The 14th-ranked Grand Valley State football team 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.
It was the first game of the season for both teams, as GVSU (1-0) will now welcome Truman State in to Allendale on Saturday (Sept. 14) at 7 p.m.
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.
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 13:09 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 6-yard TD run to make it a 17-0 game late in the first quarter.
Parling would add another touchdown pass at the 5:16 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 11:18 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 10:32 to play in the game, which is where the score would remain for the rest of the contest.
HOPE WINS BIG
Quarterback Michael Atwell threw for 442 yards and five touchdowns as the Hope College football team kicked off the 2013 season in rousing fashion with a 41-21 win at North Park (Illl.) on Saturday night.
It was the Flying Dutchmen’s second consecutive win in a season opener. They beat North Park last season at home.
“It is huge,” Hope coach Dean Kreps said of starting out on a winning note. “We have high expectations.”
Atwell, a senior from Geneseo, Ill.., came within three passing yards of his career best — set last season in a 63-47 loss at Concordia-Chicago.. Hope’s school record for passing yards in a single game belongs to Phil Butler, who had 500 against Wheaton (Ill.) in 2003.
Atwell leapt to fourth place all-time in Hope annals by reaching 4,375 career passing yards. He entered the game seventh but moved past Justin Wormmeester (3,965 between 1995-98), Joe Schwander (3,985 between 1995-98) and Chris Feys (4,118 between 2007-10).
Senior running back Shawn Jackson of Comstock Park (Comstock Park) rushed for a game-high 144 yards on 23 carries. He now has 2,273 career rushing yards, passing Tim Elzinga (2,220 between 2007-10) and Todd Holstege (2,251 between 1979-82) for sixth place all-time.
WMU FALLS TO NICHOLLS ST.
Western Michigan lost its home-opener Saturday night, suffering a 27-23 loss to Nicholls in front of a crowd of 24,163 at Waldo Stadium.
WMU fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and trailed 21-9 at halftime. The Broncos held the Colonels to just two field goals the rest of the game, but fell short offensively.
Senior running back Brian Fields ran for three touchdowns and 111 yards, while fellow senior Dareyon Chance rushed for 126 yards.
Fields became the first Bronco running back to record three rushing touchdowns in a game since Brandon West accomplished the feat against Toledo in 2009.
Senior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen got the start under center, returning to the field this week after making an early exit due to injury in the season-opener last week at Michigan State. He completed 24 of 43 passes and was intercepted twice