Twice in three years, and it might as well be a three-year run for Hillsdale as the Lakers got outplayed in last year’s matchup as well. Once again the Muddy Waters Stadium crowd got to witness a thrilling last-second upset of the #3 ranked Lakers. For the second time in three years the Hillsdale students stormed the field. It’s not a sight one can really get used to, especially with the way the game was lost. You could not nail it down to one thing. Much like in the loss to Augustana last season, everything seemed to go wrong at all the wrong times.
Speaking of that fateful playoff game last season, this makes two losses for the Lakers in their last three games overall, something not seen since the back-to-back losses to Saginaw and Northwood in 2004.
For second-year coach Matt Mitchell, the pressure has got to be ringing off the hook. After Saturday night’s defeat he discribed the loss as a “complete lack of execution” by coaches and players on all sides of the ball. Every positive turned in by the Lakers squad was met with an equal or greater setback. The momentum ever so close, but hopelessly out of reach. When one looks at the statistics from Saturday night, you can’t help but wonder “Do they have our number now?” That question goes back to the complaints from some of the alleged “un-creative” and “highly-predictable” offensive play-calling of Chuck Martin.
Speaking of those stats, let’s have a look at some standouts.
First Downs: HC-23/GV-14
Total Offensive Yards: HC-462/GV-338
Turnovers Forced: HC-3/GV-1
Third Down Conversions: HC-6-16/GV-3-11
Fourth Down Conversion: HC-3 of 4/GV-0 of 1
Now for the last one, remember what we mentioned last week about time of posession? Well Hillsdale did it again, holding the ball for almost 35 minutes while the Lakers had the rock only 25 minutes. This is all emphasized by a disasterously lost 2nd quarter where the Chargers held the ball for 12:13! Furthermore, while GV started the game with the ball and scored first, the Chargers answered right back in under four minutes. From there the first-half was off and running, where the Lakers would put themselves in a 21-7 hole at one point.
Now in the past two days many have argued and have felt GVSU got unfairly screwed at the end of the game on a roughing the kicker call, giving Hillsdale a second shot at kicking the game-winning FG. All emotions aside, if you’re the #3 ranked team in the country you should not have put yourself in the position to be relying on blocking a last-second field-goal attempt to simply go into overtime. It’s very hard to allow the opponent to score 31 points and expect to win that ball game at the end, especially spotting them a 21-7 lead in the first half.
Now the MLive beat-writer for the Lakers (Michael Zuidema) has come out with a peice that states what many of us are thinking in the back of our minds. The game was worrisome, and on so many levels it makes you want to look at the remainder of the season with question. Michael has done a great job in following the program and giving insight to the players and staff goings-on in my eyes. I think he’s very right to see this as a cautionary possible pivitol point. Link to the article
As I mentioned to start the article, the pressure of Mitchell and crew escalates again. Many see GVSU success as all-or-nothing. The coaching staff know this, so do the players. I’ve been quoted as saying early and often that as a fan-base we’ve become extremely spoiled. A win by 15-20 points is “not good enough”. An 11-2 first season as head coach was to some voices I heard last winter a “fireable offense”. Some voices scream of it as a “nepotistic experiment failure” in less than two full seasons. Other voices proclaim with gloom (and glee in some cases) “The reign is over! GV is no more!” These are the extremes I’ve heard out in D2 fan-land, but they lend an insight into what some are thinking. Are any true? There is the chance, as in any situation. What is far more likely is for the program to continue it’s winning ways, even if that means 9-2/10-1 seasons with no national title in the next couple of years. Success builds on success, and the athletic staff at Grand Valley don’t allow their programs to stay “down” (if you can even use that word here) for long.
However now it’s playoff time in Allendale, we have to win-out. The GLIAC is stacked, and with Augustana, UMD and St. Cloud State in our region two losses won’t get you a sniff of a playoff birth. Homefield advantage is gone. Just win baby. The cliches are endless. The season just got a lot more interesting, and stressful.