GVSU offense flourishes, defense struggles in record-breaking win
The Grand Valley State University football team knew what to expect on Saturday.
Head coach Matt Mitchell and Co. knew they’d have a chance to put points on the board and knew there would be a healthy dose of Notre Dame College running back Pedro Powell.
Knowing is one thing, but executing is a whole other monster.
Powell rumbled for 240 yards and four touchdowns, but couldn’t lift Notre Dame College (1-1, 0-1 GLIAC) over quarterback Heath Parling and the GVSU offense. The junior led the Lakers (2-0, 1-0 GLIAC) to touchdowns on every possession en-route to a record-breaking 83-46 victory in Saturday’s home opener.
“We struggled on the defensive side of the ball with the tempo of the game. They were getting lined up and running a lot of stuff quick on us and the power running attack, they just came right at us, right down hill,” Mitchell said. “We knew what they were doing and they did it – that’s the concerning thing.”
Despite all of the good that comes from an 84-point outburst — the second most in GVSU history — the defense struggled with both the running and passing games of Notre Dame College. They forced three turnovers, a pair of interceptions and a fumble, but they couldn’t slow Powell or quarterback Ray Russ.
The defense allowed 641 yards, a total they didn’t accumulate until the third game of last season, and saw Russ complete 24-of-32 passes while failing to apply significant pressure on the sophomore.
“We got to a point where we were trying a lot of different things to try to get a stop, but we just didn’t,” Mitchell said. “We tried to make some adjustments at halftime and we had some guys confused.”
The offenses combined for 75 first-half points – GVSU’s 48 points were two shy of their all-time high for a half – but it was the all-around play of the offense that spearheaded the attack.
Senior receiver Charles Johnson tied Eric Fowler’s Lubbers Stadium record with 12 receptions in the contest, and his 138 yards and two touchdowns were critical in the Lakers’ first-half offense.
“When it comes to the offense, I mean, they’re fairly prolific,” said Mitchell.
Prolific fits the bill. The GVSU offense scored early and often, more so often, on Saturday. Parling led the way, going 21-for-31 with 307 yards and four touchdowns.
“Yeah, we played pretty well tonight,” Parling said. “I’m sure there’s plenty to clean up, plenty of stuff we did wrong … after a night like this, we can’t start going on Monday thinking we’re sweet – we’re not sweet, we’re not good yet, we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to be able to do this every week.”
While Parling and Johnson were making things happen through the air, sophomore tailbacks Chris Robinson and Michael Ratay were doing the same on the ground. Robinson and Ratay each finished the game with four touchdowns, while redshirt freshman Kirk Spencer wiggled his way to 78 yards on the ground.
“We executed pretty well, but I’m sure there’s a lot of things on film that still needs to cleaned up,” Johnson said. “We expect to score, we did what we had to do.”
The scoring barrage broke open midway through the second quarter. After tailback Chris Robinson scored from one-yard out to give GVSU a 21-14 lead, the Lakers forced two consecutive turnovers – a fumble and an interception by cornerback Reggie Williams.
The next two offensive plays – red zone touchdowns by Johnson and tailback Michael Ratay – lasted exactly seven seconds each.
GVSU will return to the practice field this week with questions on defense before heading on the road to take on Tiffin University on Saturday.