The Valparaiso University football team suffered its first home loss of the year on Saturday, falling to Drake 35-21. Joey Diaz-Martinez (Miramar, Fla. / Miramar) had the first interception return for a touchdown of his college career, while Frank Catrine (Springboro, Ohio / Bishop Fenwick) enjoyed his most prosperous receiving performance of the season.
How It Happened
- Drake accounted for the first two scores of the game. The first came with 5:22 remaining in the first quarter, when tight end Eric Saubert hauled in a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Grant Kraemer. Then, running back Conley Wilkins heaved it to Zach Zlabis for an 18-yard TD on the first play of the second quarter.
- After struggling in goal line offensive situations a week ago, the Crusaders cracked the scoreboard when Ryan Clarke (Hopatcong, N.J. / Hopatcong) plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out. The play capped an 11-play, 71-yard drive that spanned 6:09.
- The Bulldogs quickly responded as they marched 67 yards in 2:58, a scoring drive that culminated with a 19-yard TD catch by Keegan Gallery on a pass from Kraemer.
- Diaz-Martinez made his second interception of the season with 4:00 left in the first half, picking off a Kraemer pass and returning it 49 yards for a TD.
- Once again, the Bulldogs had a response. Saubert was on the receiving end of a 6-yard TD pass from Kraemer with 2:25 left in the first half.
- The Crusaders attempted a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, but Jake Simpson’s try was blocked.
- The first Valpo drive of the second half resulted in a 14-yard TD snag by Catrine on a pass from Jimmy Seewald (Livonia, Mich. / Divine Child) to trim Drake’s lead to 28-21 with 8:19 left in the third.
- Valpo went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Drake 32 with 14:04 left, but Seewald was stopped for no gain and a turnover on downs. The Crusaders had another opportunity when they took over with 5:18 left in the fourth trialing by a touchdown, but Seewald threw an interception to Jabari Butler on the first play of the drive, giving Drake possession on the Valpo 49.
- Drake pulled away with 1:12 remaining when Wilkins punched it into the end zone from 8 yards out to make it 35-21.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders racked up five fourth-down conversions, tying a single-game high in all of FCS football this season. However, they were less efficient on third down, going 3-for-13. The Bulldogs racked up 13 third-down conversions in 16 tries.
- Drew Snouffer (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) made 14 tackles, besting his previous career high of 13 that was set against Sacred Heart earlier this season. Five of Snouffer’s tackles were solos, and he received credit for ½ sack.
- Kellan Hughes (Cicero, Ind. / Hamilton Heights) set a new career high with 12 tackles, while Kye Hall (New Smyrna Beach, Fla. / New Smyrna) matched his career best with 10.
- Diaz-Martinez’s interception was his second of the season and the fifth of his Valpo career. It was also the longest interception return and first pick six of his career. It was the team’s second interception return for a touchdown this season, the first coming by Hughes in the season opener against Illinois State.
- The Seewald-to-Catrine TD hookup was Catrine’s third reception of the season, and Seewald’s eighth TD pass of the year in limited duty.
- Seewald, who took over after Clarke left with an ankle injury, went 15-of-27 through the air for 113 yards. Clarke completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 68 yards.
- After three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, Jarrett Morgan (Cooper City, Fla. / Cooper City) was limited to 66 yards on 15 carries.
- Valpo was outgained on the ground 239-93 by a Drake team that amassed 493 yards of total offense.
- Catrine made eight catches, marking a season high and finishing one shy of a career watermark.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Cecchini
“Physically, they beat us up. It’s encouraging if you compare this game in terms of physicality to where we were a year ago against Drake. It’s night and day. We hung in there and fought for 60 minutes. We’re much more physical than we were a year ago, but we’re not where we need to be yet. I’m proud of the way we fought, but disappointed we didn’t win enough of those one-on-one matchups. Drake is big and physical. That’s one big reason why we aren’t winning these games.”
The Crusaders (2-4, 1-2 PFL) hit the road next week as they head to DeLand, Fla. to clash with Stetson (3-2, 1-1 PFL). The game is scheduled to kick off at noon CT and can be heard on WVUR (95.1 FM Valparaiso). Links for the live audio and stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.