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Butler Bulldogs Set to Face Drake on the Road

 

BUTLER (3-4, 1-3 PFL) at DRAKE (4-3, 3-1 PFL)
Saturday, October 25, 2 p.m. (ET)
Drake Stadium – Des Moines, Iowa

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The Butler Bulldogs will visit Drake in what many call the “Battle of the Bulldogs”. Butler will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak, a first since 2011, when it visits Drake Stadium for a Pioneer Football League game on Saturday, Oct. 25. The Indianapolis team will take on the Drake Bulldogs in an afternoon contest, slated to start at 2 p.m. (ET). Butler is looking for its first victory at Drake Stadium since 1994.

Butler slipped to 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in the PFL with a 27-21 loss to conference preseason favorite San Diego last weekend. The home setback came on the heels of Butler’s loss at Campbell a week earlier, ending a Butler streak of 30 consecutive contests without back-to-back losses. The last time Butler lost three consecutive games in a season was in 2008, a total of 65 games ago. Following the game at Drake, Butler will play two of its final three contests at home, beginning with a game against Morehead State on Saturday, Nov. 1 during Butler University Family Weekend.

Drake (4-3, 3-1 PFL) has won back-to-back games, including a 17-9 decision at Valparaiso last weekend. In the win at Valparaiso, Drake’s defense allowed just 176 total yards, and senior defensive back Drew Ormseth earned PFL Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors after returning a pass interception 39 yard for a touchdown to seal the victory. The Iowa squad is 3-1 at Drake Stadium this season, with victories in its last three home contests.

Butler won the second half, but could not entirely dig out of the 21-0 hole that it fell in after the first half and lost the game in its PFL match-up with once-beaten San Diego last weekend. The Bulldogs were shut out in the first half before storming back with three touchdowns in the final two periods to close the margin. The difference wound up being two second half field goals by the visiting Toreros. Butler cut the San Diego lead to six points, 27-21, on a 25-yard touchdown pass from sophomore QB Malcolm Weaver to senior WR Derek O’Connor with just over two minutes remaining, and the Bulldogs got the ball back with 1:11 left on the clock. Unfortunately, the final drive ended at midfield with a San Diego fumble recovery as time ran out.

Butler RS-Sophomore running back Guy DiBalsamo led Butler’s comeback attempt against San Diego with a pair of touchdowns and career-highs for rushing yards, receiving yards and all-purpose yards. DiBalsamo led the Bulldogs with 72 rushing yards on five carries, including a career-long 57-yard touchdown run, and he had two receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown. The second-year back also returned three kickoffs for 59 yards, finishing the day with a game-high 148 all-purpose yards.

Malcolm Weaver, pressed into early action at Campbell a week earlier when starting quarterback Matt Shiltz left the game with a fractured hand, made his first collegiate start against San Diego and wound up passing for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 22 of 45 passes (with two interceptions), and he added 35 rushing yards on nine attempts. The touchdown throws were the first of his career. Weaver’s 45 pass attempts are the most by a Butler player this season.

For the second straight year, Butler will head into its game against Drake without its starting quarterback. A year ago, Butler starter and reigning PFL Offensive Player of the Year Matt Lancaster was sidelined for the Drake game with concussion symptoms. Senior Wade Markley was given his first start of the season in place of Lancaster, and he responded by passing for a career-high 253 yards, throwing one touchdown pass and rushing for a second to lead Butler to a 24-14 victory. This year, Malcolm Weaver will get the nod at quarterback in place of PFL pass efficiency leader Matt Shiltz, who is sidelined with a hand injury.

Photo: Butler Athletics/Sean Horan (Brent Smith)
Photo: Butler Athletics/Sean Horan (Brent Smith)

Butler’s second half performance against San Diego was fueled in large part by a strong effort from the Bulldogs’ defensive unit. The Bulldogs held San Diego to just 32 rushing yards and 103 total yards after intermission, and, most importantly, kept the visitors out of the end zone. Leading that defensive charge was sophomore linebacker Sean Horan, who finished with a career-high 11 tackles, including one quarterback sack. Horan had seven of his game-high 11 tackles in the final two periods and matched Butler’s third-highest single game total for tackles this year.

Senior wide receiver Derek O’Connor recorded nine pass receptions against San Diego to match his previous career-high set against Dartmouth in 2012. He led both teams with 97 receiving yards, and he had one of Butler’s two touchdown receptions in the game. The 97 yards put him over 1,000 receiving yards for his career, and the touchdown grab was the sixth of his Butler career. O’Connor didn’t play against Drake a year ago, but he did have seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown against the Iowa squad at Drake Stadium in 2012. O’Connor ranks fourth in the PFL in pass receptions (5.6) and eighth in the league in receiving yards (60.9).

Senior defensive back JoJo Ciancio came up with his team-leading third pass interception of the season in Butler’s game with San Diego. He’s tied for sixth in the league in picks. Ciancio leads the Bulldogs and ranks 13th in the PFL in tackles (7.6). He also ranks fifth among conference defensive backs in tackles. Ciancio had five tackles against San Diego.

Junior placekicker Jon Treloar was perfect on three PAT kicks against San Diego, boosting his career total for PAT’s to 106. He’s eight PAT kicks shy of Butler’s career record, held by John Jenkins (1985-88). Butler leads the PFL and ranks third in NCAA Division I FCS in punt return defense (1.33). The Bulldogs are first in the PFL and 13th in the nation in kickoff return defense (16.39).

Sophomore defensive back Justin Crull is tied for first in the PFL and tied for second nationally with three fumble recoveries this season. Butler’s single season record for fumble recoveries is four, currently shared by three players. The Bulldogs, who forced two turnovers against San Diego, are currently tied for second in the PFL in turnover margin (+3).

Senior defensive end Bret Shannon is ranked fourth in the PFL in quarterback sacks (0.71), while senior defensive tackle Nick McInally stands fifth (0.67). Senior defensive tackle Kyle Annis is 11th in the league in sacks (0.42) and senior DT Glen Somers is tied for 12th (0.36). Shannon and Annis each had a sack against San Diego. The Bulldogs lead the PFL and rank in the “Top 25” in the nation in both quarterback sacks (2.71) and tackles for loss (8.4).

Offensive guard Greg Ambrose started his 32nd consecutive game for the Bulldogs against San Diego, the longest active streak by a Butler player.

The Butler Bulldogs will look to move the ball early against Drake in what should be a close Pioneer Football League matchup.

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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