Preview: GVSU football opens season against Indianapolis
After a disappointing playoff loss to longtime rival Ferris State last season, to say it was a long offseason for the Grand Valley State football team would be an understatement.
But for the No. 2 ranked team in Division II football, the wait to turn a fresh page on the gridiron is just about over.
The Lakers are set to open their season on the road against non-conference opponent University of Indianapolis Greyhounds Thursday, Aug. 31, in Indianapolis.
Nobody on GVSU’s current roster has faced the Greyhounds before, which is something head coach Matt Mitchell is excited for his team to experience.
“It’s fun,” Mitchell said. “I think competition against teams you haven’t played is always invigorating for both coaches and players.”
The two teams have not met since the 2011 regular season when the Greyhounds edged out the Lakers 34-33, their first win over GVSU since 1999.
With the Greyhounds returning numerous starters from last season under the guidance of a brand new offensive coordinator, the retooled Laker defense figures to have its work cut out for them.
“We have their 2016 tape, but we have no idea what they’re going to run,” Mitchell said. “In order for us to win, we have to be adaptable. They do a good job of making you earn it because they’re going to be sound and over the top.”
That being said, linebacker Collin Schlosser feels that despite the changes and uncertainty, the GVSU defense has set a game plan that’ll be ready for the unfamiliar Indianapolis offense.
“Being a first game, it’s challenging going into a new season because teams are going to change things up,” Schlosser said. “We don’t know what to expect, but based on the film and on their scheme, whatever they do, they’re going to do it well. They’re going to be in the right position at the right time, and we can count on that from them.
They seem to like heavier-set personnel, at least from last year with tight ends and whatnot. We’ll probably see a fair amount of that.”
Additionally, all of the new looks in the Laker defense can feasibly throw a similar wrench into the Greyhounds offense, as the Lakers graduated multiple key members of the defense last season.
“The film that they watched last year, there’s a lot of guys that they didn’t see on last year’s film that they’ll see on Thursday,” Schlosser said. “They’re probably feeling the same anxiety that we’re feeling right now.”
While UIndy may trot out a capable offense, few schools in all of Division II are returning the amount of weapons and production that the Laker offense enters games loaded with. Laker veterans such as quarterback Bart Williams, running back Marty Carter, wide receiver Brandon Bean and tight end Nick Keizer plan to leave their mark on the matchup in one way or another.
Despite not having tested their firepower against anyone but their own defense in offseason practice, GVSU is eager to see exactly how much they are capable of.
“You can’t get a completely accurate representation against your own defense, so I think it’s just exciting to see what we’re putting into it,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of preparation, and it sounds exciting to get that first one to take that hard work and training and put it into a game.”
The Laker offense may be in for a bit more than they bargained for in this opening game, as the team has yet to have solid options within the special teams unit emerge to take over the starting kicker job left vacant by the newly graduated Joel Schipper. With that kind of doubt plaguing a chunk of the team, it could be up to Williams and the rest of the offensive unit to pick up the slack.
“I’m not really sure how coach Mitch is feeling about it, but if he calls on us to get a first down (on fourth down), we’re going to try to stay out there as many downs as we can,” Williams said. “We have guys mature enough to go out there and not throw out blame. Any time the offense is out there, we expect to succeed.”
The season will officially begin once the two teams kick off at 7 p.m. from Key Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will also be available for streaming on ESPN3, or fans can pile into Lubbers Stadium on the Allendale Campus for a free watch party sponsored by GVSU Athletics.