DES MOINES, Iowa - The University of Dayton football team used a smothering defense and great field position to hand Drake a 23-6 defeat Saturday at Drake Stadium. It was the Bulldogs' first Pioneer Football League loss and the win, coupled with Jacksonville's win over Butler, moved UD back in to a first-place tie in the PFL with one week to go.
Dayton is now 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the PFL. Butler and Drake are also 6-1.
The Flyer defense held Drake to 166 yards in total offense, and more than half of that came on an 85-yard fourth-quarter drive after Dayton was ahead 23-0. The Bulldogs had scored more than 40 points in each of the last two game, but were stymied by a swarming UD defensive unit that not only won the battle in the trenches, but also the chess match of disguising coverages against Drake's no-huddle,, checkdown at the line offensive schemes.
Dayton also won the battle of field position. Drake's average starting field position was its own 21-yard line, while UD's was near midfield (its own 47 to be exact). The Flyers were held to just two three-and-outs all day, while Drake had 10. The Bulldogs did not have a drive longer than three plays in the first half.
The Dayton defensive effort was led by senior James Vercammen, who was the team's top tackler for the 10th time in 10 games. He had 12 hits (eight solo). Linebacker Joes Ries had seven tackles, a pass batted down, an interception and a fumble recovery. Fourteen different Flyer defenders made a play at Drake.
Quarterback Steve Valentino connected for scores with Justin Watkins and Luke Bellman on passes of 30 and 36 yards. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 223 yards.
UD scored the first two times it had the ball, a 30-yard pass from Valentino to Watkins and a 19-yard field goal by Nick Glavin. The score remained 10-0 until threw a 36-yard scoring strike to Bellman in the third quarter, and then Brian Mack finished the Flyer scoring with a 27-yard TD run in the fourth. He finished with 53 yards, as did Dan Jacobs.
Dayton will finish the regular season on Saturday, November 21 against a red-hot Marist team that will bring with a six-game winning streak. A UD victory will assure the Flyers of a share of its 10th PFL title. If the Flyers tie for first, the Pioneer Football League's representative in the Gridiron Classic will be determined by the outcome of that day's Drake at Butler game.