GV football remains undefeated in Battle of the Valleys statement win


GVL / Macayla Cramer

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University men’s football is now 5-0 after their first conference win against Saginaw Valley State University in the annual Battle of the Valleys this past weekend, winning the game 29-10.

The Lakers are now 20-3 against this opponent since the 2002 season and are 12-1 since head coach Matt Mitchell took command of the coaching staff in 2010 (10th-straight win against SVSU).

“I don’t count consecutive victories, I’m just trying to lead the program and put these guys in the best position to win games,” Mitchell said. “There are other opponents that I don’t have that record against, so there’s a lot of humility and we’re going to come in and try to get better.”

Although GVSU came out on top, the start of the game was one to forget. After the Lakers went three-and-out on the opening possession, a 49-yard run by the Cardinals set up an eight-yard touchdown pass to give SVSU a 0-7 lead with plenty of time left in the opening quarter.

On the next possession, junior quarterback Cade Peterson fumbled the ball deep in GVSU’s own territory. However, even with their backs against the wall, the defense responded in a big way as they forced a missed field goal to keep the deficit at 0-7.

“In the first quarter we didn’t get off to a great start offensively,” Mitchell said. “We gave up the touchdown drive and then we turned the ball over, but we didn’t flinch. Our defense came out and got the stop to force the missed field goal after a turnover deep on our end.”

Later in the quarter, sophomore wide receiver Cody Tierney scampered 32 yards on a reverse play to put the Laker offense on the Saginaw four-yard line. This led to a four-yard touchdown on a touch pass from Peterson to sophomore wide receiver Jahdae Walker. After a missed extra point by kicker Kollin Kralapp, the score sat at 6-7 at the end of one quarter of action.

The Cardinals’ offense looked like they would respond once more in the opening minutes of the second quarter after driving the ball down into field goal territory. However, SVSU faced a fourth-and-ten at the GVSU 28-yard line and elected to go for it on fourth down, only to turnover the ball after an interception by sophomore defensive back Nyzier Fourqurean to give the Lakers’ offense another shot at scoring. 

Later in the quarter, the GVSU’s running game found momentum as Peterson led the team on a nine-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a 20-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Avery Moore, 13-7 in favor of the Lakers.

Just before the game went into the halftime break, Kralapp booted a field goal attempt through the uprights, giving GVSU a 16-7 lead heading into the locker room.

“I think Saginaw was doing a good job taking things away,” Mitchell said. “We went into halftime and I told everybody on offense that we have to lean on the running game because we were having some more success doing that.”

The second half began with both offenses struggling to find a groove in all of their sets. It wasn’t until just under six minutes left in the third quarter that GVSU picked up the pace again. 

Facing third-and-eight and a potential punt on the next play, Peterson rolled out to his right and found senior wide receiver Jacob Miller for a 58-yard touchdown, extending the Laker lead to 22-7.

“(The play) broke down, it was third down and we wanted a conversion,” Peterson said. “I scramble to the right and when I’m scanning the field I see a hand go up about 50 yards downfield and a defender not there; I trusted that (Miller) was going to continue his path and I let it fly and he made a great play.”

On the next possession, the Cardinals’ offense faced a third down situation at the Lakers’ 27-yard line. After a failed pass attempt, SVSU was forced to settle for a field goal and cut into the Laker lead, 22-10 with four minutes and some change left to play in the quarter. 

“(The dropped pass) built a lot of momentum for this defense,” senior linebacker Abe Swanson said. “Obviously it didn’t feel good that they were in a position to catch the ball, so thankfully (they) dropped the ball. It’s a huge play, builds momentum, gets our offense back out there.”

On the ensuing offensive drive, Peterson connected with junior running back Tariq Reid and sophomore wide receiver Darrell Johnson for 19 and 11 yards respectively to set the Lakers up with a chance to score. Uncharacteristically, however, Moore elected to pass the ball instead of running it and had it intercepted. 

The momentum built by SVSU after the forced turnover was quickly drained, as the relentless pressure by the GVSU defensive line forced another failed pass attempt that fell right into the hands of Swanson, giving the Lakers the ball back at the Cardinals’ 36-yard line. 

“Getting an interception is cool, but it’s a huge credit to all of the guys in front of me,” Swanson said. “If (junior defensive lineman) Christian McCarroll isn’t bringing pressure all game and (senior defensive lineman) Nate Umlor isn’t getting back and getting them scared, that ball isn’t going to come out quick.”

Six plays and 32 yards later, redshirt freshman running back Syone Usma-Harper put the nail in the coffin, powering his way into the endzone for a 15-yard touchdown to make the score 29-10. After an SVSU punt, Peterson led the offense on a methodical, 12-play, 67-yard drive spanning nearly eight minutes to drain the rest of the game clock and secure the victory. 

GVSU dominated the ground game, recording 235 rushing yards while gaining 399 yards of total offense. Usma-Harper paced the ground attack with 59 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, while Reid had 15 carries for 57 yards.

Moore posted 39 yards and a touchdown on six carries, and senior running back Jack Provencher had 28 yards of his own on 3 attempts.

“That’s the great thing about preparation throughout the week and in fall camp is that we know all (the running backs) are very good and they can execute what they need to do,” Peterson said. “It’s a really comforting feeling for everyone on the team to know that you have a group of guys in a room that can get the job done and do it well.”

In the passing game, Peterson played efficiently with a limited number of attempts. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Miller had one catch for 58 yards and a touchdown, while Tierney and Walker both had three receptions for 32 and 21 yards respectively with Walker adding a fourth touchdown on the season.

Defensively, GVSU was led by Swanson as they held the Cardinals to 106 rushing yards, nearly 200 yards less than their per-game average. 

“We knew that they would be a run-heavy offense, we knew that they were almost leading in rushing yards per game and we knew we had to do our job,” Swanson said. “With how our defense is set up and executed, no team should be able to run the ball on us.”

Swanson had his best performance of the season, recording 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss, intercepting his first pass of the season and recording two quarterback hits. McCarroll recorded seven tackles, two for loss and a sack, while redshirt freshman linebacker Anthony Cardamone recorded four tackles and a sack himself.

The team will look to extend its win streak to six games in an out-of-state matchup against American International on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12 p.m.