Lakers lose Parling, shutout Tiffin
“Good TEAM win. Still mistakes on defense but making improvements. Had some guys step up after injuries. Special teams were solid.”
That tweet by Grand Valley State University head football coach Matt Mitchell following Saturday’s 28-0 victory at Tiffin University said it all.
After scoring 83 points in their home opener nine days ago, No. 4 GVSU (3-0, 2-0 GLIAC) faced the expectations of once again producing on the offensive side of the ball.
Losing its starting quarterback, junior Heath Parling, on Saturday didn’t help make that process any easier.
Toward the end of the first quarter, an eerie silence shifted across the GVSU sideline. No, the Lakers were not losing. The matter was much more serious. Instead, Parling was down.
Heath, based on the sideline examination, potentially has a torn ACL,” said Mitchell. “We have to come back to get him an MRI. If our sideline assessment of that is true then he will be done for the year.”
It was Parling, though, who got the offense rolling. A 58-yard pass to senior wide receiver Charles Johnson early in the drive of GVSU’s second possession helped set up a one-yard touchdown reception by Johnson, giving the Lakers a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Johnson highlighted the Laker offense, hauling in six catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Shortly after the first touchdown of the game, the GVSU offense had a new leader under center, as Parling’s injury gave way to sophomore quarterback Isiah Grimes.
“I saw it happen and Heath was holding his knee when he came off to the sideline,” said Grimes. “They called my name so I ran in there. It was at the end of the first quarter so I had a little time to calm down and get ready to go in. We did everything we saw in practice this week so I was pretty prepared.”
Beside Parling, junior safety Erik Thompson was also injured. Thompson suffered his injury last week and wasn’t available Saturday and remains week-to-week.
Meanwhile, Grimes led the final three Laker scoring drives, throwing two touchdown passes.
Junior cornerback Reggie Williams intercepted a pass late in the first to return the ball to GVSU. Sophomore running back Michael Ratay took advantage of the turnover with an eight-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
“As far as our defensive play, I think coming into this game we had a lot to prove,” said Williams. “We wanted to come out and prove not only to everybody outside the program but our coaches and our offensive guys for sure, we just wanted to show them we are trying to be a lot better moving forward.”
Late in the first half, Grimes found Johnson for his own 58-yard pass to the standout receiver before hitting Ratay for a five-yard touchdown. The Lakers led at halftime 21-0.
Another connection between Grimes and Johnson, only this time from one-yard out early in the third, put the Lakers up by the final margin.Grimes completed 10-of-15 passes for 143 yards while the team totaled 157 yards rushing. Only running 51 offensive plays didn’t hurt the outcome of the game, although it definitely didn’t allow for a 70-7 victory like last season against the Dragons.
Tiffin’s game plan definitely was to limit the time of possession for GVSU.
“Tiffin was taking the play clock all the way down to basically one and really making a concerted effort to slow down the game and try to keep our offense off the field,” Mitchell said. “Isiah did a good a job and the rest of our guys really stepped up and helped him throughout the course of the game.”
With Parling out, Grimes will shoulder the first-team reps in practice in preparation for Ohio Dominican University on Sept. 22. Laker Blue Night will feature a chance for GVSU to run their win streak to 11 games dating back to last season.