Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Wednesday, October 07, 2009 It's Homecoming. It's Grand Valley. What else needs to be said?

Oct. 7, 2009 - It is going to be a perfect storm of football madness Saturday afternoon at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium.

The Hillsdale College football team, off to a 4-2 start this season, will host No. 1 and undefeated Grand Valley State University for its annual Homecoming game at 2:30 p.m.

Homecoming games always carry a special edge to them at Hillsdale, with the alumni choir, the hundreds of alumns who come back to campus, and the perfect fall-weather atmosphere surrounding the game. But this year's event carries extra layers of drama, with the Lakers being the opponent and that this game is Grand Valley State's first visit to Hillsdale in more than four years.

The Chargers are on the march towards their third straight winning season, something that hasn't happened since 1994-96, the final three seasons under former head coach Dick Lowry. Standing in their way this week is the standard-bearer for excellence in Division II football this decade.

Pick a won-loss statistic, and it's obvious the Lakers have enjoyed staggering success against all teams in all locations since 2000. Grand Valley State has won four national championships since 2002 and have lost a total of 40 games since 1991. GVSU is 52-3 in its last 55 games away from its home in Allendale.

The Lakers are on a 45-game winning streak in conference games, and haven't lost to a GLIAC opponent since late in the 2004 season, before any current player suited up for either roster in this game.

This season, Grand Valley State is second in the conference in points per game and second in points allowed. The team has a plus-18 sack differential, showing its strength on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Those are the obstacles that stand in the path of a determined Chargers team, who is looking to avoid its first two-game losing streak since Sept. 9-16, 2006.

Hillsdale averaged well over 30 points per game in getting off to a 4-1 start to this season. The last win was of greatest significance, as the Chargers defeated then-number 15 ranked Ashland University, 38-19, on the road Sept. 26.

But last week, Hillsdale's bid for its first 5-1 start since 1999 was derailed by the University of Findlay, who beat the Chargers 42-17. In that game, Hillsdale held leads of 14-0 and 17-14 (halftime) before surrendering 28 unanswered points to a much-improved Oilers team.

Hillsdale has lost 10 in a row to Grand Valley State, the longest losing streak it carries versus any GLIAC foe. The Chargers' last win over the Lakers came on Oct. 15, 1994, in a 33-20 victory. Hillsdale had won nine of 15 meetings between the schools between 1980 and 1994, but since then, the Lakers have dominated the series.

A matchup to watch in Saturday's game figures to be Hillsdale College's offensive line and running attack against Grand Valley State's top-ranked rush defense. The Lakers lead the GLIAC in allowing just 78 rushing yards per game, 14 per game less than any other team in the conference.

Facing that defense will be Hillsdale's big and talented offensive line, led by All-American candidate Jared Veldheer, the team's starting left tackle. He and his linemates have helped lead senior RB Vinnie Panizzi to four straight 100-yard rushing games.

Panizzi had back-to-back career-high rushing yard games on Sept. 19 and Sept. 26, gaining 188 and 231 yards against Indianapolis and Ashland, respectively. He was named the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 28, and needs just five yards to become the third running back in school history with more than 3,000 career rushing yards. He is currently second in the GLIAC and seventh nationally in average rushing yards per game.

Hillsdale's defense will face a big test from a Laker offense that has speed all over the field. GVSU quarterback Brad Iciek is a two-time finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division II version of the Heisman, and this season, has 17 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

James Berezik and Blake Smolen are two game-breaking type of players who are a threat to score anytime they touch the ball. The Lakers are coming into the game fresh off a 47-21 pasting of Tiffin University.

This game comes in the middle of an intense gauntlet of opponents for the Chargers. Starting with last week's game at Findlay, Hillsdale's four opponents between Oct. 3-24 currently have a combined record of 21-3. Two of those teams (Grand Valley State and Wayne State) are nationally ranked, while two others (Findlay, Northern Michigan) are off to their best starts in many years.

Link to post

No comments:

Search The News and Comment

The Web News and Comment

Blog Archive

Google Analytics