Mines brings prolific passing offense to Allendale

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
Matt Bakker gains yards in a past game. The Lakers will be hosting the first play off game this Saturday.

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter Matt Bakker gains yards in a past game. The Lakers will be hosting the first play off game this Saturday.

Cody Eding

As some members of the Grand Valley State University football team found out Sunday afternoon, a quick Google search will tell the story of the Colorado School of Mines’ season.

“I’ve never even heard of the school before,” said senior cornerback Rob Carlisle. “As soon as they paired us up with them, I got right on Google, typed it in and looked at the statistics and seen they sling it around.”

The No. 6 Lakers (10-1 overall) will face the most prolific passing offense they have seen all season when No. 16 Mines travels to Allendale Saturday afternoon for the opening round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Lubbers Stadium.

It will be the first meeting in history between the two teams. GVSU is making its 10th straight playoff appearance, the longest active streak in Division II. Mines is in the playoffs for only the second time in the team’s 123-year history, and the first time since 2004.

Led by junior quarterback Clay Garcia, the Orediggers enter the postseason with a 9-2 record and have completed more passes (318) than the Lakers have attempted (301). Garcia, who has passed for 3,813 yards and 38 touchdowns, is one of 24 finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy, an award given annually to the best player in Division II.

“They definitely like to throw the ball around,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “They execute the offensive side of the ball very well. Lot of screens and a lot different passes in different spots of the field, and Garcia manages their offense.”

Mitchell said Garcia is an adequate runner who often uses his mobility to buy extra time for his receivers to get open downfield, which adds another dimension to the Mines’ offense.

“We have got to try to confuse the quarterback with our coverage looks and attempt to have him hold the ball,” Mitchell said. “We’ll have a lot of different things ready. Just kind of the flow of the game and what they’re doing and what they’re trying to do will dictate a little how we use them.”

Garcia has an arsenal of three outstanding receivers at his disposal. Sophomore Cody Renken leads the team with 86 receptions and nine touchdowns, while sophomore Jerrod Doucet and senior Robbin Vinnola have 70 and 69 catches respectively.

Sophomore running back Dan Palmer leads the Orediggers with 672 yards and 11 touchdowns on 151 carries.

“The GLIAC definitely looks like they run it more, but this team definitely looks like they don’t look to run it at all,” Carlisle said. “It’s a challenge for us on the back end, and its something I’m looking forward to.”

Senior Marc Schiechl’s 10.5 sacks leads the Orediggers’ defensive line, the strength of the team’s defense that allows 23.1 points per game. By contrast, the Lakers averaged 38.9 points per game during the regular season.

Mitchell said GVSU would attempt to establish a ground game, pitting the strength of the Lakers’ offensive line against Mines’ big defensive front.

“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge,” said senior offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield. “It’s a big challenge every week going in to see how we will run the ball Saturday.”

The Lakers are 17-1 in home playoff games since 2001, a feat that has not gone unnoticed by Mitchell.

“Hopefully we can use the experiences that we’ve had in the playoffs, and more specifically home-field, to help us out when we hit the field Saturday,” he said.

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