Big plays and forced turnovers propel GV men’s football over Wayne State


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University football team beat Wayne State University in a 48-9 landslide to keep their undefeated season intact (4-0). 

With the win, GVSU improves to 17-1 against the Warriors since 2002 and remains undefeated as the away team against this matchup. 

The Lakers started off hot and never looked back. On the opening drive, the stout defense forced a three-and-out allowing for the offense to convert on their first possession. 

The offense was able to capitalize on an 11-play drive capped off by a 34-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Cade Peterson to sophomore wide receiver Jahdae Walker to give the team an early 6-0 lead, only to miss the extra point attempt.

“We went and got a three-and-out and that led to the offense scoring a touchdown,” said senior linebacker Abe Swanson. “When we get momentum, we can’t be stopped. When we play great in all three phases, GV is a very dangerous team.”

The Warriors were able to respond on their next drive with a field goal attempt that went through the uprights to cut GVSU’s lead to three points with 6:19 remaining in the opening quarter. In the Lakers’ responding drive, junior running back Tariq Reid took a handoff 59 yards on the first play to add another touchdown to the lead as the scoreboard read 13-3.

The start of the second quarter saw the offense continue to make big plays, as the Lakers went on an eight-play, 88-yard drive finished off by a 50-yard touchdown pass from Peterson to sophomore wide receiver Jaylon Tillman with 8:12 to play in the first half. 

“Our explosive plays were huge,” said head coach Matt Mitchell. “It was a combination of the defense not allowing any big plays and making big plays offensively.”

Although the offense was unable to produce any more successful drives to end the first half, the Lakers’ defense picked up the slack as they forced a turnover on downs when Wayne State drove into their territory. 

On the next Warrior offensive possession, junior defensive lineman Christian McCarroll forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore defensive back Nyzier Fourqurean to preserve a 20-3 lead going into the locker room. 

The second half saw an explosion of offense by the Lakers after the defense gave them plenty of opportunities to score. 

On the opening possession, Peterson led the offense on a methodical ten-play drive that ended with Reid’s second touchdown of the day, this time from two yards away. 

However, Wayne State struck back in their responding drive with a 33-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 16 (27-9) and put their final points on the board for the game.

On the ensuing GVSU offensive possession, junior quarterback Cal Endicott led them on a long drive, running 13 plays for 75 yards, with Reid crossing paydirt for the third time in the game to make the score 34-9. 

The special teams unit added to the mix of defensive prowess as sophomore defensive back Kobe Hayward recovered a muffed kickoff return attempt by Wayne State to put the Lakers’ offensive unit back on the field deep in Warrior territory going into the final quarter of regulation.

“Anytime you can get the offense the ball, it builds confidence for the defense,” Swanson said. “Creating turnovers builds momentum and builds players’ confidence.”

However, GVSU was forced to punt on the same drive to start the fourth.

After a stop by the defense, Endicott led the offense on an 11-play drive that totaled six minutes, leading to a 13-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Jack Provencher to give GVSU a 41-9 lead with just over five minutes remaining. 

The punishing defense put the finishing touches on the victory as they forced their second turnover on downs. Sophomore linebacker JT Popp stepped in front of a pass and ran the ball all the way to the endzone on a pick-six to give GVSU their fourth win of the season, 48-9. 

“This was our third-straight week without a turnover (on offense),” Mitchell said. “We had the pick-six and the two fumbles on defense. I tell our guys all the time ‘if we win the turnover differential, we’re going to have a good chance to win,’” 

Offensively, Reid highlighted a huge day in the rushing department for the team, finishing with 141 of the team’s 243 rushing yards, while also adding three scores. 

“There was a combination of factors that contributed to the run game,” Mitchell said. “The backs ran hard- our designed runs and quarterback runs were really efficient. On the defensive side, we only gave up 54 yards- we played very well against the run.” 

Peterson completed nine of his 17 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Tillman finished his night with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, while Walker added two more catches for 66 yards and a touchdown to his stellar start to the season. 

Defensively, the team allowed 360 total yards, with only 54 of those on the ground. Swanson and redshirt sophomore defensive back Damonte McCurdy led the team in tackles with six each. McCarroll made his presence known in the backfield, recording three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

The team will put their undefeated season on the line as they host Saginaw State University in the Battle of the Valleys in their GLIAC conference game of the season. 

Kickoff is set for Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.