Valparaiso kept the game close throughout the first half, but Butler took advantage of three second half turnovers and turned them into points as the Bulldogs defeated the Crusaders 42-14 to retain the Hoosier Helmet on Saturday afternoon at the Butler Bowl in Indianapolis, Ind.
The Crusaders outgained the Bulldogs 463-400 on the afternoon, but scored just twice in five trips into the red zone and the three turnovers turned into 21 Butler points.
“Our kids fought hard today which is something I didn’t think we did last week,” head coach Dale Carlson said. “We just have got to learn how to convert when we get opportunities.”
Valpo moved the football on its first two drives, taking the ball into the Bulldog red zone on both occasions. Butler came up big on a pair of fourth downs into the wind though, keeping the Crusaders off of the scoreboard.
“When we marched down field on those first two drives and came away with nothing it was really tough,” Carlson added.
Andrew Huck put Butler on the scoreboard first with 1:46 remaining in the opening quarter, connecting with Jordan Koopman from 29 yards out for a touchdown.
The Crusaders immediately responded with a 16-play, 75-yard drive, converting a pair of fourth downs. Eric Hoffman (Manitowoc, Wis./Lincoln H.S.) pitched to Sterling Summerville (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) on the option, and Summerville found the end zone from seven yards out to tie the game at seven.
Butler responded to Valpo’s score, as Huck hooked up with Zach Watkins in the deep left corner of the end zone to put the Bulldogs up 14-7 at the break.
Valpo outgained Butler 233-193 in the first half and picked up 14 first downs, but the two empty trips to the red zone were the difference as the Crusaders trailed at the break. The Crusaders also controlled the clock in the opening 30 minutes, keeping the ball for nearly 21 minutes.
The Bulldogs came out of the locker room and marched down field, converting a couple of third downs before Huck found Watkins on a slant from four yards out, making it 21-7 just five minutes into the third quarter.
Huck and Watkins connected for the third time on the afternoon with 2:46 to play in the third, this time from 22 yards out after taking advantage of a Crusader turnover.
The Crusaders were driving early in the fourth quarter when Sean Grady intercepted a pass deep in Bulldog territory and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, pushing Butler’s advantage to 28 points.
Two more fourth down conversions led to Valpo’s second touchdown of the game. Hoffman found Mike Gerton (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) over the middle for a seven yard scoring strike with 10:44 to play in the game for his collegiate touchdown.
Butler (4-3, 2-2 PFL) answered two plays later as Tom Judge threw to tight end Matt Jensen for a 22-yard scoring reception.
Summerville finished the game with 26 carries for 89 yards and the score to lead the Crusader offense while also making eight receptions for 77 yards.
“Sterling had to step in for Gabe Ali-El and he really gave us a great effort today,” Carlson added. “He got some key first downs and made some big pass receptions.”
Hoffman completed 33-of-47 passes for 313 yards and a touchdown but also threw three interceptions.
“He was much better on read progressions and throwing the ball for the most part,” Carlson said of Hoffman.
Sean McCarty (Waukesha, Wis./West H.S.) also had eight catches for 104 yards for the Crusaders.
Huck completed 14-of-26 passes for 189 yards and four scores for the Bulldogs while added 64 yards on the ground. Watkins had seven catches, including the three scores, for 98 total yards.
Valparaiso (0-6, 0-3) will remain on the road next Saturday afternoon when the Crusaders travel to Des Moines, Iowa to battle Drake. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Game Notes: Butler leads the all-time series 46-24 and has won four straight contests … McCarty now has 1,060 yards receiving in his career at Valpo … Valpo was 7-of-9 on fourth down conversions … the Crusaders held the football for 38:32 … the 400 yards the Crusaders allowed were the fewest this season by a Valpo opponent … Grant Bushong (Ionia, Mich./Ionia H.S.) and Alan Porter, Jr. (Downers Grove, Ill./South H.S.) led Valpo with seven tackles.