University of Dayton football head coach Rick Chamberlin was involved in 434 games as a player, assistant coach and head coach for the UD football program leading into a key matchup with co-Pioneer Football League leader University of San Diego Saturday, Oct. 19.
After watching his team triumph 45-38 over San Diego in double overtime with contention in the PFL on the line, Chamberlin said he would be hard pressed to remember a better one.
“I haven’t been involved in a game like that here at Dayton, I don’t think ever,” he said.
For Chamberlin and the 3,235 Flyer fans in attendance on the brisk Saturday night, game 435 will stand out for quite some time.
With the win under the lights of Welcome Stadium for the first time in 10 years against a conference opponent, the Flyers (5-2, 3-1) snapped USD’s league-leading nine-game conference winning streak dating back to last season, avenged a 41-9 drumming at the hands of the Toreros last year and pulled into a four-way tie for second place in the PFL.
Senior quarterback Will Bardo pioneered an 87-yard, game-tying drive in the final seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime, where he would eventually rush for the game winning touchdown in the second OT installment.
After the teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, Bardo’s one-yard rush gave the Flyers a seven-point lead in the second and an opportunity for Dayton’s defense to win the game. On the final play of the game, San Diego faced a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line and needing a touchdown, senior quarterback Mason Mills’ fourth pass attempt fluttered over its intended target and fell helplessly to the turf, sealing the win for the Flyers.
Bardo led the way for the UD offense, finishing the day 17-for-32 passing for 225 yards with two touchdowns. He ran for another two touchdowns on the ground while leading the team in rushing with 136 yards, a performance that earned him PFL Offensive Player of the Week.
Throughout the game, Bardo teamed up with senior receiver Gabe Macis, who caught three passes on the final drive of regulation, none more important than his 9-yard TD reception with 27 seconds remaining in the game to force overtime.
Macis totaled eight receptions for 112 yards and two TDs for the day. He said he cannot remember a more thrilling game, playing under the lights in an atmosphere he described as awesome.
“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced being a part of a football team,” Macis said.
Redshirt sophomore running back Connor Kacsor rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Bardo, Macis and Kacsor accounted for 42 of UD’s points against San Diego (4-3, 3-1) to pave the way for the thrilling victory.
Two linebackers, redshirt senior Colin Monnier and redshirt freshman Chris Beaschler, led the UD defense with 15 and 13 tackles, respectively, against Mills, who commanded a passing attack that came into the game averaging 320 yards per game.
Monnier’s performance earned him PFL Defensive Player of the Week.
Beaschler factored in on a key pass deflection at his own goal line in the second overtime to finalize the win.
UD led 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter before San Diego, capitalizing on two crucial turnovers by the Dayton offense, rattled off 17 straight points.
A 2-yard pass from Mills to junior wide receiver Brandon White with 14:07 to go in the fourth quarter cut UD’s lead to 24-21.
On UD’s ensuing drive, Bardo completed a pass on the right sideline to redshirt freshman receiver Ian Palin, but on the run after the catch, Palin lost the ball and the Toreros recovered at their own 31-yard line.
Mills capitalized on Dayton’s mistake and recorded his fourth touchdown of the game, finding White over the top of the UD defense, attacking the back pylon, on an 18-yard reception for a 61-yard drive on four plays to lead 28-24 with 10:56 to go in the game.
When UD’s offense took over again, another turnover put San Diego in position to put the game away.
On the third play of the drive, pressure from USD’s defensive front forced Bardo to roll out of the pocket to his right. As a lefty quarterback, Bardo awkwardly threw the ball across his body and the field, where the pass was intercepted and returned to UD’s 20-yard line with just over nine minutes to go.
Chamberlin said the second turnover could have proved the difference in the game with the USD offense poised to take a two-possession lead.
“When we had the fumble and the interception back to back on those two drives, I thought ‘boy, we’ve shot ourselves right now’,” Chamberlin said. “I didn’t know if we could recover from that.”
Eliminating the head coach’s worries, the UD defense stopped Mills and the San Diego offense on three consecutive plays, forced a field goal, and held its opponents to a seven-point lead.
Dayton’s defense granted the offense – efficient all game sans the two crucial turnovers – its chance to recover and mount a comeback bid.
After the two teams traded possessions, Bardo and the UD offense took over on their own 13-yard line with 2:06 to go.
In a drive spanning 99 seconds, Bardo and Macis went to work against the USD secondary, and Dayton knotted the score at 31 to send the game into overtime.
Chamberlin said his team showed toughness by taking “the ball down with that amount of time against a defense that stuck it to them the last two times. Our offense gathered themselves.… [Bardo] made some very good plays and Connor Kacsor was running hard.”
USD opened the first overtime on offense and Mills recorded his fifth and final TD of the game thanks to a blown coverage. UD responded, matching the touchdown when one of Dayton’s offensive stars of the game, Kacsor, displayed tough, downhill running by dragging two USD defenders into the end zone and sending the game into a second overtime.
Starting first on offense, Bardo punched the ball in on a 1-yard run, giving the Flyers a 45-38 edge in the second overtime.
Sporting a seven-point lead, the Flyer defense had to keep Mills and his offense out of the end zone in order to win the game.
Confident in his defense, Macis said he had a hunch the game would end right then and there.
“Our defense has been our backbone all year,” Macis said. “I knew our defense was going to stop them there [in the second overtime]. I knew they wouldn’t let them get two in a row.”
When a pass from Mills fell incomplete on a fourth-and-goal on the 6-yard line, the Flyer defense validated Macis’ prediction.
Now, for Macis and the rest of the UD sideline, all that remained was to rush onto the field and celebrate with their defensive teammates that had first kept their hopes alive – and now had just sealed the win.