The Valparaiso University football team had its best rushing performance in seven years on Saturday, racking up 299 yards on the ground in a 41-28 defeat to Pioneer Football League powerhouse Dayton at Brown Field. Quarterback Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft) had his most productive day of the year, highlighting the reunion game between head coach Landon Fox and his former colleagues at Dayton.
How It Happened
- Dayton got off to a favorable start as tight end Adam Trautman hauled in a 28-yard pass from Jack Cook on the first play from scrimmage and followed with a 35-yard touchdown grab on the second play to make it 7-0.
- Valpo embarked on a 14-play, 70-yard drive that was highlighted by a 31-yard pass from Duncan to Ollie Reese (Franklin, Tenn. / Battle Ground), but the drive ended on a missed field goal.
- Jake Chisholm’s 7-yard TD rush capped the next Dayton drive and doubled the lead to 14-0.
- A quick strike helped Valpo get on the board as the ensuing drive started with Duncan breaking free and sprinting into the end zone for a 76-yard run to make it 14-7 through one quarter.
- The Valpo defense forced punts on the first two drives of the second quarter, but then the Flyers found pay dirt once again when Cook zipped an 11-yard pass to Trautman for a score to make it 21-7. That stood as the halftime score.
- Valpo moved the ball throughout the first half, outgaining Dayton 258-247 including 177 yards on the ground to Dayton’s 48.
- The hosts received possession to start the second half, and went on a 10-play, 70-yard drive that finished with Cody Boxrucker (West Chester, Ohio / Badin) barreling across the goal line from 10 yards out. That cut the Flyer edge to 21-14 with 10:44 left in the third.
- The Flyers (4-1, 2-0 PFL) responded on the ensuing drive. Cook flipped it to Trautman for a 3-yard scoring shovel to make it 28-14 behind the star tight end’s third score of the day, which came with 6:12 remaining in the third.
- Valpo whittled the deficit to seven when Reese recovered from an initial juggle to return a kickoff 95 yards for a TD. That made it 28-21 Dayton with 5:57 left in the third.
- After Valpo forced a punt, a drive by the hosts stalled out at midfield with a turnover on downs. Dayton followed with a four-play, 55-yard drive that included a Ryan Skibinski 16-yard TD run to make it 34-21.
- Valpo moved the ball to the Dayton 14 on the first drive of the fourth quarter, but turned it over on downs. The Flyers displayed excellent clock management with a 16-play, 93-yard touchdown drive (Cook 5-yard rush) to up the lead to 20.
- Deuce Larose (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Cardinal Gibbons) hauled in a 15-yard TD on a pass from Duncan to cap the scoring.
Inside the Game
- Duncan’s rushing TD was his second of the season and the fifth of his career. The 76 yards marked Valpo’s longest offensive play of the season and Duncan’s career-long rush. It was the longest rush by any Valpo player since Jarrett Morgan’s 86 yarder on Sept. 16, 2017 at Trinity International.
- Boxrucker’s TD run was his first of the season and the 19th of his four-year Valpo career.
- Duncan finished with 154 yards on the ground (14 carries) and 148 through the air (13-of-27). He accrued Valpo’s highest single-game rushing total since Nov. 3, 2012, when Jake Hutson had 248 rushing yards at Campbell.
- Valpo had 299 rushing yards on Saturday. Going into the game, 72 was the team’s top single-game rushing total this season. That marked Valpo’s highest single-game rushing output since the aforementioned Nov. 3, 2012 game against the Fighting Camels.
- Boxrucker bulldozed for 92 yards on 17 carries, while Larose had four receptions for 63 yards to finish as the team’s top receiver.
- Reese’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the second-longest in the PFL this season behind Dayton’s Jake Chisholm’s 97 on Sept. 21 vs. Duquesne. Entering Saturday, there were only 13 players nationally in Division-I FCS with a kickoff return of 95 yards or longer this season.
- The Reese return was Valpo’s first kickoff return for a TD since Oct. 20 of last season and the longest kickoff return by a Valpo player since a 97 yarder on Oct. 13 a year ago.
- Jamari Booker (Kentwood, Mich. / East Kentwood) had a 10-tackle output to lead the team. Valpo made four tackles for loss including one sack.
- The TD catch by Larose was his first of the season and the third of his career.
- Valpo did not punt, the first time in at least 15 years Valpo did not punt in a game.
Thoughts from Head Coach Landon Fox
“We won the kicking game, which is something we talk about all of the time. We were able to move the ball on offense, but we did talk after the game about improving our ability to score in the red zone. We feel that we should have scored 42 to 49 points with the red-zone chances we had. That’s the disappointing thing. Defensively, we’ve got to be able to get off the field on third down. We forced them into eight third downs, but they were 5-of-8. If you can’t get off the field on third down against a good team, you’re going to struggle to stop them. They have a lot of weapons. That’s a little disappointing. As coaches, we can do a better job of putting our guys in positions to make plays. That’s my job, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We’ll look at the film and get better, which is something we’ve done each week and we expect that improvement to continue going forward.”
Valpo (0-6, 0-2 PFL) will hit the road to battle defending PFL champion San Diego next week. The game will kick off at 4 p.m. CT on the WCC Network and on 95.1 FM Valparaiso – WVUR. Links to live coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.