Senior quarterback Jack Cook (No. 10) and the rest of the Flyers offense will face a challenge against the best defense in the PFL (through 2 games for most teams). Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
After a tough overtime loss to Morehead State, the Dayton Flyers football team returns to the road to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to face Drake on Saturday.
The Flyers scored 10 points in the final three minutes to force overtime, but a pass from senior quarterback Jack Cook was intercepted by the Eagles, who had scored a touchdown on their possession.
“The team responded from that,” Flyers head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “We responded, just like we would if we won the game, over in 24 hours and we’re moving on to Drake. But that was a tough one, because we had to fight back a couple of times. Bad play in the overtime, but there were about three or four plays before that that got us to that position where we were behind.”
While the Flyers’ defense struggled to limit the Eagles, Drake held Butler to just a field goal in a 6-3 win to improve to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the Pioneer Football League. Currently, the Bulldogs from Iowa possess the PFL-best defense (13.5 points per game), while the Flyers own the best offense (50.5 points per game).
Freshman wide receiver Joey Swanson, who caught four passes for 151 yards against Morehead State, said a strength of the Morehead State defense is their physicality.
“Whether it’s on the receivers, blocking, or just the linebackers, they’re all thick guys and they just look pretty physical and they’ll get after it.”
“(Defense) is what they rely on is keeping teams out of the endzone, which they have done and done for a long period of time there,” Chamberlin added. “So it will be interesting to see how our offense can move the ball consistently against them, and defensively trying to make sure we don’t give up big plays.”
Leading that defense is graduate defensive back Alex Rogers, who has 28 solo tackles, two for loss, three pass break-ups, and two turnovers forced (1 fumble and 1 interception).
On offense, the Bulldogs have been forced to use three different quarterbacks, with the latest being Blake Ellingson, who had 13 completions for 181 yards against Butler. Junior wide receiver Collin Howard leads all receivers with 14 receptions for 378 yards and two touchdowns.
Graduate running back Cross Robinson has 300 yards on 71 carries, and has scored two touchdowns on the ground and one in the air.
“They’re a very physical team (on offense), definitely one of the most physical we’ll see in the PFL,” said Ben Schmiesing, graduate transfer linebacker from Ohio State. “The o-line’s big, running back runs hard. I think it matches up well for us though, I think we’ll be ready up front, our front seven’s gonna be ready to stop the run and then our DB’s are always there for the pass so I think it’s a good matchup for us. It’ll definitely be a great test for us.”
The Flyers have been all over the place this season, with a close, low-scoring defensive win to start the season (17-10 win over Eastern Illinois), a blow-out against the No. 8 FCS team (55-3 loss to Southern Illinois) and a shoot-out win (63-43 over Presbyterian) and a similar but slightly less high-scoring loss (45-38 in overtime to Morehead State).
To win this game against the Bulldogs, Cook and the rest of the offense will have to step up against the PFL’s best defense, and the defense will have to find the form they had against Eatern Illinois, but could benefit from facing a team that averages just 15.8 points per game.
Kickoff from Des Moines will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday and broadcast on ESPN3 and NewsTalk1290WHIO radio.