Penalties plague Flyers football in 20-17 loss to Marist

Flyers quarterback Jack Cook (No. 10) broke the UD record for career TD passes on Saturday, but the team racked up 114 total yards on 11 penalties and canceled out the performance by Cook and the defense. Photo courtesy of Jamie Blodgett, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

The Dayton Flyers football team was swamped by penalties in a 20-17 loss to Marist on Saturday at Welcome Stadium.

Marist won the coin toss, but elected to defer and the Flyers got the football first. Junior running back Jake Chisholm took the opening kickoff to the 28-yard line, and then had 3 carries on the drive. However, the bulk of the Flyers yardage to set up a 25-yard field goal, converted by sophomore kicker Sam Webster, came from redshirt freshman slot receiver Sam Bubonics, who tallied 39 yards on 3 catches. With the field goal, the Flyers opened up a 3-0 lead five minutes into the opening quarter and extended their streak without being shutout to 493 games.

The Flyers defense was called for a couple of key penalties on the Red Foxes’ opening drive, first on a pass interference by redshirt junior Zach Rumpke and then on a facemask during a sack by junior defensive tackle Mike Stodola. On third and one from the 26-yard line, Stodola made amends with a tackle for loss to force Marist to attempt a field goal. Redshirt junior kicker Luke Paladino made a 45-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3 with 6:37 left in the quarter. 

Both teams went three-and-out on their next drive, and the first quarter ended level at 3.

The Flyers got a pair of first downs on either side of the break between the first two quarters, but a pass from Flyers senior quarterback Jack Cook bounced off the fingertips of senior tight end Andrew Holderer and was intercepted by Red Foxes redshirt senior safety Teddy Wright at the Red Foxes’ 43-yard line.

On the resulting shortened drive, the Red Foxes scored the first touchdown of the game when redshirt junior running back Mekhai Johnson bounced to the left side of the offensive line and burst through the hole for a 33-yard run to give the visitors a 10-3 lead with 11:06 left in the second quarter. 

The teams once again exchanged punts after three-and-outs, but on a wheel route on the Flyers’ next drive, Cook found Chisholm for a 24-yard pass to the Red Foxes’ 13-yard line. On the next play, Cook found Bubonics for a touchdown pass, and the extra point evened the score at 10 with 5:34 left in the quarter. With the pass, Cook broke a UD career record with his 60th touchdown pass.

“It feels good, I mean I’ve had a lot of good guys to throw to they made me look better than I really am,” Cook said, though he added he would have rather gotten the win.

But the Red Foxes bit right back on a 91-yard touchdown return by Johnson on the kickoff to give the visitors a 17-10 lead after just 16 seconds. After the return, Johnson had 140 total yards and two touchdowns for the game.

“(The return) killed the momentum,” Flyers head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “We got the touchdown, it’s 10-7, I thought our offense now, we’re grooving, the defense has been playing well, they had one long run, field goal after two penalties, I thought, okay, we’re gonna take – and then bam! they hit us. And again, that was lack of execution on our part.”

Johnson’s kickoff return would be the last scoring of the first half, as both teams exchanged punts (one by Flyers redshirt freshman Drew Nieman was downed at the 3-yard line), and after a sack by Flyers freshman defensive end Jerell Lewis on second down, the Red Foxes ran out the first half clock with the ball at midfield. 

During the break, the Flyers recognized alumni from the 1980 national champions and 1991 runners-up. 

The Flyers held a distinct advantage in passing yards (115-46), and only trailed slightly in rushing yards (71-51), but the key differences were Cook’s interception – led to Johnson’s 33-yard touchdown run – and the 91-yard return by Johnson. Both teams were level with nine first downs, and similar on third down, with Marist 1-5 and Dayton 2-6. 

Marist received the football to start the second half, but on fourth and one, redshirt freshman Austin Day’s pass was bobbled and dropped by redshirt junior running back Hunter Cobb, and the Red Foxes turned the ball over on downs to give the Flyers the ball at the UD 31-yard line. 

Both teams exchanged punts before Marist got the ball down to the 12 after unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that went against an illegal shift by Marist that should have moved the ball backwards five yards instead of nearly 30 yards forward. The Flyers buckled down to force a 29-yard field goal attempt, but Marist made the field goal and extended their advantage to two possessions at 20-10 with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter.

Another penalty hurt the Flyers (holding), and they were forced to punt the ball back to Marist. The punt was downed at the 32-yard line with two minutes left in the quarter. Marist maintained possession until the end of the quarter, at which point the Flyers had been called for 11 penalties for 114 yards. 

“I think some of (the penalties), they’re just aggressive mistakes,” Chamberlin said. “They really are. You’re playing hard, you’re trying to get something done, but then there’s technique mistakes, which will lead to penalties, (like) blocking in the back, holding on a pass play, those penalties, you just can’t have.”

On the flip side of the quarter break, the Flyers held the Marist offense and got the ball back with 12:41 remaining in the game. 

The Flyers moved the ball down the field with relative ease, until they got inside the two. The Flyers tried to go up the middle on second- and third-and-goal, but both tries were stopped short in front of the goal line. Going back to a shotgun formation, Cook handed the ball to Chisholm, who got the carry and dove through a slim opening for a touchdown to cut Marist’s lead to 20-17 with eight minutes left. 

The Flyers were able to hold the Red Foxes to a punt, and received the ball at the 10-yard line with 4:44 left. Driving the ball, it looked as though the Flyers would at least get into field goal range, but Marist buckled down just past midfield and forced the Flyers to fourth and 3 from the Marist 43. UD called timeout before the play, but Cook threw an incompletion after the timeout, giving Marist the ball with 2:17 left.

“We wanted to call timeout, part of it was to make sure we had the right play, give us time to catch our breathe and all that, plus time on the clock there,” Chamberlin said. “(We) wanted to have enough time to get the first down. Now we have time to try to score (a touchdown) and not just kick a field goal there. And the play that we were calling I thought was the good play, we just didn’t execute that and then their secondary made the stop there, batted down the ball there.”

Johnson ran for a first down on the first play after the turnover on downs, and the Flyers used up their final two timeouts. Second and 10 from the 42-yard line with 1:57 was the last chance for the Flyers to get a stop, but no timeouts made the outlook very bleak.

The Red Foxes ran the clock down to 24 seconds left and took their second timeout on fourth and 13. After the timeout, the punt was nearly blocked, and was instead dropped by Easterling and recovered by Marist. No kick-catch interference was called, to the dismay of Flyer fans, and the Marist knelt the ball and escaped Welcome Stadium with a 20-17 win to improve to 3-2 overall and 3-0 in PFL, while the Flyers dropped to 3-3 and 2-2 in PFL.

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