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GLIAC Games of the Week: Top 5 Showdown Pits GVSU Against Mines

GLIAC Games of the Week: Top 5 Showdown Pits GVSU Against Mines

A top 5 showdown pitting Grand Valley against Colorado School of Mines is the Div. II Game of the Week, and headliner of GLIAC games to watch.

Aug 31, 2022 by Ron Balaskovitz
GLIAC Games of the Week: Top 5 Showdown Pits GVSU Against Mines

The GLIAC sees five of its seven teams in action on Thursday night to open the 2022 season, including a top 10 showdown. National championship credentials will be checked straight away in a huge opening weekend for GLIAC teams. 

No. 5 Grand Valley State vs. No. 4 Colorado School of Mines

In the Division II National Game of the Week, a loaded Lakers squad hosts a stacked Orediggers team in what will be a huge test for two leading national title contenders. 

Grand Valley has its sights set on the GLIAC title and more, featuring a roster that returns 18 starters off last season’s team that went 10-2 and reached the 2nd Round of the NCAA Playoffs. 

Quarterback Cade Peterson paces the Lakers, coming off a season in which he posted over 2,800 yards of offense with 26 passing touchdowns. Peterson returns his top three pass catchers from a season ago in Hunter Rison, Jacob Miller, Cody Tierney as well as leading rusher Tariq Reid. Defensively, linebacker Abe Swanson was an all-league pick after collecting 104 tackles.

The Lakers face a tough task against the Orediggers, particularly the Mines defense. Mines was about as dominant as dominant could be in 2021, reaching the national semifinals, and finishing 12-2. Of their 10 regular season wins, nine came by double digits, including eight games total where they surrendered 14 points or less.

Mines’ two losses last year came by a combined eight points, including a three-point loss to Valdosta State in the national semifinals. 

Offensively, the ‘Diggers are led by Michael Zemen, who rushed for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, while quarterback John Matocha added another 500 yards and seven scores to go with over 3,000 yards and 38 scores.

Combine two great offenses with two great defenses, a pair of teams full of returning starters, and Thursday night’s game on FloFootball could be an early-season classic.

No. 1 Ferris State vs. Central Washington

The Bulldogs begin their title defense as the No. 1 ranked team in every Division II poll, and open at home against a solid opponent in Central Washington, which received votes in the opening AFCA Division II poll.

All-American defensive end Caleb Murphy leads the Ferris State defense, coming off a season in which he collected 14.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. 

The Bulldogs will turn the offense over entirely to junior quarterback Mylik Mitchell, who split snaps a season ago but still managed to post 12 touchdown passes while hitting on just under 65 percent of his throws. His top target is Marcus Taylor, an All-American punt returner who also excelled at receiver with 64 catches last season for nearly 900 yards and six scores.

The Wildcats, who make the move to the Lone Star Conference this year, were tabbed third in what is typically a deep league.

Central went 8-3 last year, with one of those losses against FCS program Eastern Washington and Walter Payton Award winner Eric Barriere. Another loss came against perennial powerhouse Northwest Missouri State in the 1st Round of the Playoffs.

The Wildcats are one of the most balanced teams in the country, posting nearly 4,500 yards of offense a year ago, 2,447 of them through the air, 1,992 on the ground. Quincy Glasper and JJ Lemming split time last season, with Glasper the better passer and rusher, posting 18 TDs through the air, and another four on the ground. Glasper can begin making his case for the Harlon Hill Trophy early against the defending national champions. 

On defense, the Wildcats must replace their top two players in sack-creation from last year, but they return Jahleel Breland and his team-best 86 tackles to go with four pass breakups.

Wayne State at No. 23 Slippery Rock

While 2021 was largely forgettable for Wayne State, the Warriors found an offensive cornerstone to build around in running back Myran Harris. Harris burst onto the scene as a freshman, topping 1,000 yards and getting nine scores in just nine games of action.

He’ll be aided by a new quarterback and defense paced by senior Julius Wilkerson and his 104 tackles. Wayne State will need improvement on defense if it is to pull the upset, giving up 33 points per game and 390 yards per contest on the way to a 2-9 season.

Slippery Rock looks to build on a 9-3 record from last season that resulted in a playoff berth but ended in heartbreak: The Rock dropped its last two games of 2021 by six and eight points to Kutztown and Notre Dame. 

Running back Tim Smith sets the tone offensive for The Rock. Smith had 672 yards and nine scores as a sophomore, both tops on the team. 

Senior quarterback Noah Grover takes over as the full-time starter after passing for 1,760 yards in eight appearances along with 18 scores, though gave up nine interceptions in eight games. 

Slippery Rock passed for over 4,000 yards and 41 passing scores despite Grover and the graduated Andrew Koester splitting time.

The two teams met last season in Detroit, where the Warriors nearly pulled off the upset in a 24-21 nail-biter.