Valparaiso opened the Pioneer Football League portion of its schedule on Saturday afternoon, dropping a Homecoming contest to Morehead State 38-14 at Brown Field.
Eric Hoffman (Manitowoc, Wis./Lincoln H.S.) threw for a career-high two touchdowns and as well as 277 yards in offense for Valpo, but the Eagles’ Zach Lewis answered with 335 yards and four scores.
“Our defense played better today and put our offense in position to score some points,” head coach Dale Carlson said. “We were inside the 25 yard line numerous times and only scored two touchdowns. We need to find that consistency inside the 25.”
Morehead State found the scoreboard first on its opening drive of the game. Lewis found Cory Jackson from four yards out on a pass to the right side for the game’s first touchdown.
Valpo answered less than a minute later, needing just four plays. A tipped pass was caught by Game Ali-El (Randallstown, Md./Polytechnic Institute H.S.) for 27 yards down at the Morehead State 10-yard line. A play later, Hoffman connected over the middle with Cole Anderson (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Valor Christian H.S.) for his first collegiate catch, tying the game at seven.
The game stayed tied until the Eagles struck three times in the second quarter to take a 28-7 lead into the break. Kevin Thomas scored on a two-yard run up the middle before Lewis found Desmond Cox from 12 yards out on a swing pass. Lewis added his third touchdown pass of the game at the 6:52 mark, a 26-yard score to Thomas.
Donte Sawyer made a 12-yard scoring grab in the right corner of the end zone on Morehead State’s opening drive of the second half to increase the advantage.
A big pass play set Valpo up for its second touchdown late in the third quarter. Hoffman found Sean McCarty (Waukesha, Wis./West H.S.) for 53 yards, on a third-and 15 play, setting up the Crusaders in a goal-to-go situation. On the next play, Hoffman connected with Kevin Becker (Cincinnati, Ohio/Anderson H.S.) across the middle from nine yards out to make it 35-14.
Rainer Duzan added a fourth quarter field goal from 33 yards out to close out the scoring for the Eagles.
The Crusaders had several other chances to score in the game, but went just 2-for-4 in the red zone and were 2-of-17 on third down tries.
“Our special teams played as well as they have all year and our defense tackled better today,” Carlson added. “We just need to put points on the board.”
Morehead State (2-3, 1-1 PFL) ran 99 plays for 555 yards of total offense, including 371 through the air. Lewis finished 38-of-55 for the 335 yards. Valpo posted 328 yards with Hoffman completing 25-of-51 passes for the 277 yards throwing the football.
Ali-El led Valpo with 12 carries for 67 yards on the ground while Cox rushed 21 times for 131 yards for the Eagles. Tanner Kuramata (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont H.S.) had five catches for 52 yards while Eric Slenk (Holland, Mich./Christian H.S.) made five grabs for 45 yards to pace the Crusaders.
Valpo forced the Eagles to punt 11 times while John Edwards (Saint Louis, Mo./Cardinal Ritter H.S.) made a career-high 16 tackles.
“Edwards did a good job of wrapping up guys today and had a lot of stops,” Carlson added. “We forced them to punt more than they have all year as well.”
Valparaiso (0-4, 0-1) will remain home next Saturday afternoon, entertaining San Diego. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Brown Field.
Game Notes: Morehead State leads the all-time series 14-3 and has won five straight meetings … the Eagles lead the NCAA I-FCS in total offense, averaging 550 yards per game … Becker’s touchdown reception was his first of the season and third of his career … Hoffman has thrown for three scores this year … Cody Gokan (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) made 12 tackles while Pat Derbak (Schaumburg, Ill./Schaumburg H.S.) had 11 stops … Nikko Carson (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township H.S.) made two sacks … the Crusaders entered the game without a sack on the season and had three on Saturday … there were no possessions in the game which lasted longer than 3:59.