GVSU holds off Michigan Tech, 51-43
The old saying that “a win’s a win” is almost an over-used phrase in football, but it’s exactly how Grand Valley State University head coach Matt Mitchell described Saturday’s 51-43 victory at Michigan Technological University.
It’s become a common theme over the last two weeks — the Lakers jump out to a big first-half lead before struggling in the second half, having to fight off late, opposing rallies — yet, in two weeks, the Lakers are still undefeated.
Apparently a win is a win.
“I’m proud of our kids. Our kids are just resilient,” Mitchell said. “We jumped on them early, and then obviously we had to hold on to the lead — our special teams let us down in the second half. Our defense in the first half stepped up, second half didn’t play as good, and our offense did great.”
The GLIAC’s highest-scoring offense collided with the top defense, and it was the youthful GVSU offense that came out on top. Led by sophomore quarterback Isiah Grimes, in just his second-career start, the Lakers led 44-7 before the Huskies rallied to cut the lead to eight points late in the fourth quarter.
Grimes, whom Mitchell applauded for his improved from last week, finished the day 17-of-27 for 411 yards and four touchdowns, all of which were career-highs. Also putting together a career-day was freshman running back Kirk Spencer.
Starting in place of the injured Chris Robinson, Spencer ran for 136 yards and a touchdown. Also filling in was sophomore Ben Hutchins, who ran for 43 yards and a pair of third-quarter scores.
“Some of these younger guys, some of these younger running backs, have kind of pitched in,” Mitchell said. “It’s a group effort, everybody is involved in the whole thing offensively and we’re just doing the best job we can to keep the ball in front of us.”
While the offense found a way to produce all game long, it was the defense that performed well early, but struggled late. After being gashed on the ground by Ohio Dominican University last week, the Lakers found a way to bottle up Michigan Tech’s running game, holding them to just 34 yards.
Big plays were again a factor, though. Senior running back Akeem Cason’s 98-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter triggered a 28-0 scoring run for Michigan Tech that put pressure on the GVSU defense once again in the fourth quarter.
“It’s basically preparation from the whole week,” said junior linebacker Charles Hill of the defense’s play against the run. “I thought it was really good because our focus was stopping the run and getting off the field on third down. I couldn’t have been prouder … We just came out and got the job done.
The success that GVSU has seen from some of their younger players, like Grimes and Spencer, is something that has helped to alleviate the losses they’ve suffered at key positions and isn’t a surprise to Mitchell.
“It’s kind of the background of our program, we do a good job recruiting and we like to have depth,” Mitchell said. “I never would have thought you were gonna see our running back position where you had Ben Hutchins carrying the ball on a critical third down, but it is what it is, and he’s come in and done a good job.”
With the Lakers currently standing atop the GLIAC North, the undefeated start to the season is something that the players have used as a building block for momentum as the season progresses.
It’s a confidence builder; we’re 5-0,” Hill said. “We’ve got to be happy we’re 5-0, so we’ve gotta keep up the momentum we have and it’s going to be a big game next week, also.”