Third time's the charm?
Football looks to win its first road game of the year
On Saturday, the Grand Valley State University football team will attempt to do something it hasn’t done yet this year: win on the road.
GVSU’s (5-2, 3-2 GLIAC) record at Lubbers Stadium is 5-0, but away from Allendale, the Lakers have yet to win, posting a 0-2 record.
Head coach Matt Mitchell is looking at everything to get his team out of this road funk, so before GVSU takes the field against Northwood University (2-5, 1-4 GLIAC), the Lakers will already have undergone numerous adjustments.
Not adjustments in the traditional sense of x’s and o’s, but instead, switching up the players’ normal routines.
“As crazy as this may sound, we travel with two buses and offense has always been on the first bus and the defense on the second bus, and we might change that this week,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to do a couple things in practice a little bit different this week too. I think you have to keep things fresh for your players and change some things up.”
GVSU utilizes two practice fields to prepare for its opponents. The defense is usually on the far field, and the offense is on the other. However, on Tuesday, Mitchell had the offense and defense switch fields in preparation for Northwood.
Mitchell is also looking at modifying the preparation schedule, all the way down to the team’s arrival time in Northwood.
“We’re going to leave a little earlier and get to the hotel a little earlier so the guys can settle in and get relaxed,” he said. “We’re going to have a little bit more of an up-tempo walkthrough to get guys active on Friday afternoon, more than we have in the past. Especially the road trip to Ohio Dominican, just too much sitting on the bus, too much eating, and lack of activity.”
While GVSU will make modifications to its off-the-field schedule, the Lakers will look to continue to have success on the field in the rushing game.
After a disappointing game by the offensive line against Ferris State University, the offense responded by recording 309 rushing yards in a shortened 48-17 win over Northern Michigan University.
“I feel like we had the right approach at practice all week,” senior center Matt Armstrong said about the team’s success against Northern Michigan. “We worked on little things, technique things. When we got to the game, we were ready for everything they threw at us and the running backs did their job as well.”
The Lakers will have another opportunity to score a big day on the ground. Northwood sports one of the GLIAC’s worst run defenses, which allows 216 rushing yards per contest to its opponents.
Who will lead the GVSU offense against Northwood still remains in question.
After not throwing all of last week, junior quarterback Heath Parling (shoulder) threw on Tuesday, and Mitchell said they would evaluate his progress to make sure he didn’t have any setbacks before the team made a decision about Saturday’s starter.
If Parling isn’t able to go, it will be junior Isiah Grimes who will get the call.
“I think we all feel pretty comfortable with either guy in there,” junior running back Michael Ratay said. “We know that they’ll be able to do the job just as well if Heath’s in or Isiah’s in. It doesn’t really (matter) too much to us. We have confidence in both guys.”
As with every other game, the key for the GVSU defense will be its ability to stop the run. For Northwood, that starts with trying to contain Michigan State University transfer running back Glenn Winston, who averages 95.3 yards a game – eighth best in the GLIAC.
“Offensively, Glenn Winston has been running very physical and very hard,” Mitchell said. “If you look at Northwood, there’s been a change in their philosophy as the season’s gone on. At the beginning of the year, they were just throwing the ball, trying to go up-tempo. They’re slowing the game down and running the ball more, so we have to stop the run.”
Each of the season’s four remaining games is vital if GVSU wants to avoid missing the playoffs for its third consecutive season.
The late-season playoff push starts Saturday with Northwood.
“If we execute, and do what we need to do, we have enough talent on this football team to win this game and any other game on our schedule,” Mitchell said.