The Valparaiso University football team came from 14-0 down to give Davidson nearly all it could handle on Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium in Davidson, N.C., tying the game at 21 in the fourth quarter. But the host Wildcats put together a game-winning drive, fending off Valpo’s upset bid with a 27-21 victory.
How It Happened
- After Valpo was forced to punt on the opening possession, Davidson jumped on the board first with a drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown rush by Wesley Dugger. The drive covered 12 plays and 84 yards to make it 7-0 Davidson with 5:22 left in the first quarter.
- A lost fumble on a kickoff return allowed the Wildcats to take over again, and the hosts took advantage with a 10-play, 33-yard drive capped by a James Story 7-yard run to make it 14-0 after the first play of the second quarter.
- Valpo responded by embarking on a drive that spanned over nine minutes and featured three fourth-down conversions, all rushes by quarterback Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft). The highlight was a keeper on 4th-and-10 from the Davidson 35 that went for 11 yards. Cody Boxrucker (West Chester, Ohio / Badin) barreled into the end zone from 2 yards out to complete the drive and make it 14-6 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked.
- Both teams had their chances over the final five minutes of the half, but the eight-point edge for Davidson (6-3, 3-2 PFL) stood into the break. Valpo twice forced fumbles in the first half, but both times the Wildcats recovered to preserve possession. Fourth down plays were also critical in the first half, as the teams combined to convert six of seven.
- The Valpo defense forced a turnover on the first Davidson drive of the second half with Jamari Booker (Kentwood, Mich. / East Kentwood) delivering a hit that caused a fumble, recovered at midfield by Laddie Skarecky (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville Central). Valpo’s first offensive play of the second half went for a 36-yard gain as Duncan found Elias Earley (Land O’Lakes, Fla. / Carrollwood Day) to move the ball into the red zone. The drive finished with Duncan connecting with Deuce Larose (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Cardinal Gibbons) for an eight-yard score with 11:30 left in the third quarter, cutting the Davidson edge to one at 14-13.
- On third-and-goal from the eight, Davidson scored on an eight-yard pass from Phelps to Story. That boosted the lead back to eight at 21-13 with 4:58 to go in the third.
- Valpo embarked on another long drive that ate up the rest of the third quarter and culminated with a 1-yard plunge by Duncan. The offense remained on the field as Valpo elected for a two-point try in an effort to tie the game. Duncan connected with an open Brett Bittner (Chicago, Ill. / St. Laurence) for the two points, evening the score at 21.
- The Valpo defense continued a big day by forcing another Davidson fumble with 10:50 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 21, setting up a chance for the Brown & Gold to take their first lead after Kolton Sherman (Millington, Mich. / Millington) recovered at the Davidson 37.
- The Davidson defense forced a four-and-out, including a stop on fourth-and-eight on the ensuing Valpo possession. That set up a 13-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Dugger scoring from one yard out to put the Wildcats up 27-21 (PAT no good).
- Valpo moved the ball to midfield on its final drive, but eventually threw an interception on fourth-and-17 to extinguish the hopes of a second straight win.
Inside the Game
- Booker’s 21 tackles eclipsed a career high of 20 set last season against Davidson. He tied the highest tackle total in the FCS nation this season, set by Ja’Quay Pough of Northwestern State. He became just the second PFL player since 2002 with multiple 20-tackle games in his career, joining Stetson’s Donald Payne (three).
- Booker followed up his FCS national Player of the Week honors from last week with two forced fumbles, one TFL and two QB hurries to go along with his eye-popping tackle total. Entering Saturday’s action, only 25 players in the FCS nation had two or more forced fumbles in a single game this season.
- The two-point conversion attempt was Valpo’s first of the season. Valpo was 1-for-1 on two-point tries a year ago.
- Larose grabbed his second receiving TD of the season and the fourth of his career.
- Boxrucker had the 20th rushing score of his career and his second of the season.
- Duncan had both his 19th career TD pass and his ninth career TD run, six of which have come this season. This marked the fourth straight game he had at least one touchdown run.
- Fourth down conversions were a big part of the game’s story, as Valpo went 4-of-6 while Davidson went 3-of-5. Only 19 teams in the FCS nation had four or more successful fourth-down conversions in a single game this season entering Saturday’s action.
- Valpo became just the 11th team in the FCS nation to rack up four or more forced fumbles in a game this season by forcing four on Saturday. Valpo recovered two, while the Wildcats recovered a pair.
- Nick Turner (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren Township) achieved a career-high 14 tackles, eclipsing his previous best of 13 set on Sept. 30, 2017 in a win over Stetson. Sherman also cracked double figures in the tackle department with 10, his career best.
Valpo (1-8, 1-4 PFL) will return home next week to battle Morehead State for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with links to live video, audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.