Down goes Delta: GV rallies from 10-point deficit in fourth quarter to win, 28-24


GVL \ Sheila Babbitt

Kellen Voss, Sports Editor

It was looking like Grand Valley State football would be handed their first loss of the season Saturday, Sept. 14 at Lubbers Stadium. But thanks to clutch play in the fourth quarter, a late pick and good old-fashioned resiliency, the Lakers were able to come from behind to beat the Delta State Statesmen, 28-24.

The first half for the Lakers was offensively lacking, as GVSU rushed for -2 yards while also throwing three picks. It didn’t help that when starting quarterback Cole Kotopka came out after throwing for 157 yards and two of those picks, backup quarterback Caden Peterson threw an interception of his own on his very first play from scrimmage.

“Like anybody in that situation, you’re going to be a little rushed and have a few butterflies, but that’s normal,” Peterson said. “After that first pass, a lot of my teammates came over and asked me if I was good and said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ The support I had from my guys and coaches, that’s what’s special about being here.”

That support was also prevalent on the defensive side of the ball game, and despite DSU having possession for more than 35 game minutes, the GVSU defense held Delta State to 113 yards passsing.

Linebacker Isaiah Nkansah, who led the team with 20 tackles and two sacks, said he loved how the defense was able to ‘bend, not break’ in a lot of those quick changes.

“Every game, one of the teams is going to give up, and it’s all about accepting the fact that it won’t be our team,” Nkansah said. “No matter what the situation is, we’re still going to go out there and play like it’s 0-0 at the start of the first quarter.”

GVL \ Shelia Babbitt

With a few senior defensive ends down due to injuries, head coach Matt Mitchell appreciated the way that the freshmen behind them on the depth chart were able to step up and put pressure on Delta State’s offense.

“We were down three senior d-ends, so we had a few freshmen playing out there with Jake Hlava like Christian McCarrol and Caleb Murphy,” Mitchell said. “There were a lot of freshmen that played tonight, between Caden Peterson, those guys on defense and some of the guys on special teams, and that experience will be huge for us moving forward.”

While GVSU did ultimately lose the turnover battle, they were able to come up with the one takeaway that mattered. With 4:20 left to play in the fourth down, safety Antonio Strong was able to not only intercept the ball, but return it well into Statesmen territory as GVSU was knocking on the door to take their first lead of the game.

“Coach (Jim) Louis called a tremendous call, and that put me in a position to go up and get the ball,” Strong said. “I saw the quarterback and stared him down, went up and high-pointed the ball, got some yards, broke some tackles and tried to put our offense in a good position to score again.”

The Lakers fulfilled Strong’s intentions a few plays later when Aryuan Cain-Veasey found a hole on the right side of his line before reaching the end zone and scoring what would end up being the game-winning touchdown to put the Lakers up, 28-24.

While pulling out the comeback win is obviously a nice feeling for this football team, Mitchell said he needs to see this team take care of the ball better and make less mistakes on offense.

GVL \ Shelia Babbitt

“We were trying to throw the ball down the field a lot, and they were hopping on some stuff,” Mitchell said. “These are definitely learning moments, and I’m going to get into it at the team meetings, but these guys know that it’s not sustainable to be on the wrong end of the turnover margin, and we have to get that corrected.”

With the win, the Lakers improve to 2-0 on the year before traveling for their first road game of the season against GLIAC rival Northwood. The game in Midland, Michigan, is set to start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20.