GV football scrapes by with last minute touchdown


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University men’s football defeated the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers in a close 25-22 nail-biter as the Lakers improved to 1-0 to start the season. 

With the win, GVSU improved to 20-1 in home openers since 2001. 

“Obviously it’s good to get a win, we’ll grow and we’ll get better for this,” head coach Matt Mitchell said. “(They’re a) heck of a football team, I have to give Colorado School of Mines a ton of credit. You can see why they’re a semifinalist, their team had a lot of heart.”

In a first quarter defensive slugfest that prevented any success on either side of the offense, the Orediggers gave the Lakers a rude awakening as junior quarterback Cade Peterson was sacked twice on the opening drive. However, GVSU’s defense forced a three-and-out on the next possession as both defenses held each other scoreless leading into the second.

Sophomore defensive back Ian Kennelly gave the Lakers’ momentum as he forced and recovered a fumble that opened up a promising offensive drive for the Lakers (19-yard run by sophomore wide receiver Darrell Johnson, 37-yard reception by sophomore receiver Jahdae Walker), only to soon fall short of a score in an incomplete pass on fourth down.

“Our execution on offense just wasn’t where it needed to be in the first quarter,” Peterson said. “That’s what having a couple of big plays will do for you, so with guys like Jahdae, those are difference makers and it just takes one play.”

After the Lakers’ defense forced a three-and-out, a methodical drive was produced on offense that saw two costly pass interference calls against the Orediggers. Junior running back Tariq Reid pounded the ball into the endzone from one yard out to put the first points on the scoreboard with 4:57 left to play in the first half. 

The following possession saw another forced three-and-out by GVSU. On the other end, Walker continued to make his presence known as he pulled in an astonishing 45-yard catch with a defender draped all over him.

“(Walker) is tall, but he’s quick and fast just like the other receivers,” Peterson said. “So Jahdae and the rest of the guys on the squad, they’re difference makers in a game like this.”

However, the Orediggers defense came alive with a fourth down stop and 1:52 remaining on the clock that gave them a shot on offense. In what looked like a promising drive, senior defensive back Denzel Williams forced a fumble and would lead to a score of 7-0 heading into the break.

Though the first half of the game saw struggling offensive performances by both teams, the second half was a much different story. On the first possession of the half, the Lakers’ stout defense delivered another three-and-out and a blocked punt by sophomore wide receiver Kyle Nott gave the offense the ball in excellent field position.

Peterson was able to connect with Walker once more to produce a 37-yard pass play, and after a 15-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Avery Moore, Peterson finished the drive himself, rushing for a five-yard touchdown to make the score 14-0. 

After yet another stop by the Laker defense, GVSU took the ball back down to the opposite redzone as sophomore kicker Kolin Kralapp sent the ball through the uprights from 31-yards away to extend the lead, 17-0.

In the next offensive drive, the Orediggers were finally able to find some momentum with a 49-yard touchdown pass, though the special teams would miss the extra point that brought the score to 17-6 with 5:18 left in the third quarter.

The momentum continued for School of Mines after GVSU failed to convert on a fourth and one in their own territory as the Orediggers ended the third quarter inside of the GVSU ten yard line with the score 17-6.

The fourth quarter saw an offensive explosion by the School of Mines and an almost total collapse by the Lakers as the Orediggers put up a field goal to make it 17-9 and strip-sacked Peterson, recovering the fumble at the Laker five-yard line. They took advantage of the turnover, scoring a touchdown and making the score 17-15.

The bleeding did not stop however, as GVSU’s next offensive possession stalled out, but a perfect punt by redshirt freshman punter Trace Hrgich that was downed at the Orediggers’ one-yard line eased a bit of pressure off of the Lakers’ defense. 

“I think overall it was a pretty good day for special teams,” Mitchell said. “I’ll regret the fake punt looking back on that, but our defense was reeling and I was trying to create a spark and try to keep our offense on the field. Kolin Kralapp had a really big field goal to take it to a three score lead, Trace Hrgich did a great job punting, we had that one that was downed at the 1 yard line.”

The School of Mines took the ball 99 yards in eight plays and took their first lead of the game, 17-22 with just under six minutes left in the game.

In the next drive, Peterson’s pass attempt was picked off, giving the Orediggers a chance right outside of the red zone to put the game away. Although the GVSU defense began to bend, it did not break. A huge forced three-and-out led to an answered prayer for the Lakers as the Orediggers field goal attempt sailed wide right of the uprights.

The Lakers defined themselves in the final drive of the game as Peterson completed two passes (17 yards, 33 yards) to set up the offense just outside of 20-yards of the end zone as the clock ticked near the final minute. GVSU needed to scrape out three more yards as they faced a fourth and six with 17 yards to go. Peterson’s pass attempt to Walker drew a third pass interference call by the officials, this time in the endzone that gave GVSU a fresh set of downs two yards away from the end zone. 

The Lakers didn’t hesitate to expand on the opportunity they were given, as Peterson found senior tight end Jayk Slager for a touchdown to give the Lakers a 23-22 lead.

However, the offense wasn’t finished as GVSU successfully completed a two-point conversion from a pass by Peterson to sophomore tight end Drew Peterson. The Lakers officially put the game away on a defensive stop during a last-second hail mary attempt by the Orediggers as the clock struck zeros. 

GVSU finished with 401 total yards on offense, highlighted by Peterson, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 266 yards and two total touchdowns. Walker also stood out as he recorded a team-high 132 receiving yards in just four catches.

“Coach Mitchell plays guys that have confidence,” Walker said. “He saw confidence in me through spring ball, it just kept going and going and I earned the starting spot and I’m running with it.”

Junior linebacker Abe Swanson led all defenders with nine tackles, including a sack and a tackle that resulted in a loss of yards. Kennelly had six tackles on top of his forced fumble-recovery, and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jay’viar Suggs had four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and three pass breakups. 

“I thought we executed well through three quarters, but it’s a four quarter football game and we just have to focus on the minor details and the big moment,” Swanson said. “We were able to do our job at the end and give our offense a fighting chance and they went down and put it in and we came out on top.”

The Lakers will look to continue their success against Colorado State-Pueblo in Colorado on Saturday, Sept. 10.

“We have to go face the second best team in (the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) at their place, so we have another tough game coming up,” Mitchell said. “We knew the opener was going to be tough, and we know this next game is going to be tough too.”