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Butler Bulldogs Finish Football Season with Loss to Dayton

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – A tough 2014 football season came to an end for the Butler Bulldogs with a loss on Saturday (Nov. 15) at the Butler Bowl. Butler battled back from one deficit, but couldn’t overcome a second and wound up dropping a 21-14 decision to the Dayton Flyers in a Pioneer Football League game. The outcome left Butler with a final 4-7 season record, 2-6 in the PFL.

The Bulldogs had two final opportunities to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. The first ended at midfield with just under two minutes remaining on an incomplete, fourth-down pass. The Bulldogs’ defense held, and Butler had a final possession on their own 19 yard line with 0:46 left.

A 22-yard pass from sophomore QB Malcolm Weaver to senior WR Derek O’Connor gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Butler 32-yard line with 0:35 left, but a quarterback sack and a short completion to junior WR Marquese Marin-Hayes ended the final bid.

“All day, defensively we were outstanding,” said Butler head coach Jeff Voris. “There were a couple of plays here and there that they made, and good teams will do that. But our defense gave us a chance to win. We just weren’t consistent enough offensively today.”

The visiting Flyers (7-3, 5-2 PFL) jumped to a 14-0 advantage with a pair of first quarter touchdowns, but the Bulldogs erased that deficit with back-to-back scoring drives at the end of the first period and the start of the second.

O’Connor ignited the offense with a 62-yard touchdown reception with just eight seconds remaining in the first quarter. He found an opening over the middle, caught a pass from Weaver in stride and out-raced the defense to the end zone for his fifth touchdown of the season. Butler then tied the game on its next possession, marching 73 yards in 12 plays. Weaver finished the drive with a 37-yard touchdown run, his third of the season.

Photo: Butler Athletics/Derek O'Connor (Brent Smith)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Derek O’Connor (Brent Smith)

The Bulldogs came out of the halftime break completely flat on offense, but the game remained tied until the third quarter, when the Flyers took advantage of a Butler fumble to mount the eventual winning drive. Butler punted three times and turned the ball over on a lost fumble on each drive in the third quarter. Butler looked ready to take charge, when senior safety David Burke picked off a pass from Dayton quarterback Will Bardo and returned it to midfield, but the Bulldogs were called for pass interference on the play and Dayton’s drive continued.

Three plays later, Bardo found WR Ross Smith with a 28-yard scoring pass for the game’s final touchdown.

O’Connor, playing his final game for the Bulldogs, led Butler with eight receptions for 144 yards. Sophomore running back Guy DiBalsamo paced the Butler ground game with 17 carries for 71 yards, while Weaver finished with 157 passing yards. Sophomore linebacker David Starkey finished with a team-high nine tackles, while Burke added eight. Senior defensive lineman Bret Shannon ended his career with another sack. Senior safety JoJo Ciancio, playing his final collegiate game, had seven tackles and a fumble recovery. The game was the final contest for 17 Butler seniors. That group helped Butler to 26 wins, a pair of PFL championships and the school’s first NCAA Division I playoff berth over the past four seasons.

“We’re certainly losing some good senior players, who have meant a lot to the program over the past four years,” said Voris. “It’s always tough to replace those guys, but moving forward, we’re optimistic that we have a good core nucleus back that has experience and will be ready to take over next year.”

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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