In addition to being another critical PFL contest, Saturday is also Military Appreciation Day for the Bulldogs with all active military members and veterans eligible to receive up to four free tickets with a military ID. Additional tickets may be purchased for $5.
“We have a ton of respect for Marist and their program,” head coach Chris Creighton said. “One of the reasons we’ve had success against them is that we’ve always played at or near our best against them. It’s taken that to beat them. If we are never at our best against them, we’d lose. Our guys know they have to be at their best this week.”
On the field, Marist team is 2-4 overall, and 1-2 in conference play. The Red Foxes come to Drake Stadium off a tough, 17-14, loss to Butler last weekend. Marist features the top scoring defense in the PFL, allowing a miserly 17.2 points per game. That low number promises to be tested by Drake’s league-leading scoring offense that has put up 28.3 points per game.
“They have a great combination of a great scheme and great players,” Creighton said of the Red Foxes’ defense. “They have a plan, you can see it, but they don’t get too far out of what they do. They know who they are and are good at it. They want to stop the run first and they have the players to do that.”
That Drake offense has been led by senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski’s (Wheaton, Ill.) steady play. In a rainstorm during last weekend’s 35-21 at Valparaiso, he threw for 327 yards and a touchdown to move Drake to 5-2 on the season. That touchdown strike was the 66th of his illustrious career and moves him within two of setting the Drake school record for career touchdown passes currently held by Ira Vandever. Early in the season, Piatkowski passed Vandever in career passing yardage and currently has the second most passing yards of any active FCS passer.
Marist’s stingy defense has forced nine turnovers in its last three games with its trio of linebackers leading the team in tackles. Drake’s offense, which was hampered by injuries last week at Valparaiso, hopes to have a handful of its starters return to the lineup. In their stead, the Bulldogs reserves have received praise from coaches and teammates for their ability to step up immediately into those roles.
“At this point in the season, every team has guys who are banged up and you’re a team,” Creighton said of overcoming injuries. “Everybody matters and you’re going to play at some point and step up. We feel great about our depth. Guys in our program are committed and mentally prepared.”
Saturday’s game is Drake’s last before getting a bye-week to recuperate from the first eight weeks of the season and re-charge for the final three weeks of the PFL season that includes games against Dayton and fellow PFL frontrunners Jacksonville and Butler.