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Butler Bulldogs In For Challenge against PFL Favorite San Diego

BUTLER (3-3, 1-2 PFL) vs. SAN DIEGO (4-1, 2-1 PFL)
Saturday, Oct. 18, Noon (ET)
Butler Bowl – Indianapolis, Ind.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – After splitting a two game road trip, the Butler Bulldogs return home and will be in for a tough day against the Pioneer Football League favorite San Diego Toreros. The once-beaten Toreros will visit the Butler Bowl for a conference game that’s scheduled to start at noon (ET). Butler’s last victory over

San Diego (4-1, 2-1 PFL), the conference coaches’ preseason pick to win this year’s PFL title, currently sits in a tie with Drake for fourth place in the league standings. The Toreros lone setback came in their opening PFL game at Jacksonville, the team that currently sits atop the league standings with a 4-0 record. Campbell, coming off a 28-9 victory over Butler last weekend, is a shade behind Jacksonville in the standings with a 3-0 record, while Dayton checks in at 2-0.

The Bulldogs (3-3, 1-2 PFL) have already played Jacksonville and Campbell and have upcoming dates with both Dayton and Drake. San Diego won its third consecutive game since the Jacksonville loss with a 31-23 Homecoming victory over Stetson last weekend. In that win, running back Jonah Hodges rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns to lead the San Diego attack. Butler’s conference road doesn’t get easier following the San Diego contest. Next up for the Bulldogs is a visit to Drake on Saturday, Oct. 25. Butler’s first four PFL opponents currently have a combined 9-3 league record.

Campbell quarterback Dakota Wolf rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two more to lead the host Camels to a 19-point win over the Bulldogs last weekend in Buies Creek, N.C. The setback gave Butler two PFL losses for the first time since 2011. Wolf opened the scoring with a 50-yard touchdown pass to teammate Jared Joyner in the first quarter, and then he answered a Butler field goal with an 18-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs did manage to cut the margin to five points, 14-9, at halftime on a four-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Rico Watson, but Wolf countered with his own 14-yard touchdown run and a six-yard touchdown pass in the second half.

Butler quarterback Matt Shiltz suffered an injury to his throwing hand on the first play of the Bulldogs’ second drive against Campbell, and he was sidelined for the remainder of the game. It was a significant loss for the Bulldogs. Shiltz entered the game as the PFL leader in total offense (304.0) and passing efficiency (141.9), and he ranked second in the conference in passing average (258.6). He had thrown for three touchdowns in two of Butler’s previous three games, and he ranked second in the PFL in total touchdown passes with ten. Shiltz received treatment for the injury when Butler returned to Indianapolis, and he’ll have his hand in a cast for several weeks. Matt Shiltz owns the highest single game total offense output in the PFL this season (433 yards against Taylor).

Photo: Butler Athletics/Malcom Weaver (Brent Smith)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Malcolm Weaver (Brent Smith)

Sophomore Malcolm Weaver was pressed into early action at Campbell, when starting quarterback Matt Shiltz left the game with injury. Weaver, who had battled Shiltz for the starting quarterback position through the spring, had been seeing action for the Bulldogs this year as a running back and on special teams. In his first extended action as Butler’s quarterback, the former Loyola Academy signal caller completed 14 of 29 passes for 166 yards. He connected on 10 of his first 18 pass attempts and guided the Bulldogs on a 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive right before halftime. Weaver had just seven collegiate pass attempts prior to Butler’s game at Campbell.

Senior defensive back JoJo Ciancio led Butler’s defensive effort at Campbell with a career-high 14 tackles. He had six solo tackles and matched his career-high with eight assists. Only one player in the Pioneer Football League (Matt Casey of Davidson) has had more tackles in a game this season. Ciancio’s previous career-high for tackles was eight against Campbell a year ago.

Sophomore Justin Crull, who leads the nation in fumble recoveries, came up with his first career pass interception at Campbell. The second-year defensive back picked off a pass late in the first quarter to stop Campbell in Butler territory and set up the Bulldogs’ first scoring drive. Crull currently boasts three fumble recoveries on the year and shares the top spot in the NCAA Division I FCS with four other players. Butler’s single season record for fumble recoveries is four, shared by three players.

Junior placekicker Jon Treloar hit a career-long, 49-yard field goal for Butler’s first score at Campbell. The kick was the longest by a Butler player in nearly four decades. The last time a Butler player had a longer field goal was in 1976, when Bob Ligda kicked a school-record 57-yarder against St. Joseph’s. Treloar’s kick was ten yards longer than his previous Butler best. Treloar shares the second-longest field goal in the PFL this season with his 49-yard kick at Campbell. Punter Brian Akialis averaged 39.0 yards on seven kicks at Campbell, and he matched his season-long punt with a 59-yard boot. Akialis ranks sixth in the PFL in punting (38.3).

RS-Junior defensive tackle Nick McInally stands third in the PFL in quarterback sacks (0.80). Senior defensive end Bret Shannon is tied for fifth in the league in sacks (0.67), while senior defensive tackle Glen Somers is tied for tenth (0.42). The Bulldogs lead the PFL and rank in the “Top 25” in the nation in both quarterback sacks (2.67) and tackles for loss (7.8). The Bulldogs, who forced two turnovers at Campbell, are currently ranked third in the PFL in turnover margin (+3).

Butler and San Diego are meeting for the 20th time as football opponents. The Toreros have won the last two meeting and lead the overall series, 14-5. Butler’s last victory over San Diego came at the Butler Bowl, 25-24, in 2006. Placekicker David Lang booted a 37-yard field goal with 0:01.9 left for the winning margin. The Bulldogs will rely heavily on the defense to force turnovers against San Diego as the offense will most likely struggle without starting quarterback Matt Shiltz.

Chris Fultz is a senior writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.

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