The list of milestones the Valparaiso University football team reached with Saturday’s victory is a lengthy one, but the day can easily be summarized in one sentence that has a nice ring to it: The Hoosier Helmet is coming back to Valparaiso. The Crusaders knocked off rival Butler 36-28 at the Sellick Bowl, in the process reaching five wins for the first time since 2007, notching their fourth league win in a single year for the first time since 1968 and moving within one victory of their first winning season since 2003.
How It Happened
- The Bulldogs (6-5, 4-4 PFL) struck first as an 11-play, 49-yard opening drive culminated with a 34-yard field goal by Drew Bevelhimer to make it 3-0 Butler with 9:11 remaining in the first quarter.
- The Butler lead was short-lived as it took the Crusaders just 1:39 and three plays to move 73 yards for a touchdown. Jimmy Seewald (Livonia, Mich. / Divine Child) completed a screen pass to the right sideline to Jarrett Morgan (Cooper City, Fla. / Cooper City), who sped his way into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown pass.
- Valpo forced a quick three-and-out and began its next drive with favorable field position, on its own 41. That drive featured a 42-yard bomb from Seewald to Griffin Norberg (Sunrise, Fla. / Western), then concluded with a 9-yard pass over the middle to an open Jean Rene (Delray Beach, Fla. / Wellington Community) for the touchdown, expanding Valpo’s lead to 14-3 with 5:05 left in the first.
- The Crusaders notched the first takeaway of the game as Mike Wheeler (Fullerton, Calif. / La Habra) forced a fumble and Jake Trumpower (Fort Mill, S.C. / Charlotte Catholic) recovered at the Valpo 39.
- That turnover quickly turned into points as Dimitrios Latsonas (Westmont, Ill. / Westmont) sent one through the uprights from 40 yards out to build the lead to 17-3 with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
- Jalin LeAndre (West Park, Fla. / Hallandale) made a key tackle to bring down a Butler receiver a yard shy of a first down on a fourth-down play. The Crusaders took over on downs on their own 28.
- Butler got seven points back as Jacob Lewis made a 23-yard TD catch on a pass from Sam Schrader to trim the edge to seven at 17-10 with 9:52 left in the first half.
- Seewald aired one out to Donny Navarro (Naperville, Ill. / Neaqua Valley) on third-and-10 for a 30-yard TD heave, building Valpo’s lead to 24-10 with 5:23 left in the first half.
- The Bulldogs found the end zone with 1:02 left in the second quarter as Duvante Lane rushed for a 3-yard score to make it 24-17.
- The Valpo defense came through with another critical takeaway early in the third quarter. LeAndre made an interception and returned it 26 yards to the Butler 8, setting up first and goal for the Crusaders. Valpo’s drive started at the 4 as the interception return ended with LeAndre fumbling the ball and Tristian De La Rosa (La Habra, Calif. / La Habra) alertly recovering.
- Two plays later, Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft) sneaked into the end zone from 3 yards out. The PAT was blocked, so Valpo’s lead stood at 30-17 with 8:30 left in the third.
- The Valpo defense forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball over on downs on each of their next two possessions, the second of which allowed the Crusaders to start on their own 39.
- Latsonas connected on a 37-yard field goal with 14:36 to go in the fourth quarter, increasing Valpo’s edge to 33-17.
- Schrader’s 2-yard QB keeper reached the end zone, allowing the Bulldogs to pull within 10 with 10:06 to go in regulation. Butler converted a two-point try as Lane ran it in on an option play, making it 33-25 in favor of the Crusaders.
- On third-and-15 from Valpo’s own 42 with under eight minutes remaining, Morgan broke two tackles on his way to a 19-yard run to the Valpo 39. That kept alive a drive that resulted in another Latsonas field goal, this one from 23 yards to make it 36-25 with 3:51 left in regulation.
- A 32-yard field goal by Bevelhimer made it 36-28 with 1:15 remaining in the fourth.
- Navarro made one more big play – this time on special teams – recovering Butler’s onside kick with 1:13 left in the game. From there, the Crusaders called for the victory formation against their instate rivals – a gratifying moment for players and coaches alike.
Inside the Game
- For the first time since 2014 and just the second time in the last decade, the Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy belongs to the Crusaders. This was Valpo's first win at Butler since 2005.
- Latsonas shattered the program record for made PATs in a season with his third make on Saturday. He broke the previous record of 34, which was shared by Andrew McCawley (2004) and Eric Strasser (1999).
- Seewald has entered the Top 5 in program history for passing yards in a single-season. He eclipsed Eric Hoffman’s 2012 season (2,302) to enter the Top 5 in the first half of Saturday’s game. Seewald went 18-of-28 for 285 yards and three scores.
- With its first points of the game, Valpo now owns its highest single-season point total since 2003. With their second score, the Crusaders reached 300 points in a single season for the fourth time in program history and just the second time since 1951.
- Valpo moved into the Top 5 in program history for total yards in a single season in the second quarter on Saturday. Valpo gained 356 yards of total offense on Saturday, boosting its season total to fifth in program history.
- Navarro moved past 500 receiving yards for the season on Saturday, becoming just the fourth Crusader in the last 10 years to hit 500, joining Tanner Kuramata, Andrew Cassara and Sean McCarty. The Crusader freshman led the way with four catches for 84 yards against the Bulldogs.
- A trio of Crusaders reached double figures in tackles, led by Nick Turner with 13. Drew Snouffer (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) and J.J. Nunes (Baltimore, Md. / Baltimore Lutheran) had 10 apiece.
- Latsonas’s three field goals boosted his total to 11 makes in 13 attempts on the season. He has cracked the Top 5 in made field goals in a single year, currently tied for fourth.
- Morgan’s TD catch was his first receiving touchdown of the year. He also has four rushing scores this season. This marked the fourth receiving TD of his Valpo career and his 12th total touchdown.
- Morgan became the ninth different Crusader with a reception of 30 yards or more this season.
- Rene’s TD snag was the 12th of his career and his second receiving TD of the season. He also has one rushing TD, which came this year against Morehead State.
- Valpo held Butler to 7-of-18 on third down and 2-of-5 on fourth down.
- Navarro now has five TD receptions as a freshman.
- LeAndre’s interception was his second of the season and of his career.
- Duncan became the seventh different Crusader to run for a TD this season.
- The win allows the Crusaders to secure at least a .500 record in PFL play for the first time since 2003 and move within one win of their first winning season in 14 years. Valpo has won five games in a season for the first time since 2007 and has four league wins in the same season for the first time since 1968.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Cecchini
Thoughts on the Game: “Jimmy stepped up and played a huge game for us. We didn’t have the ball much in the first half. Part of that was because they were putting together some time-consuming drives, but part of that was that we were going down field in four or five play drives. Jimmy put the ball on the money and a couple times we came up and made big-time catches as well.”
On the Defense: “The turnovers were significant, and the fourth down stops were huge in this game. They stepped up and didn’t give up many of the big plays. The big fourth-down play action was the only one that cost us. We bent but didn’t break. Those turnovers were huge. We’ve talked so much about turnovers the last few weeks. We got the better of those today.”
On Tristan De La Rosa’s Hustle on Fumble Recovery: “That’s the nature of this rivalry. You’ve got a guy who is tired who pursues and is there to make a play. That really encapsulates this rivalry. This is Butler; this is the Butler game. You’re going to do everything you possibly can to get a win.”
On the Hoosier Helmet Game: “There’s no question it means more. You tell your players to treat all the games equally, and then Butler comes around and you realize you’ve been lying to your team and everybody knows it. This one means more. You kick it into an extra gear. Your entire sideline lives and dies with every play out there. It’s a very competitive game. It’s so amazing to win that trophy and be able to present it to the seniors and celebrate as a validation to all of the hard work our players put in. They don’t do it for the scholarships or because they’re going to the NFL, they do it because they love this game. They represented this school with pride today, and I’m really proud of them.”
The 2017 season comes to a close next week as the Crusaders host Dayton on Senior Day at Brown Field. The kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT on Saturday. Links to live coverage of the game will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.