Nov. 22, 2008

Courtesy of Grand Valley State Athletics

No. 1-Ranked Grand Valley State jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and never looked back en route to a 40-7 NCAA DII Super Region Three semifinal win over Ashland Saturday at Lubbers Stadium. Grand Valley State (11-0) will now host #6 Minnesota-Duluth Saturday, Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. in the Super Region Three title game.

The Laker defense, which yielded 42 points in the first meeting with Ashland, forced a three and out (-7 yards) on the Eagles' first possession. Sophomore running back James Berezik rushed for 17, 9, 10 and 34-yards for a TD on four carries the Lakers' first possession. PK Todd Carter added the PAT for a 7-0 GVSU lead. Ashland's second drive was three plays for -2 yards before a punt. Berezik toted the ball two times for 33 yards, including a 26-yard run for a TD and GVSU led 14-0. Ashland managed just 29 yards on its first five possessions. Following two punts, GVSU scored on five straight possessions. The Lakers drove 47 yards in eight plays as junior QB Brad Iciek hit Jonn Mathews with a 4-yard TD reception to up the Laker lead to 21-0. Ashland moved inside the Laker 20 yard on its next possession and had the ball first-and-10 on the GVSU 15 yard line. However, the Laker defense forced an incompletion on first down then junior QB Billy Cundiff was sacked three straight times for a negative nine yards. GVSU drove the ball 65 yards in 14 plays as Carter kicked a 27-yard field goal to up the Laker lead to 24-0 at the half.

The Lakers took the second half kickoff and went on a 20-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 11:24 off the clock. Carter kicked his second 27-yard field goal of the day and GVSU had a 27-0 lead with just 3:36 left in the third quarter. The Lakers possessed the ball for a combined 34 plays and 16:49 on its final drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half. Ashland scored its only points in the game with an 8-yard TD pass from Cundiff to Christian Livingston on the first play of the fourth quarter. GVSU added two more rushing TDs, the first a Berezik 62-yard TD run and the second a 52-yard TD run by junior Blake Smolen.

Berezik set a GVSU playoff record with 207 rushing yards and three TDs on 19 carries. The previous record was 200 yards by Smolen one year earlier versus Central Washington. Smolen added 83 yards and a TD on 12 carries. GVSU rushed for 292 yards and four TDs on 41 carries as a team. Iciek completed 10-of-19 passes for 102 yards and a TD, while TE Jonn Mathews caught three passes for 38 yards and a score. Junior punter Justin Trumble averaged 43.0 yards on three punts and P.T. Gates returned one punt 28 yards and two kickoffs 41 yards.

The Laker defense limited Ashland, which came into the game averaging 457.0 yards per contest, to a season-low 258 yards and seven points. Grand Valley State recorded eight QB sacks (-35) and nine tackles for loss (-42). Freshman LB Brad Howard and sophomore LB Justin Victor each recorded seven tackles, while LB Gary Anderson, DL Danny Richard and Alex Gilde each recorded 1.5 QB sacks. DL Dan Skuta forced a fumble and Richard added the recovery.