Judon sets school, national sack records for GVSU

Senior defensive end has recorded 34.5 career, 20.5 season sacks

By Adam Knorr | 11/22/15 11:35pm

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GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Matt Judon (9) celebrates a career high season, having broken Grand Valley's all-time record for sacks. Grand Valley defeats Ashland with a final score of 45-28 Nov. 22 at Ashland University.

by Kevin Sielaff / Grand Valley Lanthorn

In a white jersey, No. 9 crouches, places three fingers on the turf and stares across the line of scrimmage.

At the snap, he pounces, battling an opposing offensive lineman. He sheds the lineman and clears up a free path to the quarterback. Usually, the quarterback ends up with his face in the turf.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Matt Judon (9) gathers his seond sack of the game. Grand Valley defeats Ashland with a final score of 45-28 Nov. 22 at Ashland University.

No. 9 is Matt Judon, and, as of Saturday afternoon against Ashland in GVSU’s 45-28 win, no one wearing a Grand Valley State jersey, or a Division II football jersey, has sacked the quarterback more.

In the second quarter, Ashland had the ball deep in its own territory on third down. Judon got around the end and swallowed up Eagle quarterback Travis Tarnowski, marking career sack No. 33.5 for the senior. The sack sent him into first place on the GVSU all-time career sack list, surpassing now-Jacksonville Jaguar Dan Skuta, who graduated in 2008. Judon ended the day with 34.5 sacks.

“That’s great for him,” Skuta said. “It’s great that the program has kids that have the talent to do that going forward. I’m happy for him.

“I always heard about him, he’s a really special talent. I figured my record wasn’t going to last long with him running wild out there.”

But setting school records wasn’t enough for Judon. In the fourth quarter, he broke the NCAA Division II individual single-season sack record with 20.5 after recording his second solo sack of the game.

In postgame comments, Judon was adamant that the records didn’t cross his mind during the game. After, he was able to appreciate his accomplishments a little more, but still brushed praise toward the rest of the defensive unit.

“After the game (I was able to reflect) and the players gave me a little bit of (crap) for it,” Judon said. “But I can’t be selfish like that. I’m not the only person out here on the field and I definitely understand that. Dev (McKissic), Quez (Gollman), they were all out there getting picks and I can’t get picks so I (have) to get out there and get the quarterback.”

Judon’s first season with the Lakers was in 2010, when he was redshirted coming out of West Bloomfield High School. Over his first two seasons at GVSU, Judon tallied 5.5 quarterback sacks in limited time, as he missed the final four games of his sophomore season with an injury.

Back to full health for the 2013 season-opener against Azusa Pacific, Judon was ready to expand upon the promise he showed prior to his injury the season before.

But it wasn’t to be. Judon tore his ACL and medial meniscus on the seventh play of the game, ending his season.

In 2014, Matt Judon became Matt Judon. He racked up 72 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 8.5 quarterback sacks, eventually earning him GLIAC Defensive Lineman of the Year.

What has come this season, however, few were ready for. To date, Judon has filled the stat sheet with 20.5 sacks on the season, demanding double-teams and jersey-grabs from offensive linemen hoping to slow down the 2015 GLIAC Defensive Lineman of the Year. Often, Judon bursts off the line and simply speeds past the offensive linemen around the edge. Other times, Judon stunts and attacks up the middle, drawing a mass of attention from the offensive line.

Skuta, who dominated at GVSU along the defensive line and as a linebacker, was able to offer some perspective on the difficulty of Judon’s feat.

“It’s hard, especially in today’s college game, with the way they throw the ball quick,” Skuta said. “It just shows the tenacity that he has with being able to play with that kind of effort to be able to get to the quarterback that often.”

After his sack of Tarnowski to set the GVSU record, Judon paused and yelled, then crouched and flexed both arms in celebration.

“I’m a very emotional player and I try to not get too high or too low but that was just a pivotal moment in the game,” Judon said.

Judon and the Lakers are focused on taking this playoff ride game-by-game, and all season Judon has deflected questions regarding his potential for the NFL. GVSU will take on rival Ferris State in the next round of the playoffs, and the Lakers will have to deal with slowing down Bulldog quarterback Jason Vander Laan.

On Saturday, look out for No. 9.

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