No. 9 GVSU falls to No. 5 Ashland
Lakers lose 45-31 behind struggles across all phases
On the first play of the second quarter, the Grand Valley State offense had the ball on second down on the Ashland 1-yard line.
Ashland (9-0, 9-0 GLIAC) stuffed two Kirk Spencer rushes. Bart Williams sailed a pass wide of his intended target.
Ashland took over on downs, and, six plays later, found the end zone as Adam Shaheen pulled in a 7-yard touchdown catch to put the Eagles up 14-3. The point swing was too much for GVSU to overcome, as the Lakers suffered their second loss of the season.
"I'm watching what's happening on the field and I knew we were going to need touchdowns," said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell on the decision to go for it on fourth down. "I kicked the field goal to get the 3-0 lead (in the first quarter). After that, I knew we were going to have to be extremely offensive."
The GVSU defense had no answer for the high-powered Ashland offense, as the Lakers fell 45-31 in Ashland, Ohio on Saturday night.
No. 5 Ashland ran, passed and tore through the GVSU defense en route to 534 total yards. The No. 9 Lakers forced just one Ashland punt, and were unable to force a turnover for the first time this season.
"We didn’t get any turnovers and gave up way too many explosive plays," said Mitchell. "They didn’t hurt us a ton in the run game and it was all Tarnowski through the air to a number of different receivers."
GVSU’s secondary, which had shown steady improvement game-to-game this season, was shredded by Ashland quarterback Travis Tarnowski. Tarnowski finished 30-of-44 for 333 yards and four touchdowns.
The Lakers were plagued by an inability to tackle on first contact and hit Ashland ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage.
"There were opportunities to make plays and get guys down," Mitchell said. "We didn't cover well enough."
For the second consecutive game, GVSU (7-2, 6-2 GLIAC) was without standout receiver Brandon Bean, who left the contest against Michigan Tech with an ankle injury on Oct. 17.
The Lakers relied on the depth of their receiving corps to pick up the slack left by Bean’s absence, as six different Lakers made catches Saturday night.
"They're all just going out, flying around, making plays. They're excited when the ball is in the air," said quarterback Bart Williams. "Everybody is excited when we’re throwing the ball around the yard."
The Lakers drew first blood as Joel Schipper blasted a 40-yard field goal to set GVSU ahead 3-0.
Ashland struck back on the next drive, as tailback Vance Settlemire scored his first of four touchdowns on a 1-yard leap over the goal line. Shaheen’s 7-yard touchdown catch sent the Eagles ahead 14-3 early in the second quarter.
GVSU kept the game close, as Matt Williams pulled in a 40-yard touchdown catch after an Ashland defensive back slipped on the coverage.
As was the problem all night, however, the Laker defense couldn’t hold. Settlemire scored on a 15-yard touchdown to put Ashland up 21-10. GVSU thundered right back, as freshman Nick Dodson pulled in a one-on-one reception and raced 61 yards to pay dirt.
The Laker defense bent, but held to end the quarter, as Ashland’s Aidan Simenc hit a 26-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 24-17 at the half.
GVSU was never able to pull within fewer than seven points again. Settlemire scored on a 6-yard reception and a 46-yard touchdown, and Shaheen rolled into the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown catch in the second half.
Matt Williams scored on touchdown catches of 20 and 19 yards to keep the Lakers within striking distance, but an inability to force a punt or turnover flattened GVSU’s chances.
Bart Williams completed 21-of-41 passes for 387 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Williams’ lone pick came late in the game in Ashland territory with GVSU down by 14.
Spencer carried the ball 12 times for 52 yards, but was unable to break off any long runs or find the end zone.
Matt Williams had five catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns, as Dodson and Jamie Potts each added six catches for 111 yards.
Settlemire racked up 147 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 22 carries, to go with six catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
"You just take it one day at a time," Bart Williams said. "You have a good film session tomorrow. Everyone has to be honest with themselves. We just have to take it and try to get better."
The Lakers return to action on Nov. 7 at 1:30 at Tiffin University (5-4, 4-4 GLIAC).