The Dayton Flyers duked it out with Duquesne in their home opener on Saturday but fell short in a tough 35-31 loss.
In a game that went back and forth, the Dukes (2-1) came out on top over the Flyers (2-1) by outperforming a Dayton team that struggled to stop the Duquesne offense. Leading tacklers Brandon Easterling (19 total tackles) and Tim Simon (13 total tackles, 1.5 TFLs) racked up the tackles, but even 32 tackles between them were not enough to stop a Duquesne offense that put up 423 total yards.
“We just continue to count on [Easterling and Simon] to keep playing as well as they are and we’ve gotta have other guys step up now,” Dayton head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “We can’t just rely on two guys on defense to be the only playmakers, you gotta have other people do that and that’s where we’re lacking right now.”
Linebackers Anthony Best and Zach Rumpke added nine and eight total tackles, while Best sacked Duquesne quarterback Daniel Parr once.
Dayton made some plays on defense, but struggled to make key stops, allowing Duquesne to find the endzone on five out of eight drives (the eighth drive ending at the conclusion of the game). There is plenty to build from for the Flyers defense, and that charge for improvement will largely be led by Easterling heading into the bye week before their match-up with Jacksonville on October 5.
“Going from here is gonna be something as simple as doing our job,” Easterling said. “There were times that we did our jobs really well and times that we didn’t. So building from here is gonna be being better and being consistent throughout the whole game and doing our jobs for the entire game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Flyers found immense amounts of space for running and passing room, but still did not score enough to pull out the victory. Jack Cook was efficient, save for one interception in the back of the endzone, which was thrown “too early” according to Chamberlin. The first half was nearly perfect for Cook (11-14, 167 yards and three TDs), but he failed to continue that excellence in the second half, as Cook threw the INT and was only 8-13 for 52 yards.
However, even with the second half struggles, Cook found TE Adam Trautman nine times for 89 yards and a touchdown. Trautman has been the main target in the Flyers’ passing game this season, totaling 303 receiving yards and two TDs on 25 receptions.
“I’m just gonna keep doing what I can when my number is called and do what I can to help out this offense,” Trautman said. “(We) gotta execute all four quarters. We do a really good job for most of the game and then there will be one or two drives where we fall off. Individually, keep bringing it, being relentless.”
“It definitely helps to have a guy like Cook back there,” Trautman said about Cook, who was 19 of 27 for 219 yards with 3 TDs and one INT. “He knows where to put the ball, he knows where to go with his reads, so it’s definitely big to have him back there.”
Receiver Kyle Butz (three catches, 65 yards, one TD) and Ryan Skibinski (five catches for 53 yards) aided the passing game for Cook, but the biggest story of the game was versatile return man Jake Chisholm.
On offense, Chisholm added six rushes for 36 yards and two receptions for 12 yards and a TD, but his biggest contribution was a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half. Chamberlin said the touchdown “kept us in the game.”
“There wasn’t really anything going through my mind other than stay on my feet and find the endzone,” Chisholm said. “I knew our team needed a big play coming out of halftime and I tried to set the tone for the second half.”
Chisholm’s return was the longest for Dayton since Gary Hunter’s 100-yard return against Valparaiso in 2013.
“I just gotta keep working hard…try to get better every week,” Chisholm said, addressing his performance on offense. “We have a great core of running backs; Sean Prophit, Richie Warfield, Tyler Vincent and Cole Kaparos. Everybody can get the job done, so whenever I’m in there I know I gotta make my reps count.”
Even with the excellent play on special teams, neither the kick return at the beginning of the third quarter nor the blocked punt at the end of it were enough to turn the tide in a tough 35-31 loss against the Dukes.
Even with a loss, the Flyers still enjoyed Family Weekend, which Chamberlin said he “always looks forward to” and was glad that fans were able to “see a great game.” The game on October 5 against Jacksonville after the bye week is Alumni Weekend, which will recognize the 1989 Dayton team that won the Division III National Championship 30 years ago.
The Flyers move forward into Pioneer Football League (PFL) play with a 2-1 record and will face Jacksonville at home in two weeks while the Dukes advance into a tough non-conference match-up with New Hampshire, who has made the FCS playoffs in 14 of 15 seasons.
4,917 fans were on hand during Family Weekend to see the Flyers extend their college football-leading streak of 479 games in which they scored. The last time they were shut-out was on Oct. 16, 1976 (Marshall, 9-0).
Photos taken by Atticus Hughes