Late touchdown lifts GV football over Ferris on the road


Courtesy / GVSU Athletics

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

The now 7-0 Grand Valley State University football team defeated the defending NCAA DII National Champions in Ferris State University in the annual Anchor-Bone Classic to end the regular season six-game losing streak against the opponent.

With the win, the Lakers were able to avenge two losses from the previous season and dealt the Bulldogs its first regular season loss since 2017.

“(The games left a) very bad taste in our mouth,” junior linebacker Abe Swanson said. “We went a whole season thinking about the playoff game and how much that loss hurt us, and it gave us fuel going into this one. There’s still a lot of season left, but it was so satisfying to get that win.” 

GVSU started the game flawlessly, as junior quarterback Cade Peterson led the offense 60 yards in six plays on the opening drive, capped off by an 18-yard touchdown connection from Peterson to senior running back Jack Provencher to put the Lakers up a touchdown, 7-0.

Ferris State responded three drives later, as quarterback Mylik Mitchell found running back Marcus Taylor who scampered 31 yards for a score to knot the score at seven points each with 5:54 left to play in the first quarter.

On the ensuing GVSU possession, the offense alternated between their run game and short passes to go on a six-minute drive that saw the team run 16 plays for 63 yards. However, the drive would ultimately stall out and led to junior kicker Josh Gorball sending a kick through the uprights from 35 yards away to give the lead back to GVSU, 10-7 with plenty of time in the first half.

Ferris once again didn’t hesitate to respond as Taylor hit paydirt on a 31-yard run for his second touchdown of the day, putting the lid on a four-play, 73-yard drive to make the score 10-14 in favor of the defending champs.

A few drives later, the Laker defense forced a punt and Peterson again led the offense down the field, setting up a first down and goal just eight yards from the endzone. A run for no gain by junior running back Tariq Reid, followed by an incomplete pass intended for sophomore wide receiver Jahdae Walker, put the offense in a third-and-goal situation. 

Peterson found sophomore tight end Drew Peterson for five yards that left the offense facing a fourth-and-goal situation at the three-yard line and a crucial decision to make; go for it and face the potential of no points, or play it cautiously and elect for a field goal.

With bragging rights on the line, the offense stayed on the field, but to no avail, as Peterson’s pass intended for senior tight end Scott Cooper fell to the turf, giving the ball back to FSU and taking a four-point deficit into the locker room as the game clock trickled down to zeros, signaling the halftime break.

The second half began as a defensive stalemate. Both offenses struggled to move the ball and as a result, no points were scored until the 1:20 mark in the third quarter as FSU’s redshirt quarterback Carson Gulker powered his way across the pylon, making the score 10-21. 

Head coach Matt Mitchell understood that facing an 11-point deficit against a team like Ferris is not an easy feat to overcome, but the veteran coach kept the team in line.

“(I told the team to) rely on what we’ve done,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t fracture and continued to run the ball. I told the team at halftime that they played a really good half and that we needed to continue to run the ball and be physical, and then continue to shut them down defensively.”

At the start of the fourth quarter, it appeared as though FSU would increase its regular season winning streak to 44-straight games and defend its perch atop the DII rankings. However, the Lakers had other plans and took matters into their own hands. 

The offense gained 65 yards on ten plays, ending in a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back Johnt’e Crawford to cut the deficit to five points.

After GVSU forced a three-and-out in the following drive, the offense built off of their momentum from the previous possession, running the ball on five straight plays, gaining 83 yards, capped off by Provencher’s second touchdown of the day, this time from ten yards away. 

Maintaining only a one-point lead, the Lakers attempted to stay aggressive again and went for a two-point conversion. However, the attempt was unsuccessful and GVSU kept a 22-21 lead with three and a half minutes to play in regulation.

“The deciding factors were the ability to run the ball and stop the run; it was very critical,” Mitchell said. “When they got into third downs we stopped them and we were able to pick up some really key third downs offensively.”

On the next possession, the defense came up with a tremendous stop once again as junior linebacker Stephen Roncelli forced a fumble that was recovered by Swanson at the Lakers’ 41-yard line to give the offense the ball with what seemed to be a chance to secure the victory.

However, Ferris State’s defense proved why they are the defending national champions, as two plays later, they recovered a fumble by sophomore quarterback Avery Moore to give their offense the ball back at the GVSU 43-yard line with 2:42 left in the game.

“We knew (the fourth quarter) was one series at a time,” Swanson said. “The offense was able to put up points. It was very nerve-wracking getting that turnover, but we held our heads high and stuck to the game plan.”

Sticking to the game plan is what allowed the Laker defense to come up with four crucial plays in a row, as they only allowed five yards on the drive before a false start penalty left the FSU offense with a fourth down and ten with the game on the line. 

FSU attempted a deep pass to Tyrese Hunt-Thompson that fell incomplete, allowing GVSU to run out the remainder of the clock to secure a 22-21 victory. 

“I’m happy to get a win on the road,” Mitchell said. “I’m proud of our team, we went down two scores and we came back to win. When we were reeling, we fought back into it. We played great defensively and our offense was able to run the ball well.”

On the offensive side of the football, the Lakers put up 223 of their 425 total yards on the ground. Reid carried the ball 15 times for 90 yards, Provencher had eight carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Peterson and Moore combined for 59 yards on the ground. 

The passing game was not as effective, but Peterson was able to throw for 186 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore wide receiver Darrell Johnson caught two passes for 68 yards and Provencher snagged three balls for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the unit put on another efficient display, allowing 316 yards to a team that averaged at least 440 total yards coming into the game. The defense stifled the FSU offense on third down, only allowing them to convert twice in 11 tries.

Swanson led the team in tackles with seven, including a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Redshirt freshman defensive back Terez Reid made five tackles with two resulting in a loss of yards. 

Senior defensive back Antonio Strong, sophomore defensive back Nyzier Fourqurean, and junior defensive lineman Christian McCarroll all added tackles for loss, while the defense produced three sacks. 

“I give a lot of credit to Ferris State, they came out with good personnel that made us make adjustments,” Swanson said. “We knew what was coming. This defense stepped up today and handled adversity.” 

With this win, the Lakers are now ranked No. 1 in the DII rankings as they prepare to host Northern Michigan University for their homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m.