The last time the Lakers were held to less than ten points in a game was in the season opener in 2003 when they beat UC-Davis 9-6 out in California. Many have lamented that Saturday’s loss was the worst they’ve seen from this program in over a decade. Many adjectives can be used to describe the scene, or, lack there of depending on how you look at it. Grand Valley committed seven turnovers in total. It doesn’t matter who you are or what institution’s name you wear on your jersey. If you do that you will almost always get your doors blown off, especially in the playoffs. Here’s another statistic for you to chew on. The Lakers only score came in the 3rd quarter on an 87 yard kickoff return by Chris Crawford. What happened to that extra point? Oh, it was blocked. All that the Laker sidelines could do was shake their heads in disbelief.
When you take a look at some stats from the game, it’s hard to tell a blowout occured. GVSU was 5-11 on 3rd down conversions compared to 6-14 for Augustana. Possession time wasn’t too un-even as GVSU held the ball for 27:35. The Lakers only had twenty fewer total yards than the Vikings (355-335). The Laker defense held the Vikings to only 87 yards through the air, however it wasn’t nearly enough as Augustana’s option-style attack racked up 268 on the ground. GVSU ran 65 total offensive plays, about the same as Augustana who ran 64 and both teams averaged over 5 yards per play. Both squads also recorded 19 first downs in the game.
Here’s where we start to see separation in the numbers and story starts to unfold. Grand Valley racked up nine penalties for 65 yards in this game to only two penalties for 20 yards for their opponent. When punting, the Vikings managed close to twice the distance per punt, meaning the Lakers made it harder on their own defense to get stops. GVSU had two fumbles, both lost, compared to none for Augustana and the Vikings also got four interceptions from the Lakers for a total of 48 yards including one for a score. The Augie defense killed multiple Laker drives and sliced up morale. Here’s a crazy one, red-zone scoring chances. Augustana went 4-5 in the redzone converting 80%. Your Lakers….well they went 0-3. That’s when they managed to get down their without turning the ball over. When you know how potent this offense was, it’s surprising to see such a small amount of redzone chances without any conversions.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. If you want me to stick my neck out and put my hand in the fire I would have to say it’s intensity. The team I saw Saturday looked flat and lifeless. There is a mind-boggling amount of talent in this program, and some games we can sit back and let that talent simply go out there and do it’s thing and it will all be fine. When we get to the playoffs a team can not rely on that talent alone. Augustana for whatever reason(s) looked far more ready and eager to play than did the Lakers. There was simply a sense of impending doom and inability to stop it while watching that game. I think we were caught napping BIG TIME by a very, very good and prepared opponent.
With that said, let’s move on to expectations. This program didn’t even get it’s first playoff win until 2001. With that said however, the Laker teams that followed continuously set the bar for success higher and higher. It is hard enough to fight through a playoff and get to the title game on it’s own. To do it continuously year after year like Mount Union, Wisconsin-Whitewater or NWMSU takes such sustained desire and intensity and focus that the task becomes mind-boggling. Since 2002 and 2003 the goal for this program every year has been to go to Florence and get a national championship. The GVSU athletic staff do not set small goals and expectations each year are huge on the program. Working under those expectations can be extemely tough. This was a transition year for the Lakers with what was likely be a one-year quarterback in McMahon. Those expectations however should not be lowered, nor should we take our foot off the gas for even a second. Here is the final line on the season:
Reached Second Round of NCAA Playoffs.
There’s a lot to look forward to for next year and Heath Parling looks very good, same for Hersey Jackson. There is also a lot to build on, as Mitchell and the rest of the team will want to erase all memory of this game.
I may be back on here in the coming month spewing any venomous opinions about the BCS I see fit. I also hope to put an update on here about the soccer, volleyball and cross-country team’s performances at nationals. Until then, or until next season thank you for a very memorable season that will not soon be forgotten. We all would have liked this season to have concluded in celebration in the middle of the field at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, AL, but that will have to wait for next year. GO LAKERS!