Junior running back Jake Chisholm (No. 29) runs past defenders on his 50-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jamie Blodgett, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
The Dayton Flyers football team recovered after back-to-back losses with a 38-31 win over the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday at Welcome Stadium.
“A couple losses, you know, it wears on players, it wears on coaches,” Flyers head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “But it’s been a very positive attitude, it really has. But to come out and get this (win), we talked about… we got three games left… So we’ve got to have the best that we can up to this point, play better, as best as we can to finish 3-0 and we got 1-0 right now.”
With former Ohio State quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett in attendance, the Bulldogs won the coin toss but deferred, and the decision quickly backfired. On the fifth play of the opening drive, there was a captain connection as senior quarterback Jack Cook fired a 50-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jake Chisholm. The junior running back outpaced his defender and ran into the endzone, putting the Flyers ahead 7-0 with 12:40 left in the first quarter.
“That play was just perfectly drawn up,” Chisholm said. “We went back to some old film back from 2019. We had a play like that similarly against San Diego, and it worked beautifully for about a 50-yard touchdown, and we kind of turned that back up and ran it again. So it worked out just like we wanted to.”
Chisholm added the connection between him and Cook was especially important this year as they were two of three veterans with significant experience on offense.
“So it’s been really nice our connection, Jack’s experience throwing the ball and making reads, and my experience running and catching the ball. So it’s been huge and it’s important especially for the younger guys throughout the year. We’ve seen that we’re kind of keeping them engaged and keeping them up if things go wrong.”
But the Bulldogs responded with a steady 13-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper by junior Bret Bushka to even the score at 7 with 6:12 left in the opening quarter.
Chisholm returned the subsequent kickoff 34 yards to the Flyers’ 40-yard line, but a Cook sack made it third-and-24, and the Flyers went three-and-out.
The Bulldogs were beginning to move the ball, but a snap went over the head of Bushka, and was perfectly judged off a bounce by redshirt junior Zach Rumpke and recovered at the Bulldogs’ 41-yard line.
Two plays later, Cook dropped in a pass between three defenders to senior h-back Andrew Holderer to set up the Flyers with a goal-to-go at the end of the first quarter. However, the Flyers were only able to come away with a 20-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Sam Webster to take a 10-7 lead one minute into the second quarter.
Before a key fourth-and-4 play, the Bulldogs called timeout facing an important opportunity on offense. On the other side of the timeout, Bushka took aim on a long pass to the goal line, but his pass led the receiver out of bounds and the Flyers took over on downs at their own 30.
On the drive, Cook first showed off some fancy footwork to turn a potential five-yard loss into a two-yard gain, and then dropped in another dime to freshman receiver Sam Bubonics for a 30-yard gain. Freshman running back John Sciaretti was Cook’s next target, this time on a screen out of the backfield, and was led on a 22-yard play by two key blocks by fellow freshman receiver Luke Brenner to set the Flyers up with a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Chisholm got the edge on a run from four yards out, and the Flyers pushed ahead 17-7 with 2:30 left in the first half.
“We just have trust in our receivers,” Chisholm said. “And it really helped that we were able to establish a good run game, kind of have them up in the box a little bit, and then we could hit them deep with our receivers and we have some young receivers, but they’ve really been stepping up and making a lot of plays this year, making some great catches deep… I’ve been impressed with those guys.”
The Flyers forced a quick three-and-out, and the Flyers quickly took advantage. Cook found Bubonics for 18 yards, kept the ball for a 12-yard gain, and then dropped a 40-yard touchdown pass on a dime to freshman receiver Joey Swanson to give the Flyers a 24-7 lead with 44 seconds left in the half.
Led by Cook (10-16, 221 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception) and Chisholm (10 rushes for 43 yards and 1 touchdown; 50-yard touchdown reception), the Flyers held onto a comfortable 17-point lead at the break.
To open the second half, the Bulldogs capped off a 10-play, 57-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by redshirt junior A.J. Deinhart, which cut the Flyers’ lead to 24-14 with 10:18 left in the third quarter.
However, the Flyers responded in just 39 seconds. First, Bubonics returned the kickoff to the 36, and 15 yards were added on a personal foul to put the Flyers at the Bulldogs’ 49. Then, Cook dropped another pass perfectly into the arms of an open receiver, this time Brenner on a 43-yard pass. On the next play, Chisholm ran in from six yards out to push the Flyers’ lead back up to 17 with 9:39 left in the quarter.
The Bulldogs moved the ball well on their next drive, but were denied twice by the Flyers defense, specifically redshirt freshman cornerback Elijah Smith with a pair of pass breakups on passes into the endzone. A 32-yard field goal was made, but the Flyers lead was only trimmed to 31-17 with 5:19 left in the quarter.
On the third play of the Flyers next possession, Chisholm went on a journey of a run, first navigating through tight holes before cutting the ball back into the middle of the field and then finding a crease along the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown run.
But on the very next play from scrimmage, Bushka found redshirt freshman receiver Yogi Flager for a 75-yard touchdown to cut the Flyers’ lead down to 38-24 with 4:21 left in the third.
The Bulldogs were able to cut into the lead on a 1-yard run by Bushka, but interceptions by redshirt junior linebacker Grant Dyer and Rumpke were enough to keep the Flyers ahead in a 38-31 win.
“It feels amazing (to win the turnover battle),” Rumpke said. “We’ve been through a little bit of a drought the past two weeks and it’s just good. Just to see it from everybody out there, especially Grant Dyer out there having an interception, first of his career, it’s just awesome and it just swings the momentum huge in the game.”
Chamberlin also highlighted the importance of winning the turnover and kicking battle.
“If Grant Dyer doesn’t make that interception there (with Butler driving in the fourth quarter), they have another opportunity and that’s what happens when you don’t take advantage of an opportunity, or do you have a penalty, then that means they get another chance. And that’s exactly what we stopped right there. That was a big play, big play for us there.”
Dyer’s interception gave the Flyers some temporary breathing room, but Rumpke’s sealed the deal, and he spent the postgame interview draped in the Flyers’ turnover link and belt.
“I’ll wear it into the locker room, just have it for a little bit longer. They come together as a turnover chain and belt, but this (chain) is our new thing. This year and the chain has changed as well, we’re the links, everyone links up their chain each week (for a turnover).”
Turnovers (fumble recovery, two interceptions) and the play of captains Cook (12-21, 269 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) and Chisholm (24 rushes for 161 yards and three touchdowns, two receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown) led the Flyers to a much-needed win.
With the win, the Flyers improve to 4-4 and 3-3 in PFL play, and head into their road matchup against Stetson on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. with a little momentum.