By: Connor Hanson – Staff Writer
Finding themselves down 10 points on three occasions Saturday night, the Dayton Flyers (7-0, 4-0) clawed their way back to a 27-24 victory over the Butler Bulldogs (4-3, 2-2), giving Dayton its 100th Pioneer Football League victory.
Dayton started the game with the ball before being forced to punt after seven plays. Back on its own 17, Butler’s dual-threat quarterback, Matt Shiltz found wide receiver Anthony Scaccia on a deep seam route. Scaccia caught the ball and went for an 83-yard touchdown on Butler’s first offensive play.
The Flyers were forced to punt on their ensuing drive after a three-and-out. Butler took the ball from their 36 and marched all the way down to the five-yard line. The UD defense held strong, though, forcing two high passes before Butler kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Down 10 with six minutes left in the quarter, Dayton’s offense orchestrated an 11-play touchdown drive. Redshirt first-year quarterback Alex Jeske found senior wide receiver Cory Stuart on a 21-yard fade route that set the ball on Butler’s one-yard line. Redshirt sophomore running back Jack Adams then punched it across the goal line for the score.
Both Butler and Dayton came up empty on their next two possessions.
Butler then set up on Dayton’s 49-yard line after their special teams unit blocked Dayton’s punt. Butler made quick work of its short field as it covered all 49 yards on the ground with Shiltz capping it off for a touchdown on a quarterback draw.
Down by 10 once again, Dayton answered as Jeske connected with redshirt first-year running back Tucker Yinger on a 33-yard catch and run up the sideline to cut Dayton’s deficit to three points. In the remaining eight minutes of the half, neither Dayton nor Butler found the endzone as Butler entered halftime with a 17-14 lead.
Neither team could jumpstart its offense on the opening drives of the second half, failing through the air and on the ground. On Butler’s second drive of the half, Flyer cornerback Cameron Stubbs rocked his receiver on a bubble route and had the whole crowd roaring. But Butler silenced it the next play, as Shiltz found Marque Martin-Hayes for a 55-yard touchdown.
Dayton then faced a 10-point deficit for the third and final time with 10:35 left in the third. But Butler never got a chance to grow on that lead as Dayton’s defense would buckle down, shutting Butler out for the rest of the game.
Dayton got the ball on the Butler 45, following two failed drives and two three-and-outs by Butler. Unable to get a first down, Dayton still worked its way close enough for senior kicker William Will to hit a 44-yard field goal.
Dayton’s cornerbacks then ramped up their game as sophomore Christian Searles jumped a slant route and intercepted a pass from Shiltz. Dayton’s offense marched down the field before setting up for a 22-yard field goal that brought the deficit to four points.
With Butler’s offense working its way up the field, Stubbs came up huge with a fumble recovery to give UD possession. Dayton then worked the ball all the way up to the 50-yard line, where Yinger reeled off a physical touchdown run, bursting through a scrum of players for a 50-yard score.
That touchdown run was no fluke, as head coach Rick Chamberlin said they work on that throughout practice.
“Whenever we do any drills, our running back coach Mark Ewald, always tells the running backs to keep moving, keep moving, and the running backs usually end up going past the whistle,” Chamberlin said.
Butler then mustered up a 12-play drive but missed a 42-yard field goal attempt to seal its defeat. Dayton then ran the ball twice before the clock struck triple zeros, securing their fourth conference win this year and 100th in the university’s history.
“There’s only one group that can be first to 100 and that’s the Dayton Flyers, and you never forget the team that does it first—and that’s what makes it so special,” Chamberlin said.
Dayton now sits on top of the PFL at 4-0 for in-conference play and will face second place Jacksonville (3-1) at Welcome Stadium 1 p.m. Saturday.