The Drake University football team travels to Valparaiso Saturday looking to maintain its perfect record in Pioneer Football League games this season. Kickoff for the 20th meeting between the two programs is scheduled for 1 p.m. CDT at the Crusaders Brown Field.
Drake improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the PFL last weekend with a 38-10 win over preseason league favorite San Diego. The Bulldogs’ defense forced six turnovers in the win while the offense – ranked eighth in the nation in passing – converted those opportunities into four scores.
However, the squad has completely turned the focus from Saturday’s win to this week’s opponent.
“We’re taking it one week at a time and making sure we stay focused,” senior running back Trey Morse said. “The key is staying hungry every week and not wanting to settle for what we did last week. We still made a lot of mistakes and there’s a lot to improve on and continue getting better throughout the season.”
Head coach Chris Creighton has conveyed that same message to his team, especially after the last trip to Valparaiso resulted in a narrow 21-19 win for the Bulldogs.
“We’re way past last Saturday and prepared for Valpo,” Creighton said. “They’re [Valparaiso] a team that plays really, really hard. This game, if you don’t play hard, you’re going to lose; and those guys play hard. We’re ready for them and it’s a tough place to play. We didn’t play well there two years ago so we’ve got our game plan in and have been preparing hard all week.”
Valparaiso is winless this season at 0-5 with a pair of PFL losses to date against San Diego and Butler. Despite giving up nearly 50 points a game, the Crusaders remain a dangerous team for the Bulldogs, who have won eight straight games against the Crusaders.
“They’ve been a big-play team and they live on big plays,” senior safety Jake Underwood said. “They’ve been down in some games and have thrown the ball a lot. Whenever you’re throwing the ball a lot, there’s the potential for the big play. That’s where they often capitalize on the deep balls they throw to gain momentum.”
One way to prevent that momentum from shifting is for the ballhawking defense to put on an encore to last weekend’s six-turnover performance. On the season, the Bulldogs rank sixth in the nation with 16 turnovers this season and nine of those opportunities being converted to points with another ending a game.
“It feels awesome when you get a turnover and the offense capitalizes on it,” Underwood. “Seeing both ends of that mechanism working like that is awesome.”