Playing with a shorthanded team due to a rash of injuries, the Valparaiso University football team fell 42-25 to an experienced, talented Drake team on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. A pair of quick scores in the fourth quarter helped Valpo reduce a 25-point deficit to 10, but the Bulldogs nailed down the victory.
How It Happened
- After Drake jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a touchdown on the opening drive, Valpo used a 14-play, 49-yard drive to produce points as Dimitrios Latsonas (Westmont, Ill. / Westmont) nailed a 33-yard field goal. Griffin Norberg (Sunrise, Fla. / Western) made a pair of big catches on passes from Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft) on that drive, one for 14 yards and one for 13 yards.
- Drake found the end zone again early in the second quarter, building the lead to 14-3. Valpo cracked the red zone again on its next possession, which was highlighted by a 25-yard catch by Mason Sutter (Woodstock, Ill. / Woodstock), but the drive ended with a missed field goal try.
- The game’s next six possessions resulted in the team’s trading three-and-outs as a banged up Valpo defense stood tall. However, Drake broke through just before halftime on a 1-yard TD run on the final play of the half to make it 21-3.
- The first drive of the third quarter saw Norberg make three receptions including an 8-yard TD snag from Duncan to whittle the deficit to 11 at 21-10.
- The Valpo defense forced punts on each of Drake’s first two drives of the second half, but then the Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1) scored on consecutive possessions to increase the lead to 35-10.
- The hosts didn’t quit, as they marched 60 yards in just 1:30 on the next possession. The drive started with a 26-yard kickoff return by Bailey Gessinger (Napanee, Ind. / Northwood) to the Valpo 40-yard line. Gessinger was the star of the drive on offense as well as he had a 23-yard catch to move the ball inside the 20 before hauling in a 20-yard TD pass from Duncan on a fourth-and-11 play. A two-point conversion on a Duncan keeper made it 35-18 with 11:21 left in the fourth.
- The defense stepped up again with a quick three-and-out, before the Valpo offense needed only 58 seconds to go 70 yards. After a 25-yard completion to Sutter, Duncan found Parker Fox (Winamac, Ind. / Winamac) for a 40-yard TD to cut the lead to 10 at 35-25 with 9:08 remaining.
- The defense forced another punt and Valpo took over with 4:53 to work with and down just 10, but Drake ended each of Valpo’s final three drives with interceptions to seal the win.
Inside the Game
- Sutter’s 96 receiving yards established a career high. The senior tight end shared the team lead in receiving yards with Norberg on Saturday. Sutter had six catches, while Norberg led the team with seven.
- Duncan went 21-of-44 through the air for 302 yards and three touchdowns. The three TD passes in a single game marked a career high, as did the 302 passing yards.
- The Valpo defense racked up four sacks – more than it had in the first seven games of the season combined. Austin Petrie (Livonia, Mich. / Stevenson) had two sacks and nine tackles, while Drew Snouffer (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) accumulated a team-high 15 tackles. This marked Snouffer’s third game this season with 15 tackles or more. Jamari Booker (Kentwood, Mich. / East Kentwood) was also a key cog in a short-handed Valpo defense, accruing 12 tackles.
- The Valpo defense forced seven Drake punts, the most by a Valpo opponent this season.
- Valpo played without the services of its top two running backs, starting quarterback, a starting linebacker, a starting defensive end, two starting safeties, a starting cornerback, starting punter and numerous reserves. When the captains went out for the coin toss to start the game, three of Valpo’s four were in street clothes.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Cecchini
“I’m proud of the effort that our players gave. Drake is a good, mature football team with a ton of fifth-year seniors. There was a point at the beginning of this year where we felt like we had as veteran of a group of players as we’ve ever had going into a season, but unfortunately as the season has gone on, we’ve seemed to lose more and more of our players due to injuries.”
“When you play a team as talented and physical as Drake, you really have to play four quarters of football. We didn’t play four quarters of football today. There were some incredibly heroic plays and outstanding plays on both sides of the ball, but we needed more against a team like that. I’ll give our young players credit, we’re playing a lot of freshmen in the secondary, at tailback and at other spots, and it’s sometimes easy as a young player to get disheartened, especially with the momentum swings that this game had. I’ll give our football team credit, we did not quit. We clawed our way back into the football game, but unfortunately let it slip from that point.”
“This is not where we wanted to be at this point in the season, but we have to take it one game at a time and look at what we can do to get better. Injuries are going to happen; most teams are banged up. However, I’ve never in all my years of coaching been around a team that’s been as banged up as we are right now. That’s what life throws at you. We’re going to make the best of a less than ideal situation. We’ve got three games left in the season, and we want to get victories in these last three games to send our seniors out on as high of a note as we possibly can.”
“Mason Sutter has done an incredible job for us even though he’s not 100 percent. He has done an outstanding job playing right off the bat from Week 1 his freshman year all the way through this season. He’s made some huge plays for us, particularly on third downs.”
“Austin Petrie is a guy who is turning into one of our emotional leaders, particularly with us not having Nick Turner out there. He’s done a great job backing up really good football play with becoming a guy who is an emotional leader as well.
Valpo (1-7, 1-4) will be back in action on Nov. 3 at Marist at 11 a.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on the Red Fox Network and can also be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Links to live coverage will available on ValpoAthletics.com.