After a string of heart-pounding games that came down to the final play, the Valparaiso University football team made sure there was little doubt in the second half on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field.
Not only did the Beacons bounce back from consecutive narrow defeats by knocking off a perennial Pioneer Football League powerhouse, but they did so in convincing fashion by pulling away from Dayton 45-28 behind a 31-point second half including a third quarter that saw Valpo outscore the guests 17-0.
The offense crafted its finest performance of the season to help head coach Landon Fox prevail over one of his coaching mentors in Dayton head coach Rick Chamberlin. This marked Fox’s first victory over the Flyers, where he spent a decade leading the defense prior to his arrival on Valpo’s campus.
How It Happened
- After receiving the opening kickoff, Dayton marched 71 yards on an 11-play drive to get on the board with a 20-yard field goal by Sam Webster.
- The Beacons responded with an opening-drive score of their own, taking the lead on a 10-play, 77-yard voyage that ended with quarterback Ben Nimz (Waukesha, Wis. / Catholic Memorial) finding Jake Vickers (Canton, Mich. / Canton) for a 6-yard touchdown with 5:10 left in the first.
- Redshirt sophomore Austin Chilton (Windermere, Fla. / West Orange) notched an interception to bring the ensuing Dayton drive to an early halt. His 36-yard return helped Valpo take over at the Dayton 15-yard line.
- Valpo took advantage of the favorable field position with a quick scoring drive that finished with Robert Washington (Huntersville, N.C. / East Gaston [Old Dominion]) bulldozing into the endzone from two yards out to make it 14-3 with 2:17 left in the first.
- Dayton’s next drive featured a 57-yard pass from Jack Cook to Luke Brenner and finished with Cook finding Jake Chisholm from three yards out to cut the lead to four at 14-10.
- After a Valpo punt, the Flyers went 58 yards on eight plays including a Chisholm 14-yard scoring scamper to jump ahead 17-14 with 9:42 left in the second quarter.
- The Valpo defense bent but didn’t break on Dayton’s final drive of the half, which resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Webster to double the lead to 20-14.
- Valpo responded with a field goal of its own on the first possession of the second half, which was set up by a 76-yard kickoff return by Chuck Maxwell (Elkhart, Ind. / Elkhart Christian Academy). Brian Bartholomew’s (Sugar Grove, Ill. / Kaneland) 22-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to cut the lead in half at 20-17 with 11:03 remaining in the third quarter.
- After a Dayton punt, Nimz found Braden Contreras (Hinsdale, Ill. / Hinsdale Central) for a 42-yard gain, then Washington broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run to allow the hosts to regain the lead at 24-20 with 8:34 left in the third.
- The next Valpo drive featured five straight completions by Nimz, including a short shovel to Maxwell that turned into a 15-yard TD to make it 31-20 with 3:25 to go in the third.
- Cook’s 1-yard TD plunge early in the fourth followed by a 2-point conversion trimmed the edge to three at 31-28. The first play of the ensuing Valpo possession was a 48-yard Nimz-to-Washington connection, then Washington capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run to up the cushion back to 10 at 38-28.
- The score remained that way until Jamauri Jackson (San Diego, Calif. / Monterey Trail) came up with an interception and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 6:04 to go, accounting for the final points of the day.
- Valpo sealed the win by converting 4th-and-2 from the Dayton 32 as running back Robert Washington found Brett Bittner (Chicago, Ill. / St. Laurence) for 14 yards on a trick play.
Inside the Game
- This marked Valpo’s fourth win in 30 all-time meetings with Dayton and first since 2017. The 45 points were the program’s most in any of the 30 matchups with the Flyers. The 17 points also represented Valpo’s largest margin of victory in the all-time series.
- The 17 points marked the largest margin of victory in any game since Nov. 10, 2018, a 48-30 victory over Jacksonville. This was also Valpo’s highest scoring output since the aforementioned game against the Dolphins and the team’s highest scoring output of the Landon Fox coaching era.
- The Beacons continued their success against teams picked ahead of them in the PFL preseason poll. Dating back to last season, Valpo has won four straight games against teams predicted to finish ahead of them in the preseason survey.
- Valpo had 388 yards of total offense and 251 passing yards, both season highs. Both the total offense and passing yards were the team’s highest totals since Nov. 16, 2019 at Butler.
- Nimz went 14-of-23 for a career-high 233 yards. His 48-yard heave to Washington was Valpo’s longest pass of the season and Nimz’s career long.
- Contreras led the team with four catches for 118 yards, becoming the first Valpo player with a 100-yard receiving game since Deuce Larose on Nov. 9, 2019 vs. Morehead State (112).
- Jackson accounted for Valpo’s first pick six since Oct. 20, 2018, when Drew Snouffer returned one 40 yards for a score in a game at Morehead State.
- The Valpo defense doubled its season interception total on Saturday as the team entered the day with two. Chilton notched his third of the fall, and then Jackson became the first Beacon not named Chilton to grab a pick this year.
- Entering Saturday’s action in FCS, only 28 players nationally had three or more interceptions this season, a club that Chilton will now join.
- Chilton has now been a part of four takeaways this season including two on Saturday as he recovered a fumble when a Dayton player inadvertently touched the ball on a Valpo punt in the second quarter.
- The Beacons outdid Dayton 3-0 in the turnover battle. This marked the first time all season Valpo did not commit a turnover.
- Trey Psota (Bay Village, Ohio / Bay) was atop the tackle chart with nine stops while also receiving credit for a pass breakup. Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) made eight tackles and Jaxon Peifer (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) recorded seven, with each member of that linebacker duo earning 1.5 tackles for loss. Chilton had five stops and 0.5 TFL to go along with his takeaways.
- Not to be overshadowed by the team’s strong day in the passing game, Valpo’s standout running back accrued 91 yards and a career-high three rushing TDs. Washington became the first Valpo player to run for three scores in a game since Cody Boxrucker on Oct. 13, 2018 vs. Butler. Washington was a factor in all aspects of the game, as he also had three catches for 59 yards and completed the aforementioned game-clinching pass on a direct snap that turned into a successful completion.
- The 6-yard TD reception by Vickers was not only his first career score, but the first reception of his collegiate career. Maxwell boasted his first career receiving TD and second overall score, both this season.
- This snapped a Valpo streak of seven straight PFL games decided by seven points or fewer and a stretch of 14 straight decided by 12 points or fewer.
- The win came over a Dayton (3-4, 2-3 PFL) program that owns a league-record 12 PFL championships, has the best all-time PFL record in league history and entered this season with the fifth-best winning percentage in FCS football since 2000.
Click here for postgame press conference.
Valpo (2-5, 2-2 PFL) will return to the road next week to visit San Diego. The game will be available on the WAC Digital Network as well as the Valpo Sports Network (TuneIn Radio app, 95.1 FM Valparaiso and ValpoAthletics.com) with kickoff slated for 3 p.m. Central Time.