes left in the first quarter, Vander Laan went 49 yards untouched on a read-option before being tackled by senior Charles Hill. Ferris State would settle for a field goal on the drive, but Vander Laan’s 49-yard run was a sign of things to come.

“He gets stronger as the game goes on,” Mitchell said about Vander Laan. “He definitely gets stronger. We were making some tackles and getting him pushed back in the first half. The second half, he was breaking tackles, we weren’t finishing, there was some missed tackles, and he was falling forward a lot of times getting those extra yards.”

Once Ferris State was able to establish Vander Laan on the outside, it opened things up on the inside for the Bulldog running backs. Korey Stringer recorded touchdown runs of 33 and 35 yards in the second half. On both occasions, the GVSU defense was caught looking at Vander Laan, while Stringer went untouched up the middle of the Laker defense.

“They started using some misdirection plays and some stuff between the tackles that kept us off balance,” Mitchell said. “We struggled with the d-line, linebacker positions in the second half kind of figuring what they were doing up inside.”

GVSU would regain the lead for one last time, as sophomore running back Kirk Spencer returned the Ferris State kickoff 100 yards for the touchdown to give GVSU a 23-20 advantage with 3:15 left in the third quarter.

After that, it was all Ferris State, as the Bulldogs scored 20 unanswered points. GVSU would manage to trade touchdowns with Ferris State down the stretch, but would not be able to get the deficit to single digits.

“We didn’t play a complete football game on either side of the ball,” Mitchell said. “Our offense wasn’t very good in the first half. Our defense didn’t play very well in the second half.”

The loss marks the second defeat on the road in as many games for GVSU and marks the 10th loss in Mitchell’s career as head coach. Eight of his 10 losses have now come on the road.

“We obviously gotta figure something out, because we’re not playing well away from Lubbers Stadium,” Mitchell said. “We gotta do something to get that figured out.”

GVSU junior quarterback Heath Parling finished the game completing 14 of 28 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His favorite target was senior wide receiver Brandan Green, who caught five passes for 113 yards and a score. Junior running back Michael Ratay led the Lakers on the ground, carrying 17 times for 83 yards and one touchdown.

GVSU will look to bounce back when it hosts Northern Michigan University on Saturday.

“We’re going to have to be resilient, and I think we have a good bunch of seniors in there that are going to have to lead us and stay working,” Parling said. “We’re not going to throw in the towel, so to speak, so we’ll get back to work tomorrow and try to beat Northern on Saturday.”