Flyers respond to early 23-0 hole with 49 unanswered points on the way to 63-43 win on ‘great Saturday’

The Flyers celebrate another score during Saturday’s 63-43 win over unconventional Presbyterian team. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News. 

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

While celebrating Family Weekend and recognizing mental health in college football, the Flyers rebounded from a slow start to score 49 unanswered points and come away with a 63-43 win on Saturday.

The Flyers got off to a sloppy start defensively, by having two big plays taken away because of penalties. Senior safety Brandon Easterling grabbed an interception, negated by defensive holding (though redshirt freshman cornerback Elijah Smith intercepted Blue Hose quarterback Ren Hafley on fourth-and-32 later that drive). 

“We shot ourselves in the foot there that first couple of drives with penalties,” head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “I really believe it could have changed there, that first quarter momentum with the penalties, that gave (the Blue Hose) opportunities.”

On the next defensive possession, the Flyers got a big sack on fourth-and-10, but defensive holding once again took the play away. This time, Presbyterian took advantage on a 15-yard scramble by Hafley and then a two-point conversion to give the visitors an 8-0 lead with 5:26 left in the first quarter. In the first two possessions, Hafley had two scrambles for 31 yards total.

The first onside kick attempt of the game went out-of-bounds, but another penalty (unnecessary roughness) pushed the Flyers back, and sophomore kicker Same Webster missed a 49-yard field goal wide left.

On fourth-and-7 on their next drive, a 66-yard touchdown pass fell into the hands of a Blue Hose receiver, and the two-point attempt was converted for a 16-0 lead for the visitors. The next onside kick was recovered in a dog pile by Presbyterian, and on the next play, Delvecchio Powell II found a hole and burst through it for a 56-yard touchdown run. After the extra point was made, the Blue Hose took a sudden 23-0 lead.

The Flyers special teams unit only allowed one onside kick recovery by the Blue Hose. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.

The Flyers recovered a bullet of an onside kick, setting up the Flyers at the 43-yard-line. Senior quarterback Jack Cook dropped a 32-yard pass into a bucket in the back of the endzone to freshman receiver Luke Brenner to cut the deficit to 23-7 at the end of the first quarter.

“(The touchdown) kind of flipped the script right there,” Cook said. “We came out slow, three-and-out on the first drive and the same on the second drive, but ‘Big Play Brenner’ made a really nice catch.”

On the Blue Hose next possession, Hafley threw the ball back to a receiver in the backfield, but the lateral flew over his teammate and hit the pylon for a Flyers safety. 

The ensuing kickoff was returned to the 47-yard-line, and Webster made a 28-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 23-12 with 11:27 left in the second quarter.

Fourth-and-4 resulted in another stop for the Dayton defense, and after a steady drive, Cook found senior tight end Andrew Holderer for an 8-yard touchdown, and found junior running back Jake Chisholm wide open for the two-point conversion to make it a 23-20 ballgame with 5:37 left in the first half.

On the next defensive possession, the Flyers kept the momentum going with a big-time sack to push the Blue Hose back to their own 4-yard-line, and their punt on fourth-and-21 was either blocked or went off their own lineman and out of the back of the endzone for another safety. 

Another solid drive culminated in a 5-yard read-option keeper by Cook, and although the two-point conversion was no good, the Flyers had answered the 23-0 Presbyterian start with 28 points of their own.

With 1:16 left in the quarter, Joe Bubonics went up and high-pointed an interception at the Flyers’ 30-yard-line. Moving quickly down the field, including a big 40-yard pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Hazell, Cook once again pulled on an option play, and ran the ball in from six yards out to push the Flyers lead to 35-23 at halftime. 

“(Getting the interception) was good,” Bubonics said with a big smile. “It’s the first one I’ve gotten as a Flyer here, so it was pretty exciting. And the helmet was off so everybody can see my face.”

Joe Bubonics (No. 7) celebrates with a turnover belt after his interception. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.

Leading the 35-point charge, Cook finished the first half 12-22 for 182 yards and 2 TDs, and had 7 rushing attempts for 46 yards and 2 TDs. After a rough defensive start, the Flyers held the Blue Hose scoreless in the second quarter and racked up six tackles for loss, including 2 sacks, and had 2 interceptions at the break.

During the intermission, the Flyers recognized five players from the 2020 football senior class. 

On a special day, the Flyers also partnered with Hilinski’s Hope Foundation (H3H) to recognize College Football Mental Health Week with a lime green ribbon on their helmets and a video message at halftime. 

Keeping the momentum firmly in their hands, the Flyers recovered the Blue Hose onside kick attempt to start the second half, and quickly drove 44 yards to score on a 5-yard touchdown pass by Cook to freshman receiver Tyler Mintz for a 42-23 Dayton lead.

The defense once again sacked Hefley on fourth-and-10 at the 20-yard line, but couldn’t capitalize on fourth-and-goal from the six when the potential touchdown was dropped.

But after another fourth down sack, redshirt freshman running back Michael Neel found the endzone on an 11-yard outside run to extend the Flyers’ lead to 49-23 with 8:29 left in the third quarter.

“The idea of mental toughness and poise (helped us come back),” Chamberlin said. “That’s what we preach. Now, we’re not a very veteran team, defense we are a bit, but offensively, we’re not. But they hung in there, offense kept grinding and started making plays.”

The Blue Hose responded with a 13-yard touchdown run by Powell II, but after another onside kick was recovered by Joe Bubonics at the 39-yard-line, the Flyers quickly moved down the field after a long scramble by Cook, who scored his third rushing touchdown of the game after picking up a fumbled exchange and running to the goal line from two yards out and reaching across the line to give the Flyers a 56-30 lead with 2:33 left in the third.

Redshirt junior linebacker Grant Dyer batted down a pass on fourth-and-10, and with the ball on the 25-yard line, redshirt freshman running back B.J. Doneghy II bounced off a would-be tackler and ran the rest of the way into the endzone to inflate the Flyers lead to 63-30 with 2:04 left in the quarter.

The Blue Hose showed some remnants of life on an end-around touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, but a strip-sack with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter put an end to a chance for Presbyterian to cut into the deficit. 

Trailing 63-37, the Blue Hose scored again on a 73-yard touchdown pass after the Flyers fumbled, but had the two-point attempt intercepted by redshirt junior defensive back Zach Rumpke. 

The visitors had a chance to cut into the deficit further with the ball at the Flyers 1-yard-line, but couldn’t find the endzone after four plays and turned the ball over on downs.

Cook (No. 10) was electric Saturday, throwing 19-35 for 262 yards and 3 TDs, and running for 48 yards and 3 more TDs. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.

The Flyers were able to run out the rest of the clock and came away with a 63-43 win on Family Weekend at the University of Dayton.

“I’m very glad that we got a win for all those other factors. Parent’s Weekend, I’m glad to see everyone came in out of the parking lot, and we wanted to keep them in their seats so that’s why we let him go up 23,” Chamberlin joked. “And then we made a big comeback. ‘We’re going to keep them in the seats.’ We didn’t want him going out at halftime and just staying out. But then to have those 2020 seniors back, (for) people to hear and to see who they were and what they’re doing now and the mental health there, bringing awareness to that. Cap it off with a win, it’s a great Saturday, great Saturday.”

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