Three point stance: GV versus Truman State preview

By Beau Troutman | 10/12/16 11:03pm

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GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Sydney Omameh (3) celebrates a Grand Valley fumble recovery. The Lakers defeat the Bulldogs of Ferris State University Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 with a final score of 35-23 in Allendale.

by Kevin Sielaff / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Two numbers are still fresh in the minds of Grand Valley State football players and coaches: 35-23. That’s the score of the Lakers’ win over rival Ferris State this past Saturday, Oct. 8.

The Lakers' challenge this week will be coming down from the first regular season win over Ferris State since 2011, and set their sights on the unranked Truman State Bulldogs (5-1, 4-0 GLVC) on homecoming Saturday, Oct. 15.

“We can’t have that hangover a week after we broke the attendance record (16,889), high-emotion game,” said GVSU quarterback Bart Williams. “We’ve got to come up and have the same intensity this Saturday.”

One: Scouting the Bulldogs

The Bulldogs are the Lakers’ only nonconference opponent scheduled for the regular season. This is because the Lakers were originally scheduled to play Malone, who parted from the GLIAC and left a void on the Lakers’ schedule.

The Bulldogs, though unranked in the AFCA Coaches’ poll, are coming off of a 26-16 win over No. 20 ranked Southwest Baptist. Their opponents’ combined record is 17-18, and four out of their six opponents have three or more losses.

The Bulldogs have allowed more offensive yardage (2082) than they have gained this season (2050) while averaging 343 yards per game, good for seventh in the GLVC. Defensively, the Bulldogs are sixth in the GLVC in yards allowed per game (369) but first in points allowed per game (18.9).

By comparison, the Lakers have gained nearly 1,000 yards more than the Bulldogs (2961) in as many games and lead the GLIAC in points-per-game (41.2).

The Bulldogs struggle to consistently run the ball. Starting true freshman running back Jordan Salima only averages 74.7 yards-per-game on 3.8 yards-per-carry. The Bulldogs are a pass-heavy team, relying on redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Barr often—which has worked thus far.

Like GVSU’s quartet of Brandon Bean, Matt Williams, Urston Smith and Nick Dodson, the Bulldogs boast four receivers who get a significant amount of playing time. Joey Schenk (25 catches, 253 yards and five touchdowns), Drew Slager (21 catches, 413 yards), Kyle Spratt (107 yards, two touchdowns) and Salima ( 17 catches, 121 yards) all figure to get touches on Saturday.

On defense, the Bulldogs’ Sam Reeves (5.5 sacks) and Isiah Hinton (five sacks) form a formidable pass-rushing tandem—similar to the Lakers’ Sydney Omameh (six sacks) and Alton Voss (four sacks).

Two: Going off script

The Laker defense endured a trial by fire against Ferris State quarterback Reggie Bell. Bell gashed the Lakers for 19-of-39 passing, 343 yards and two touchdowns, along with 178 yards rushing.

Though the Lakers may never face another quarterback this season with the athletic ability of Bell, they are going up against another quarterback in the 5'11" Barr who makes his living outside the pocket.

Barr’s athleticism is nowhere near that of Bell, but the Lakers learned a valuable lesson this past Saturday on defending dynamic quarterbacks.

“We try to prepare our kids for that, but it’s really tough to emulate (Bell) moving around,” coach Matt Mitchell said. “The improvisation of Reggie Bell puts a lot of pressure on your defense, a lot of pressure. There’s still lessons to be learned about plays that go off-script.”

Barr leads the Bulldogs with 1,038 yards, 11 touchdowns, a 64.4 percent completion percentage and just two interceptions. On the ground, Barr has 158 yards and four touchdowns.

Three: Tough week

Bart Williams and the Laker passing offense had their worst outing of the season against Ferris State.

Williams finished 14-for-24 for 200-yards, one touchdown and five sacks. It was the third time this season Williams was sacked three times or more in a game.

The Laker offensive line is facing another challenge this week in the Truman State defensive front, after going up against one of the best defensive fronts in the GLIAC.

“(Ferris') defensive line is pretty static,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge here with Truman State because this is a little bit more athletic defensive line. There’s a lot of chaotic activity at the line of scrimmage.”

Despite their struggles last week, the passing game came through when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. On the Lakers’ final touchdown drive that ended in a 39-yard game winner to Dodson, Williams was four-for-four for 87 yards and the score.

The receivers are confident that no matter how a game is going, anyone in the unit can make plays at any given moment.

“With the confidence in the wide outs, it’s easy to throw to these guys,” Williams said. “they’re so versatile, every one of them. Dodson, he’s mainly been an underneath guy and then he ends up catching a long touchdown. They’re doing a good job competing every snap."

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. due to homecoming festivities. The game will be live streamed on ESPN3 at www.espn.com/watchespn.

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