Nov. 21, 2009

 

Courtesy of Grand Valley State

Allendale, Mich. - It took Grand Valley State less than one half of football to punch its ticket to the NCAA Super Region 3 Championship game for the ninth straight year Saturday afternoon. The Lakers built a 37-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 44-27 victory over Hillsdale College in NCAA DII Playoff action before a GVSU playoff record crowd of 8,229 at Lubbers Stadium. Grand Valley State will now play at Minnesota-Duluth next Saturday (Nov. 28) at a time to be determined. Hillsdale closed out the 2009 campaign with a 10-3 record, while Grand Valley State (11-1) advances to the NCAA DII Super Region 3 title game for the ninth straight year.

GVSU took the opening kickoff and scored on its first offensive possession of the game for the 10th time this season. Senior RB P.T. Gates finished the 5-play, 75-yard drive with a 52-yard scoring run and senior PK Justin Trumble added the PAT for a 7-0 GVSU lead. Hillsdale drove inside the Laker redzone on its opening drive, but junior DT Nick Lawrence blocked Mark Petro's 32-yard field goal attempt. GVSU drove 76 yards in 13 plays and Trumble kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Lakers a 10-0 lead. After trading punts the Laker offense struck quickly again. Senior QB Brad Iciek hit WR Blake Smolen with a 44 yard pass and junior RB James Berezik finished the drive with a 9-yard run and a 10-yard scoring scamper. GVSU led 16-0 after the PAT was blocked.

"We were able to jump on them early and our defense did a great job of making plays and giving the ball back to our offense," said GVSU head coach Chuck Martin.

Enrique Shaw picked off a Troy Weatherhead pass and returned it 32 yards to the Hillsdale 31 yard line. Berezik rushed for five yards, followed by 7-yard carry by Smolen. Iciek hit Berezik with a 3-yard pass completion and a 15-yard personal foul on the Chargers put the ball on the Hillsdale eight yard line. Iciek hit junior WR Ryan Bass with an 8-yard scoring pass to give the Lakers a 23-0 lead with 8:30 left in the second quarter. Junior DT Danny Richard tallied the Lakers' second block of the day when he blocked Petro's 44-yard field goal attempt midway through the second quarter. GVSU wasted little time as Iciek hit sophomore WR Greg Gay with a 39-yard completion to the Hillsdale 34 yard line. Berezik lost four yards and Smolen gained nine yards to put the Lakers in a third-and-five situation. Iciek found Gay again, this time behind the Charger DB's to complete a 29-yard TD pass. Trumble's PAT gave GVSU a 30-0 lead.

Hillsdale's Nick Hixson was drilled by freshman LB Ricky Shorkey on the ensuing kickoff and senior LB Jordan Munson fell on the fumble to set up the Laker offense one more time. Iciek hit Smolen for 16 yards and Smolen then carried the ball for 11 yards to the Hillsdale nine. Smolen became just the fifth player in NCAA football history to rush for over 2,000 yards and have over 2,000 receiving yards on the carry. Iciek then hit Bass with a 9-yard TD pass with :42 ticks left in the first half to give GVSU a 37-0 halftime lead. The Lakers scored 27 second quarter points and rolled up 356 first half yards (164 rushing/168 passing). Hillsdale managed just 143 yards of total offense in the first half, including just 20 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

"We were able to get stops defensively and force turnovers in the first half, then we turned those turnovers and blocked kicks into points," said Martin.

The GVSU starting offense did not play in the second half and the Laker defense played just one series. Hillsdale scored on its opening possession in the second half to cut the Laker lead to 37-6. Petro then had his third kick of the game blocked. GVSU drove 51 yards in six plays, all on the ground, to up its lead to 44-6. Junior RB Justin Sherrod toted the ball for 42 yards on four carries, while junior QB Marquel Neasman rushed for nine yards, including the final three yards for a TD at the 4:12 mark of the third quarter. The Hillsdale starting offense proved to be too much for the GVSU second and third team defense to handle, scoring the final 21 points of the game. Hillsdale's second offensive unit never set foot on the field and the Charger second defense played the final 14 seconds when GVSU took a knee to end the game.

Sherrod led the GVSU round game with 82 yards on 10 carries, while Berezik added 69 yards and a TD on 10 carries and Gates 68 yards and a TD on four carries. Smolen chipped in 27 yards on three rushes. Iciek completed 11-of-17 passes for 192 yards and three TDs. Smolen led the receiving untit with 76 yards on four catches, while Bass hauled in three receptions for 35 yards and two TDs. Gay caught two passes for 68 yards and a TD.

Junior LB Justin Victor led the defense with eight total tackles, while freshman CB Chris Crawford added seven stops. Senior LB Gary Anderson chipped in seven stops, while senior safety Jake McGuckin added six tackles and three pass break ups.

Notes...GVSU junior RB James Berezik became GVSU's all-time leading rusher on his second carry of the game. Berezik entered the game with 3,508 rushing yards and with his 69 rushing yards he now has 3,577 yards, surpassing Michael Tennessee's 3,515 yards...Berezik also moved into third all-time with 4,789 all-purpose yards and his 1,153 rushing yards is the seventh-best single-season total...Senior WR Blake Smolen became just the fifth player in college football history to go over the 2,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving. Smolen has 2,000 rushing yards, 2,097 receiving yards and 1,277 kickoff return yards...Iciek moved into a tie for 19th in DII history with 92 career TD passes and his 2,561 passing yards is the seventh-best single-season total, while his 29 passing TD is the sixth-best total for a season...GVSU improved to 25-4 in its last 29 playoff games since 2001.