The team’s best statistical defensive performance in league play in 15 years propelled the Valparaiso University football team past Dayton 21-7 on a pleasant early-November Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. Head coach Landon Fox’s defensive unit forced eight punts and two turnovers on downs while limiting the Flyers to just 175 yards of total offense and only seven points.
On offense, starting running back Ryan Mann (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Vernon Hills [Northern Illinois]) was sidelined in the first half with a back injury and spent much of the half working to get it loose before returning to the field for a productive second half. Wide receiver Solomon Davis (Brighton, Tenn. / Brighton) made a highlight-reel touchdown catch to provide another memorable moment on a victorious Saturday that finished with the unmistakable sound of the Victory Bell ringing.
How It Happened
- Both teams were forced to punt on their opening drives, but the first momentum-changing moment of the day came when Dayton muffed a punt that was recovered by Max Samuel (Edina, Minn. / Edina) at the Flyers’ 11-yard line.
- The Beacons took advantage of the short field as Jashon Butler (Lynwood, Wash. / Meadowdale [Arizona]) bounced into the end zone with a 7-yard run to help the hosts strike first with 10:23 left in the opening quarter.
- The Valpo defense forced three-and-outs on Dayton’s next three drives, helping Valpo survive a lost fumble with no damage done.
- Quarterback Rowan Keefe (Park Ridge, Ill. / Maine South) raced for a 14-yard gain and a first down on 3rd-and-14 on the final play of the first quarter, then he completed back-to-back passes to Jake Vickers (Canton, Mich. / Canton) early in the second, the second of which resulted in a 13-yard touchdown to double the lead to 14-0.
- The defense remained stout as the results of Dayton’s second-quarter drives were as follows – punt, turnover on downs, punt. The last stagnant possession for the Flyers in the first half was punctuated by an Onye Nwosisi (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cardinal Ridge [Muskingum]) sack. Valpo went into the locker room with the two-touchdown lead intact.
- The Flyers glided back into the game on their first drive of the second half, putting together a 12-play, 57-yard march that resulted in a five-yard scoring run by Luke Hanson to make it 14-7 with 7:52 left in the third.
- The Valpo defense got another quick three-and-out the next time it was on the field, then the Brown & Gold went on a nine-play, 52-yard touchdown drive that featured a 30-yard catch-and-run by Mann to the Dayton 12. The half finished with a one-handed grab by Davis, who was able to stay inbounds in the end zone for the 14-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 with 12:47 remaining.
- Dayton had another three-and-out, then the Flyers moved the ball into the red zone late in the fourth quarter with a 14-play, 92-yard drive that did not result in points. A sack by Kevin Spelman (New Lenox, Ill. / Providence Catholic) and another by Sam Hafner (Green Bay, Wis. / De Pere) and Kurt Kessen (Shelby Township, Mich. / Utica) helped snuff out the drive, which resulted in a turnover-on-downs at the Valpo five-yard line.
- Mann broke free for a 35-yard run on third-and-4 from the Valpo 11, sliding down at midfield to set up victory formation.
Inside the Game
- The Beacons allowed just 175 yards of Dayton total offense, the team’s best performance in terms of total defense since Oct. 11, 2014, when Missouri Baptist was limited to 122 yards. This was Valpo’s best game in terms of total defense in PFL play since Nov. 15, 2008 at Campbell, when the Fighting Camels mustered up just 158 yards of total offense.
- Mann ran for 68 yards on 11 carries, all in the second half after his comeback from the back trouble that plagued him during warmups and throughout the first half. He also had two catches for 34 yards.
- Davis hauled in a team-high four catches for 25 yards including the touchdown, his fifth receiving TD (sixth total TD) this season and his ninth career receiving score (10th total).
- Keefe went 15-of-21 through the air for 126 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
- Vickers’ TD catch was his second this season and the fourth of his career.
- Butler ran for his first touchdown in a Valpo uniform.
- Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) achieved a team-high 10 tackles, while Hafner and Austin Chilton (Windermere, Fla. / West Orange) chipped in eight apiece. Hafner had a big day that featured two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
- Samuel picked up his first fumble recovery of the season and his second big play to go along with a blocked kick.
- The Valpo defense continued to be stingy against the run, holding Dayton to 68 rushing yards. This marked the sixth time in nine games this season that Valpo has kept the opposition under 80 rushing yards.
- Valpo’s three best performances of the season in terms of passing defense have come over the last three weeks. Valpo allowed over 150 passing yards in each of the first six games of the season but has permitted under that threshold in each of the last three weeks including 107 on Saturday against the Flyers.
- The Valpo defense has put together a first-half shutout in back-to-back weeks, holding Butler off the scoreboard in the first half on Oct. 28 before doing the same to Dayton on Saturday. The Valpo defense has enjoyed a shutout half on three occasions this season, with the first of those three coming in the second half on Sept. 30 vs. Southwest Minnesota State.
- Saturday was Landon Fox’s 50th game as Valpo head coach. The win helped him move into a tie with Dave Cecchini for the best record by a Valpo head coach through the first 50 games of a tenure since Bill Koch coached his 50th game on Sept. 18, 1982. Fittingly, Fox’s 50th game was a victory over his former team as he served as Dayton defensive coordinator before taking over the helm at Valpo in 2019.
- Two of Valpo’s five all-time wins over Dayton have come in the last three seasons. Fox improved to 2-2 against his former team on Saturday.
Postgame Press Conference
Click here for postgame press conference.
Valpo (2-7, 1-5 PFL) will host Stetson next Saturday to close out the home portion of the season. It’s Senior Day at Brown Field with the kickoff slated for noon. For ticket information, visit vapoatheltics.com/tickets. The game will air on ESPN+.