DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University football team overcame a 24-point deficit to defeat Marist, 34-27, in overtime Saturday afternoon at Drake Stadium. The Bulldogs’ offense struggled early before hitting its stride late in the third quarter to score 31 unanswered points.
“I’m really fired for our team right now,” head coach Chris Creighton said. “This was a football and a life lesson. You find yourself in positions where it’s hard to believe and our football team believed they were going to win. There’s deep power in that.”
That belief improved the Bulldogs to a perfect 5-0 in the Pioneer Football League and 6-2 overall. Marist dropped to 1-3 in the PFL and 2-5 overall with the loss.
Mike Piatkowski (Wheaton, Ill.) engineered Drake’s comeback victory as he led the Bulldogs back from a 27-3 deficit, to add another impressive performance to his career totals. The fifth-year senior rewrote the record book again, with two touchdown passes to give him 68 career touchdown tosses, passing Ira Vandever in the Drake record books. The quarterback was 32-for-54, with 373 yards, and one interception through the air, and had 28 yards scrambling.
“No one will ever know how good Mike [Piatkowski] is,” Creighton said. “You can look at stats all you want – but given the game that he called – he’s a great quarterback.”
Gary Scott, Jr. (Forsyth, Ill.) gashed the top rushing defense in the conference, finding the end zone twice – including the game-winning score – to complement his 90 yards on 19 carries. Joey Orlando (Park Ridge, Ill.) was the top passing target for Piatkowski, catching nine passes for 103 yards, one touchdown, including a key two-point conversion. Nick Rosa (Owasso, Okla.) also caught eight passes for 89 yards, and Grahm Butler (Brock, Neb.) added 72 receiving yards and a touchdown.
John Hugunin (Oswego, Ill.) led the Bulldogs defensively, adding 12 tackles to his team-leading total, including joining Brandon Coleman (Cary, Ill.) in sacking Marist’s quarterback in overtime. Tyler Moorehead (Mason City, Iowa) sealed the victory in overtime, recording a sack on fourth down. Moorehead had six tackles in the game.
“It’s always a team effort but Tyler Moorehead is one of our leaders,” Creighton said. “I think he got in there and got that sack at the end. He’s another special player and everyone hears him loud and clear by the way that he plays.”
Facing a 24-point, 27-3, deficit late in the third quarter, Drake finally found the end zone with 3:35 remaining on the clock as Piatkowski found Butler on a 22-yard strike. The same combination connected for the two-point conversion to ignite the Bulldogs’ comeback.
With momentum in tow, the defense forced a three-and-out and the Bulldogs drove down the field to bring themselves within one possession at 27-19. Scott capped a 63-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. The ensuing two-point point was converted with Piatkowski finding a wide-open Orlando in the corner of the end zone.
Drake tied the game, 27-27, with 7:07 left in the fourth quarter, to erase the Red Foxes lead. Set up by a Mike Ratelle (Edina, Minn.) hit to separate the ball from the Marist receiver on fourth down, the Bulldogs drove 66-yards down the field with the drive being capped by Piatkowski’s record-breaking touchdown connection to Orlando from 17 yards out. Piatkowski once again converted the two-point conversion, this time finding Kevin Marshall.
After holding the Marist offense once again, Drake gave itself an opportunity to take the lead with time expiring. The offense moved the ball down to the 4-yard line, before giving Cam Bohnert (Edmond, Okla.) a 22-yard field goal try with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. The kick, however, narrowly missed to the right of the goal post, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Bulldogs’ offense gained possession first and put pressure back on Marist after scoring a touchdown to give Drake their first lead in the game, 34-27. Scott rushed for his second touchdown of the day on first-and-goal from the 2-yard line to give the Blue and White the advantage. Drake’s defense sealed the comeback with a goal line stand, coming up with a pair of sacks to neutralize the Red Foxes’ scoring bid and preserve Drake’s perfect PFL record.
Marist took the early advantage with a long 74-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Reilly to Mike Rios, to put the Red Foxes up, 7-0, with 10:29 remaining in the first quarter. The pass was the longest play that the Drake defense has given up this season and also marked the first time that an opponent had scored first in a game since Morehead State had a lead on September 22. Rios finished the game with 133 receiving yards.
Drake cut into Marist’s lead on the following drive, concluding with a 27-yard field goal by Bohnert, to make the score, 7-3. The long 15-play, 65-yard drive spanned almost six minutes of game clock. Bohnert’s field goal attempt was enabled by an impressive play by Piatkowski, in which he scrambled to the left sideline before finding Butler on the 12-yard line.
Bohnert missed a 32-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter as another promising Bulldogs drive stalled in the red zone. The Marist defense continued to get pressure on Piatkowski, forcing the signal caller out of his comfort zone. While Piatkowski did convert long passing plays on third-and-long multiple times on the drive, he was unable to find a receiver inside the Marist 20, setting up the field goal attempt.
Marist increased its lead with 10:01 remaining in the second quarter, ending their drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by Max Jacques, to give the Foxes a 14-3 lead. The scoring drive was once again set up by a long passing play, this time a 40-yard completion to Rios to begin the scoring drive.
Drake threatened following the Marist scoring drive in the second quarter, but came up empty from the 1-yard line. Although Piatkowski once again set the offense up in scoring position, a pair of rushes from the 1-yard were stonewalled by the Red Foxes to kill the drive on downs.
The Bulldogs’ offensive woes continued late in the half as another promising drive come up empty despite a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. This time the Bulldogs could not execute a handoff on an end around play in which Rosa ran into Piatkowski, causing a fumble that was recovered by Marist at their own 8-yard line. The Red Foxes elected to run out the clock with 28 seconds remaining in the half, heading to the break with a 14-3 lead over the Bulldogs.
The momentum continued for Marist in the second half with a fumble recovery on the kickoff at the 16-yard line. The Red Foxes took three plays to find the end zone on a nine-yard pass to Joe Tralli, increasing the Bulldogs’ deficit, 20-3.
Jacques continued to gash the Drake defense in the third quarter, scoring his second touchdown on the afternoon to give Marist a commanding 27-3 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter. His one-yard rush concluded a 37-yard drive that followed Jack Marston’s interception of Piatkowski.
The Bulldogs will have a full week to savor the remarkable come-from-behind victory before resuming PFL action on Nov. 3 at Dayton. Kickoff between Drake and the Flyers is set for noon, CST.