Dayton, Ohio ? David Macchi passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns, and Rob Giancola amassed a PFL and school-record 275 receiving yards, including two long touchdowns, as Valpo (4-3, 1-0 PFL) upset #1-ranked Dayton 33-28 in the Pioneer Football League opener. The Crusaders snapped the Flyers' I-AA longest 14-game win streak and became just the second team in the 11-year history of the PFL to win at Dayton (6-1, 0-1 PFL). The contest was an offensive slugfest as Valpo compiled 524 total yards and Dayton produced 500.
Valpo, which defeated Dayton for the first time during the 2000 season, halted Dayton's potential go-ahead scoring drive in the final minute. The Crusaders led 33-28 with 1:48 left before the Flyers used six plays to drive 74 yards to Valpo's 16-yard line with :59 seconds remaining. The Crusader defense preserved the win by forcing four straight incomplete passes, including a third-down pass breakup by Chris Daniels at the five-yard line. Brandon Staley's fourth-down pass to the middle of the end zone fell incomplete.
Prior to Valpo's defensive stand, Valpo and Dayton traded touchdowns within 2:16 of each other. Macchi and Giancola made the biggest offensive play of the game, connecting on a 78-yard touchdown pass with 4:40 left in the game to extend the lead to 33-21.
Based on the final score, Macchi arguably made the most significant play of the game as a defender. After his two-point conversion pass was intercepted and returned down the left sideline by Bill Groetsema, Macchi sprinted downfield and knocked Groetsema out of bounds at the 15-yard line. The play prevented Dayton from scoring a defensive two-point conversion that would have cut its deficit to 10 points. As a result, the Flyers could have sent the game into overtime with a field goal in the final minute.
The Crusaders set the tempo in the first half, racing out to a 24-7 halftime lead. Three interceptions ? two by Michael Mroz and one by Daniels ? stopped two Flyer scoring threats and set up a touchdown in the first 30 minutes.
On the first possession of the game, Valpo displayed a balanced attack and capped off a seven-play, 78-yard drive with Macchi's 36-yard touchdown pass to Giancola. Dayton tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter on Staley's 2-yard scoring run.
Following an interception by Brian Heizman at Valpo's 33-yard line, Mroz picked off Staley at the Valpo 4-yard line with 14:43 left in the second quarter. Valpo thwarted another Dayton threat two possessions later when Daniels made his fifth interception of the season in the end zone after the Flyers drove to the Valpo 6-yard line.
Valpo took a 14-7 lead on Macchi's 18-yard touchdown pass to Matt Van Daele with 6:22 left in the first half. After Valpo's defense forced another punt, freshman Andrew McCawley booted a 32-yard field goal to expand the advantage to 17-7 with 1:46 left.
On Dayton's next play following a touchback, Mroz stepped in front of Staley's pass, making his second interception at the Dayton 29-yard line. Kevin Knutson, who caught a game-high nine passes, made a twisting 16-yard touchdown reception from Macchi with 1:09 remaining to give Valpo a 24-7 halftime lead.
Dayton, which had won 25 of its last 27 games at Welcome Stadium, completed a 14-play, 80-yard drive on Staley's 12-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Wrobleski on the first possession of the second half.
Giancola caught a 44-yard pass from Macchi to set up another 32-yard field goal by McCawley that increased Valpo's lead to 27-14. Dayton crawled to within 27-21 with 5:47 left on Staley's 19-yard scoring pass to Matt Ryan.
Giancola, who caught seven passes for 275 yards, surpassed his own school record of 233 achieved two weeks ago against Jacksonville. The 6'1", 215-pound junior caught passes of 56, 44, 40 and 36 yards before he hauled in a Macchi aerial at the Dayton 35-yard line and scampered into the end zone with what proved to be the game-winning points. Giancola leads the PFL in scoring with 68 points and has tied the single-season school record with 11 touchdowns.
Macchi, like Giancola, had another exceptional game, completing 22 of 33 passes. The senior from San Jose, Cal./Willow Glen utilized five different receivers and rushed for 40 yards on eight carries. Nick Reid, who ran for 57 yards on 12 carries in the first half, led the Crusaders with 71 yards on 19 attempts overall.
Brad Smeja led Valpo with 13 tackles, while John Tsahas added 11 stops. Lawrence Canada had a big game, recording nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks. In addition to the two interceptions, Mroz made seven tackles and three pass breakups. McCawley, a freshman, made two of three field goal attempts, converted all three extra point kicks and booted six kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks.
Valpo finished with 404 passing yards and rushed for 120 yards on 38 carries. Dayton passed for 284 yards and rushed for 216. Brandon Staley completed 21 of 41 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions for the Flyers. Staley, a junior, topped UD in rushing with 86 yards on 17 carries. Ryan Wrobleski had a team-high six receptions for 106 yards for the Flyers.
Following the win, the entire Crusader contingent of players and coaches gathered in front of the visiting stands and sang the Valparaiso University alma mater to the Crusader fans.
Valpo will play its second PFL game next Saturday when it hosts San Diego at 1 p.m. CDT.