The Dayton Flyers kicked off Pioneer Football League play with a bang, defeating the Jacksonville University Dolphins 56-28 on Oct. 5.
The first play of the game showed that the Flyers (3-1, 1-0 PFL) were in for a tough task on defense, as Dolphins quarterback Calvin Turner Jr. took an option keeper 72 yards to the house to put the Dolphins (2-3, 0-1 PFL) up by seven.
However, the Flyers quickly responded with a touchdown of their own on a drive made up of a 41-yard Sean Prophit run and a 17-yard TD pass from Jack Cook to Adam Trautman in the endzone. The reception gave Trautman the UD record of 133 receptions set by Bill Franks, who was at Welcome Stadium. Trautman also had four touchdowns in the game, another school record.
“Adam’s always been a great weapon for us,” said Dayton offensive coordinator Austin King. “He just keeps getting better every day. He comes to work every day to improve. He always tries to work on the nuances and get better, and I’m glad it worked out that he was on the receiving end on a lot of those (touchdown passes) today… He’s a great talent, but his work ethic is what sets him apart.”
Trautman also noted the impressive performance by Cook, who broke his own Dayton record with six passing TDs in a game.
“To have a guy back there like Jack and how he’s matured over the past year… he knows where to put the ball and I know when my head turns the ball is coming out,” Trautman said. “He’s just putting it in the right place every time.”
Both Trautman and Cook cited the bye week as important to helping them prepare to put 56 points on the scoreboard against Jacksonville.
The running game was also an important piece of the offense explosion for the Flyers, as sophomore Jake Chisholm continued his momentum from his impressive return two weeks ago with 101 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Sean Prophit added 85 on the ground.
“It was a good day for (our offensive linemen),” King said. “A lot of them have been in this system for a long time so they understand what we’re trying to accomplish. Jacksonville’s defense offers a lot of challenges for us.”
Those challenges were canceled out by an offense that put up 487 total yards. King also cited the bye week as a contributing factor to the offensive output.
The first quarter ended quietly with a 7-7 tie, but Dayton flew ahead to a 35-14 halftime lead, benefitting from the surgical passing game of Cook (who was 13-16 for 198 yards and 6 TDs in the game) and one of two Jacksonville fumbles.
“We didn’t have any (turnovers), and they had two,” Chamberlin said. “They’re big factors in any win that you get.”
Chamberlin also mentioned the importance of winning the field position battle as well, which Dayton won handily on the way to a 28-point win.
At halftime, the Flyers had the game in hand, thanks in large part to a nearly perfect first half from Cook (11-13 for 178 yards and 5 TDs). However, the defense looked somewhat shaky, even though they allowed only 14 points.
The Flyers never looked back in a dominating win but struggled at times against the Dolphins’ triple option attack, which put up 365 yards on the ground.
“That offense, they’re gonna give trouble to a lot of people,” Chamberlin said. “We were just hoping to hang in there and our offense would move and control the ball. The triple option is going to expose deficiencies in your tackling. We weren’t bad today, but there were some instances we did not approach it well, but all-in-all it was better than what we have done in the first few games and we’re taking steps there.”
One such player who played better was linebacker Grant Dyer, who stepped up and made eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a combined sack with Nate Obringer. Dyer credited the coaches for creating a game plan to slow down the Dolphins offense enough to give the offense scoring opportunities.
Safety Brandon Easterling once again had a strong performance with 16 total tackles and a fumble recovery. Along with linebacker Anthony Best, who had 11 total tackles, the trio of Easterling, Best and Dyer did what they had to do to lead the Flyers to a key victory to start PFL play.
“The way the defense is set up, those (Easterling, Best and Dyer) are the guys who have to make the plays,” Chamberlin said. “It’s the way the scheme works. Those inside linebackers and the free safety, they gotta be flowing (to the ball) and then when they get there, they gotta make the play, and that’s what those guys did today.”
On Alumni weekend, the Flyers put up record-setting numbers for receptions in a season (Trautman, 139; previous record Bill Franks, 133) and touchdown catches in a game (Trautman, four), while also setting a school record for touchdown passes in a game (Cook, six).
“Players make plays,” Chamberlin said. “They’re (Trautman and Cook) not doing anything that’s surprising us at all.”
The seesaw feeling only existed in the first 20 minutes of the game as the Flyers cruised to a 56-28 win to kick off PFL play. The Flyers move toward a road match-up against Valparaiso (0-5, 0-1 PFL) next Saturday, while Jacksonville faces Morehead State (2-3, 0-1 PFL).
2,824 fans were at Welcome Stadium when the 1989 Division III National Championship team was recognized at halftime.