14th-ranked GVSU kicked off the 2013 season with a 38-17 victory over Azusa Pacific on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 13,659, the eighth-largest in Lubbers Stadium history.
The Lakers dominated play early, putting up 17 first-quarter points and 24 first-half points in total, while holding the Cougars off the board in the first 30 minutes of play.GVSU hosts
The 2013 cap was lifted on scoring less than two minutes in to play, as sophomore Kirk Spencer hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass from junior Heath Parling with to play in the first quarter. That came following an interception by senior Erik Thompson only a few plays in to the game near midfield, which he took back to the Azusa Pacific 13-yard line.
After a three-and-out by the Laker defense on the ensuing Cougar drive, the offense put three more points on the board courtesy of the first career field goal by true freshman Joel Schipper, from 23 yards out to make it a 10-0 game with 9:38 to play in the opening quarter.
GVSU added to the lead on the next drive, as junior Michael Ratay capped an 11-play, 63-yard drive with a six yard TD run to make it a 17-0 game late in the first quarter.
Parling would add another touchdown pass at the mark of the second quarter, finding
Spencer with a 19-yard touchdown strike to make it 24-0, a lead the Lakers would carry in to the locker room.
The Lakers opened up the second half with a scoring drive on nothing but run plays, punctuated by a touchdown dive from Chris Robinson from two yards out to make it a 31-0 game with to play in the third quarter. The drive began on a short field after senior Reggie Williams took the opening kickoff of the second half back 83 yards to the Azusa Pacific 17-yard line.
The Cougars then scored 17 straight points on their next three drives with two touchdown runs and a 37-yard field goal to make it a 31-17 game and draw within two scores.
Any thoughts of a comeback were quickly thwarted by the next GVSU drive, however. Only three plays after the Cougar field goal, Ratay took a handoff up the middle and outraced the defense down the field for a 73-yard touchdown to make it 38-17 with to play in the game, which is where the score would remain for the rest of the contest.
The Lakers used a strong running game yet again, led by Ratay's 11 yards per carry average on 10 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson finished the game with 53 yards and a TD on the ground, while Spencer had 49 yards on only five carries.
Spencer made a big difference in the passing game, though, catching three passes for 42 yards and two TDs from Parling. Ratay led the team in receiving with 61 yards on six catches.
Parling, in his first game back from a season-ending injury nearly a calendar year ago, went 14-for-24 for 177 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The defense was led by senior Jordan Kaufman, who had a game-high 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss (-10 yards) and a fumble recovery for 17 yards. Sophomore Brad Horling, senior Charles Hill and junior Matt Mosley each had eight tackles. Horling had 1.5 tackles for loss (-3 yards), while Mosley also tallied two quarterback hurries in his Laker debut. Junior DeVonte' Jones, Thompson and senior Michael Hatcher each picked off a pass in the game.
The Cougars were led by Terrell Watson on offense, as the running back had 174 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. The Laker defense was stout against the pass, holding Azusa Pacific to 143 yards passing on 30 attempts, including three interceptions.