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Lakers in right place at right time, overwhelm Saginaw Valley

Greg Johnson, GVSU Athletics • Oct 1, 2017 at 11:50 PM

Grand Valley linebacker Garrett Pougnet, a senior out of Fenton who played safety his first three seasons, collected a sack, then an interception he returned 29 yards on back-to-back plays, and later scooped up the ball and ran 37 yards for a touchdown via a fumble forced by defensive ends Michael Pettis and Dylan Carroll.

"I was in the right place at the right time," he said of the 37-yard fumble return that capped the scoring in the Lakers 34-6 win over rival Saginaw Valley Saturday night at Lubbers Stadium.

The Lakers were in the right place at the right time defensively through the game with six sacks, the aforementioned fumble recovery, the interception and just 118 yards rushing allowed on a whopping 49 attempts, or a 2.4 yards per rush.

"Our coaches had a great game plan for us, especially on third down," Pougnet said. "We brought a lot of different pressures. On that touchdown there, I have to give all the credit to the defensive line. I was more of a spy there on the running back and happened to be in the right place at the right time."

As for the interception, Pougnet said it was the result of some game-specific stuff put into the plan for Saginaw Valley by the defensive staff of co-coordinators Jim Louis and Nick Postma, and defensive line coach E.J. Whitlow.

"We knew in that situation that me (weak side linebacker) or the nickel (linebacker) were going to potentially have a play in the ball," he said. "The d-line and the (middle linebacker) got there on the pressure and I was there and able to make a little return on that."

Head coach Matt Mitchell was happy with the defense, and with special teams, which contributed with a blocked punt, good returns and solid kick coverage. He was not especially happy with the offense.

"I thought our defense was really flying around. Not a very good night offensively because we had a couple of drops and turned the ball over a couple of times, but we played fast and crisp defensively, and I think on special teams we played fast and crisp."

Since an opening 24-20 loss at Indianapolis the Lakers have won 48-0 against Davenport, 42-7 against Michigan Tech, 49-0 against Northwood and 34-6 against

Saginaw Valley. That's just 13 points allowed in the last four games. Mitchell likes what he is seeing.

"All of our great teams here have been defensive-centric, and I'm glad we are starting to play defense to the level of our expectations," he said. "The type of people we recruit; we have fast defensive ends, our linebackers can run and we have corners and safeties who are fast. We have an athletic defense and we get people into third downs they don't want."

Saginaw Valley quarterback Ryan Conklin was under duress through the game. The Cardinals finished the game successful on just 6-of-17 third down conversions.

The Lakers swarmed to the ball and covered the field, which is what they preach and practice.

"I think other teams, especially after they watch six sacks tonight on tape, are going to have second thoughts about dropping back to pass and trying to pick us apart," Mitchell said.

The Lakers did give up one long pass play over the top of the defense from Conklin to receiver Michael King that set up the Cardinals only score.

"Everybody on defense takes responsibility for that," Pougnet said. "We still have areas where we can improve and the coaches will continue to push us to improve. Ever since game one and I don't want to harp on that, we have learned from it and we knew it wasn't us. We have been moving forward, getting better each week, continuing to reload as we say, continuing to push ourselves. That's a credit to our coaching staff on defense, the players on defense coming together, everybody buying in and trusting the process.

"That has allowed us go out on game day prepared, fly around, play football and have fun."

And be in the right place at the right time.

The right places the next three weeks are on the road, at Wayne State, at Truman State in Missouri and at Ferris State.

"The schedule is what it is," Mitchell said. "Right now we think about Wayne State. We've won 17 (GLIAC) games in a row. Let's go to Wayne State and make it 18. It's a night game. I'm sure they will be ready for us."

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