By: Steve Miller – Staff Writer
In a showdown between Dayton’s high-scoring attack and Drake University’s lockdown defense at Welcome Stadium, the visitors defeated Dayton 34-30, marking the first time this season that Dayton scored 30 and dropping the Flyers record to 4-2 in the Pioneer Football League.
The University of Dayton had scored 30 points in five games entering Saturday, winning each one. Drake, however, had not given up that many in a game all year.
“I thought that for the most part our offense met the challenge,” head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “It comes down to special teams and turnovers, too.”
In his 40th-career start, senior quarterback Bardo led Dayton strong out of the gate, rushing for a 24-yard touchdown on the team’s third play from scrimmage. Keeping defensive pressure on Drake throughout the first quarter, Dayton forced two turnovers to maintain their seven-point lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, senior running back Connor Kacsor put UD up by two scores with an impressive 28-yard touchdown run.
Drake answered quickly, when quarterback Andy Rice hooked up with receiver Andrew Yarwood for an 86-yard touchdown on the second play of the Bulldogs’ ensuing possession.
With the score still 14-7, Rice led a 16-play drive for Drake that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by tailback Conley Wilkins. However, the potentially game-tying extra point was blocked by UD. Flyer sophomore Nolan Harmotto ran the loose ball back 84 yards for two free points. Dayton held a 16-13 lead.
Kacsor ran for his second touchdown of the game on the Flyers’ next drive to build Dayton’s lead to 10.
With about a minute remaining in the first half, Drake forced a turnover deep in Flyers territory. Capitalizing on the field position, Rice threw his second touchdown of the day and the score at halftime stood at 23-20 in Dayton’s favor.
Drake picked up their offensive pace in the second half by running a no-huddle attack, consistently backing up the Flyers into their own half of the field.
Chamberlin said the team prepared for the no huddle attack, as Drake used the same strategy against the Flyers last season.
The Dayton defense stood strong on several possessions by blocking a field goal on one and forcing a turnover on downs on another.
The hurry-up attack eventually paid off for Drake. Wilkins added a touchdown before the end of the third to make the score 30-27.
After Dayton failed to convert a field goal with three minutes remaining in the game, the Bulldogs took advantage of their final chance. In the closing seconds, Rice connected with receiver Michael Hudson for a 13-yard score and Drake’s first lead of the afternoon.
With 18 seconds left, there was little Bardo could do as he took over the Flyers offense for one last attempt. On the game’s final play, he heaved a pass toward the end zone, only to have it intercepted.
The blocked PAT that gave UD two points in the second quarter would have been the turning point, had the Flyers won. Instead, the game hinged on Dayton’s lost fumble before the half and the missed field goal down the stretch.