GVSU Wins 21-14, Ends an Era

On a blustery day in Lubbers Stadium, it appeared as though GVSU was going to run away with this one early. But UND showed why they have been such a successful program, taking advantage of a couple opportunities to make this one a close game down the stretch.

November 24, 2007

The last installment in the Division II GVSU/UND rivalry ended just like it should have.

In a battle over the last 6 years in which no team has ever run away with a final score, this year's game would be no different.

With a stiff wind going from south to north in the stadium, field position became a premium very quickly. It was obvious right from the start that the Lakers were going to try and control the game on the ground so as to not take any chances with the ball in the twirling air.

GVSU marched right down the field in their 3rd drive of the game, going 75 yards in 7 plays, capped off with a Blake Smolen 17-yard touchdown run, to go up 7-0 with about two and a half minutes left in the first quarter. The drive only featured 2 passes, both incomplete, even though GV had the wind at their backs.

Late in the 2nd quarter, Grand Valley made another march, highlighted by a tight-rope act from Blake Smolen down the GV sideline. Iciek rolled to his right and threw it up for Smolen, who kept his toes in-bounds as his body went flying out of bounds for a spectacular 27-yard gain. Six plays later, Iciek found a wide-open Brandon Horn with a floating pass in the middle of the field from 7 yards away to put GV up 14-0 with 2:12 remaining in the first half.

The weather was definitely a factor, as Iciek completed only 5 of 14 passes. On the other side of the offense, GV ran the ball 23 times in the first half.

The second half did not start well for the Sioux either. On their first drive, they saw Danny Richard break through the line on the 4th down punt and get a hand on the ball. Lance Travis recovered the blocked punt and returned it 11 yards to the North Dakota 22-yard line.

On the next play, Brad Iciek lobbed a pass to John Mathews down the middle of the field, and Mathews made an incredible diving catch to push the score to 21-0.

Just as it looked like the rout was on...North Dakota came fighting back just as any knowledgeable Laker fan would expect.

After GV and UND exchanged 3-and-outs, North Dakota took over after a shanked Justin Trumble punt that only netted 12 yards. North Dakota had great field position at the Grand Valley 39-yard line, and on the first play, Jake Landry threw a pass to the right that Jake McGuckin got his hands on...but All-American Weston Dressler caught the deflection and outran the defense to the endzone to finally get the Sioux on the board. Dan Skuta stepped up on the PAT though and blocked it to keep it a 20-6 game.

The ensuing Laker drive started off with 7 straight runs as they drove into the stifling wind. On 3rd and 8, Iciek finally hit Smolen with a 7-yard pass, but the Lakers faced a 4th and 1 on UND's 41-yard line. Chuck Martin opted to go for it, but UND's defense stood tall and dropped Blake Smolen for a 2-yard loss to take possession.

1 minute 22 seconds later, we had a football game on our hands. Landry found Dressler on a drag route in the middle of the field, and Dressler scampered 41 yards down to the Grand Valley 14-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Murray punched it into the endzone to make it a 21-12 game. A personal foul after the play put the ball at the 1-yard line on the PAT, and North Dakota decided to go for two, which they converted to make it a 21-14 game with 1:08 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

After a defensive slugfest to start the 4th, Grand Valley took over with 8:46 remaining in the game. After an incomplete pass to Blake Smolen on 3rd and 9 at the North Dakota 30-yard line, the Lakers faced a 4th down. Even with the wind at their backs and Carter with a big leg, Chuck Martin again opted to go for it on 4th down.

Iciek hit the "older brother" as Chuck Martin calls him, 4-year Air Force Academy veteran Scott Blasko going across the middle of the field for about 6 yards, but then Blasko took 3 Sioux defenders for a ride as he dragged them 4 more yards for the critical Grand Valley 1st down.

It was the play of the game as Chuck Martin said in the post-game press conference, because instead of turning the ball over, the Lakers took to the ground and forced North Dakota to use 2 of their 3 timeouts on the ensuing plays. On 4th and 3 from the North Dakota 13, Grand Valley again went for it. Brad Iciek had John Mathews wide open in the flat, but his pass was tipped at the line to end the threat.

North Dakota took over with 1:59 remaining in the game, but with only 1 timeout instead of 3.

Jake Landry found Jake Caufield on two passes in a row for gains of 7 and 2 yards, and on 3rd down, the Lakers dropped a potential interception but forced the 4th and 1.

Landry took the snap on 4th down and tried rolling to his left, but All-American and Preseason D2 Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Adams had already run him down from behind as he was left unblocked, and sacked the quarterback for a 4 yard loss. GVSU took over on downs and ran the clock out to preserve the 21-14 victory in a hard-fought game.

A couple injuries occurred for the Lakers during the game. Billy Eisenhardt came off the field in the second half but returned with a noticeable limp. Linebacker Matt Beaty walked off with an apparent foot/ankle injury in the first half, and didn't return.

Ryan Chappell, the star running-back for the Sioux, carried the ball 4 times in the 1st quarter including a 12-yard gain, but did not see any action after his last carry.

Grand Valley dominated the stats, running 80 plays (56 run/24 pass) compared to North Dakota's 55 plays. GVSU also racked up 433 offensive yards in the game despite un-ideal conditions. The Laker defense held the Sioux offense to 212 total yards including only 36 rushing yards on 26 attempts.

Blake Smolen led the Laker offense, rushing for 139 yards on a career-high 27 carries while putting it in the endzone once. He also caught two passes for 34 yards.

Freshman James Berezik was haunted by fumbles on the day, putting the ball on the ground four times, but still had solid numbers, rushing 18 times for 116 yards.

Iciek finished the game 10 for 24 for 153 yards and 2 TD's.

Anthony Adams was without a doubt the player of the game, collecting 11 tackles (9 solo), 3 tackles for loss (-10 yards), and 2 QB sacks (-8 yards) including the game-deciding play. Dan Skuta had 4 tackles (3 solo), 2 tackles for loss (-13 yards), and 2 QB sacks (-13 yards).

Weston Dressler led the Sioux offense, catching 6 passes for 99 yards and a TD, while also rushing for 9 yards. Jake Landry went 8 for 12 for 110 yards and a TD passing filling in for a struggling and injured Danny Freund.

And so ends the rivalry...at least with both teams in Division II. As a Laker fan, and I'm sure the Sioux fans would agree...we hope to see you again.

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