Butler Prevails In Rematch of Defending PFL Champions, 24-14
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Butler’s offense generated consistent and sustained drives to defeat the Drake University football team, 24-14, in a matchup between defending Pioneer Football League tri-champions on Saturday afternoon.
Butler (6-2, 4-0 PFL) ran 20 more offensive plays than the Drake to control the line of scrimmage and clock while its defense limited Drake (3-4, 2-2 PFL) to just one offensive touchdown. Sophomore Eric Saubert (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) was the Drake offense’s most consistent weapon on the day with a career-high 108 receiving yards on eight catches from quarterback Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wis.) Rice was 27-of-47 passing for a career-high 330 yards and a touchdown.
The Drake defense was paced by John Hugunin’s (Oswego, Ill.) 16 tackles and Mike Ratelle’s (Edina, Minn.) 10 stops and two breakups. The defense also provided one of the few sparks on the day with Brandon Coleman (Cary, Ill.) returning a fumble 16 yards for a touchdown.
Butler’s balanced attack featured reserve quarterback Wade Markley throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown on 26-of-43 passing while Trae Heeter ran 27 times for 113 yards.
“I think they [Butler] outcoached us and outplayed us all around,” Drake head coach Chris Creighton said. “Our guys played hard, but they fought harder. They had some really long drives and we had some really short drives. That’s usually not a good combination.”
Butler’s offense wasted little time in setting the tone for the day with a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Markley completed three straight passes to cap the 9-play, 75-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to JT Mesch.
Drake answered that score at the start of the second half when Rice found Nick Rosa (Owasso, Okla.) in the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown strike following a drive that saw Rice throw for 47 of the 55 yards covered. Rosa also added 41 total receiving yards on the day.
Two drives later, Drake appeared to have flipped the field, pinning Butler on its own 2-yard line. But Butler’s offense responded to the long field by marching 98 yards on 14 plays before scoring on a reverse halfback pass from Tom Judge to Dylan Johnson from three yards out. Drake attempted to answer the score by driving deep into Butler territory in the final minute of the first half. However, the drive was stymied when Butler’s Ryan Kelsey picked off Rice in the endzone with less than 10 seconds left in the period.
Butler added a field goal to its lead midway through the third quarter on a 32-yard conversion from Jon Trealor to go up 17-7. It’s next drive saw BU trapped deep in its own territory when a lateral pass was dropped on its 18-yard line. Drake’s Brandon Coleman astutely scooped up the loose ball and carried it 17 yards into the end zone to give Drake new life.
“That was absolutely huge and a perfect example of making a play,” Creighton said. “We got a momentum swing at that point. The big plays are a huge deal and Brandon sure made a big one.”
Unfortunately that brief jolt of momentum wasn’t sustained as Drake’s next drive stalled due to a fumble in Butler territory just one play after a 30-yard catch from Saubert to move the chains.
“Eric [Saubert] is going to be a really good player as are other guys,” Creighton said. “I just didn’t feel though – as a whole – that we were making plays. Turnovers, we lost again and there were third downs that we weren’t making that they were. I had a feeling that they [Butler] had made a decision they were going to make plays and get it done.”
That decision was evident as Butler capitalized on the Drake error with another touchdown to go up, 24-14. The quick, 47-yard drive, saw Heeter carry the ball six of the eight plays for 42 of the drive’s 47 yards before Markley carried the ball in from four yards out.
Drake had three more possessions in the game, but struggled to get the ball across midfield to put Butler on its heels at any point while the Butler offense managed to successfully rush the ball and drain the clock for its fourth straight PFL win of the season and its first win in the last four tries against Drake.
Drake returns home next weekend to kick off a three-game homestand. That three-game span begins on Saturday, Oct.26 against Valparaiso at 1 p.m. Home games against Morehead State and Dayton follow to close out the home schedule.