Down to third quarterback, GVSU upset at Northern Michigan
GVL / Robert Mathews
Junior Erik Thompson returning a kickoff from FSU earlier this season
Following the first loss of its season, the Grand Valley State University football team traveled to the Upper Peninsula in hopes of manipulating the success of their last trip two weeks ago — a 51-43 victory over Michigan Technological University.
Turns out, the Lakers (5-2, 4-2 GLIAC) were the ones who were manipulated as lowly Northern Michigan University (2-5, 1-5 GLIAC) routed the Lakers, 38-10, sending them into a two-game losing streak.
Playing without sophomore quarterback Isiah Grimes, out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, the situation forced third string quarterback and redshirt freshman Brandon Beitzel into the lineup.
In his first collegiate start, Beitzel tossed four interceptions, including one in Wildcat territory on GVSU’s first drive of the second half. The redshirt freshman finished the day 9-of-24 for just 79 yards through the air.
“It wasn’t just on Beitzel or anything like that, it was definitely a team loss,” said senior guard Tim Lelito. “Offense didn’t step up, we only scored ten points which is unheard of for us, so we just didn’t play together as a whole or a team and that’s what happens — you get beat like that.”
That beating came on both sides of the ball. Beitzel’s struggles were apparent, in part because Grimes injury was suffered during Thursday’s practice, leaving the sophomore just a few practices to get acclimated.
“It’s a tough situation to throw Brandon in without really any reps at all, and we didn’t play as well as we needed to on the other side of the ball, either,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell, who noted that Grimes is doubtful for this week’s game. “If you look at Brandon’s stat line and place blame … we got off to a slow start on the defensive side of the ball and we should never put our offense in that position.”
Continuing its struggles, the defense allowed the GLIAC’s lowest scoring offense to put up 38 points and 462 yards of total offense — numbers it struggled to reach in their past two games combined.
Even without starting tailback Prince Young, the Lakers could not slow the Northern Michigan offense; one that showed some of the same choice-option and veer-option looks that Ferris State University did last week.
Senior quarterback Cody Scepaniak, replacing freshman Ryan Morley, ran for 128 yards and threw for 218 yards, while backup tailback Casey Cotta ran for 130 yards. The GVSU defense has now allowed 100-yard rushers in all seven games, including a pair for the second-straight week.
“Defensively, given the circumstances of what happened on the offensive side of the ball, we didn’t play well enough to win,” said Mitchell. “Too many missed tackles, you know, just too many yards rushing up the middle.”
It was the other freshman on the GVSU offense, tailback Kirk Spencer, who carried the Lakers’ struggling offense on the ground. He ran for 133 yards in the first half and finished with a game-high 145 yards on the ground, while junior Hersey Jackson added a second-quarter touchdown run in his first action of the season.
Despite the loss, Lelito and the Lakers are looking beyond Saturday’s game. With a newly revived sense of urgency, the team will return home this week to take on Northwood University for homecoming.
“Absolutely, there’s definitely a sense of urgency now. This week, we’ve got to come in ready to work, and get prepared every single day,” Lelito said. “We still have things to fight for. To me, this isn’t rock bottom right now, I mean, we’re still in this, we’re still fighting to make our spot for the playoffs.”