Cody: Loss of Jimmy Berezik shouldn't be GVSU's biggest concern

The news of Jimmy Berezik's second playoff suspension in as many years has begun to make its way around the Allendale campus of Grand Valley State University.

Thankfully, when the Lakers face off against Carson-Newman College today in the NCAA Division 2 national semifinal, they will be well prepared to handle the absence of GVSU's all-time leading rusher.

In last year's playoff loss to Minnesota-Duluth, Berezik's suspension meant all-purpose back Blake Smolen had to spend the majority of the game in the backfield. Although Smolen racked up 139 yards on 27 carries, his absence on the on edges greatly hurt the offense.

This year, P.T. Gates and Justin Sherrod have emerged as legitimate second and third running backs. Gates arguably ran better than Berezik last week in the rematch against Minnesota-Duluth, and he will get his chance to show why he was a Division 1-recruit today against Carson-Newman.

Berezik's absence pales in comparison to the hole left by Andre Thomas on the defensive line. Facing a complicated triple-option scheme, it was imperative for an already banged up Lakers defense to be as close to full strength as possible.

Now with Thomas, his backup Ryan Wheat and reserve linebacker Blair Hollis all suspended for the rest of the season, GVSU's national championship hopes will fall on a patchwork defense.

The Lakers have worked far too hard for a few suspensions to ruin their season. Look for GVSU to punch its tickets to Alabama this afternoon against Carson-Newman.

GVSU 35, Carson-Newman 17


December 5, 2009 at 3:20 PM JT said...

I agree. Thomas will be a much bigger loss than Berezik, especially against the triple-option threat that Carson-Newman brings.

As we saw with both Navy and Georgia-Tech this year, a strong-triple option can change the entire dynamics of a football game; controlling the clock, demanding different personnel, and bringing a foreign element to most defenses.

The triple option is stopped first and foremost in the trenches and then by the close out speed of the linebackers.

When you add the snow into the picture, this is a classic Mid-West, roll up your sleeves, fist fight. The size and power of Gates will be a big factor today and will hopefully help GV forget about Berezik's absence.

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