Three point stance: GV regular season finale preview vs Wayne State
GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Aaron Cox (51) prepares to hike the football. Grand Valley defeats Tiffin with a final score of 45-7 on Thursday, September 1, 2016 at Lubbers Stadium.
There’s no coming down from Grand Valley State’s 62-56 double overtime thriller over Saginaw Valley State this past Saturday, Nov. 5.
The newly minted GLIAC champion Lakers (10-0) will have to, though, as they close out the regular season on the road against the Wayne State Warriors (7-3) this Saturday, Nov. 12 with a noon kickoff.
The Lakers, despite already claiming the GLIAC championship, still have something to play for Saturday. A win guarantees the Lakers keep the top seed of the Super Region Four. GVSU is the only undefeated tea left in their region, and a win would cement them into the No. 1 spot.
This means the Lakers would receive a first round bye the week of Nov. 19, which would be crucial for a team dealing with a rash of late-season injuries. Not only that, the Lakers could almost guarantee themselves home field advantage in their first playoff game.
GVSU coach Matt Mitchell is proud of his team up to this point, but there’s nothing to celebrate just yet. The team’s record reset to 0-0 at the beginning of the week, and the Lakers have a chance to improve to 1-0 against the Warriors. As always when you finish a 62-56 game, there are things clean up.
“I’m proud of our group of people,” Mitchell said. "They captured the outright GLIAC championship. There were some frustrations at times with the way that we played (against SVSU). The thing that was most evident in the locker room after the game was the culture that we have and the type of people that we have.
“We can get back to work and get better at some of the stuff we need to get better at.”
One: Carter vs Brown
The top two rushers in the GLIAC will be going head-to-head this Saturday.
The Warriors’ Romello Brown leads the GLIAC with 1,441 yards on a 7.7 yard-per-carry average and 15 touchdowns. Right behind Brown is GVSU’s Martayveus Carter at 1425 yards on a 7.7 yard-per-carry average with 17 touchdowns. The pair are the No. 2 and No. 3 leading rushers nationally.
The two teams could be set for a game that features a lot of running plays. The Warriors rank only 10th in the GLIAC in passing, and the Laker offense will be without half of its wide receiving corps with both senior Matt Williams and junior Brandon Bean both expected to miss the game with injuries.
The Warriors will look to control the tempo against the high-powered Laker offense and keep the scoring within reach.
The Warriors are counting on Brown to have a big game in what will likely be their last game of the season.
“They’re a ball-control offense,” Mitchell said. “Romello is a big back, he’s powerful, he’s very physical. They want to try and stay on schedule. If there’s one thing they want to try and avoid it’s third downs, specifically third-and-longs.”
The Warriors have lost their last two games, but are undefeated at home (5-0). If the Warriors are able to open up holes against the Lakers’ third-ranked run-defense in the conference and avoid third down situations—they convert only 37 percent on the season—GVSU could be in trouble.
Carter is coming off his third 200-yard game this season against SVSU, a performance that earned him GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week honors this week Monday, Nov. 7. Ultimately, Carter and the Laker defense should be able to outlast an imbalanced Warriors team, and clinch their first undefeated season since 2008.
Prediction: GVSU 28, Wayne State 17.
Two: Offensive line no longer a weakness
Against SVSU, GVSU’s offense ended the game on 27 consecutive run plays, as Carter and senior running back Terrell Dorsey pounded their way to victory.
Much of that credit, though, belongs to the five brutes on the O-line. The linemen consistently dominated the Cardinals’ defensive front, and the game was maybe the highlight of the season for the unit.
“I kept telling our guys, ‘we’re getting our second wind,’” said senior center Aaron Cox. “Usually you get your second wind at halftime, we got our second wind when it started coming down to us, we had to make some plays.”
Considered a point of weakness in the preseason, the line has come on strong for the Lakers. The line lost key contributors Brandon Revenberg and Jim Walsh from last season, and struggled early. Now, they’re proving they can keep playing consistently through the latter stages of the season.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys for stepping up,” Cox said. “I think we answered a lot of questions on whether or not if, ‘are we the weak point?’ We’re getting to the point of we need to be in the season.”
Three: Playing for each other
A big theme for the Lakers this season has been playing for each other. That was prevalent again this week, as the Lakers traveled to a funeral for receiver Urston Smith’s mother on Friday, and then played the game against SVSU the next day.
Smith had missed the previous week of practice against and missed the game against Findlay Saturday, Oct. 29. Despite this, Smith went out against the Cardinals and caught eight passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Mitchell said everyone on the team has each other’s back no matter the circumstance, no matter the point in the season.
“We took time out of our day to head down to Indiana and get that done,” Mitchell said. “That was emotional for him, and that was emotional for a lot of the players and coaches that were on that trip. We had a lot adversity (that weekend).
“We had adversity with a death within our family, we had adversity with key injuries Saturday, a lot of things were working against us, but we kept hanging in there.”