Two individual redemption tales helped lead the Valparaiso University football team to one story of team celebration on Saturday.
Max Samuel (Edina, Minn. / Edina) was called for a costly roughing the punter penalty that turned a Stetson fourth-and-21 into an automatic first down. Ryan Hawk (Columbus, Ohio / Bishop Hartley) missed a key extra point. But it’s not those moments from a 23-20 overtime win over Stetson at Brown Field on Senior Day that defined their day, but instead how they responded when adversity struck. Samuel went on to block two punts – perhaps the two biggest plays of the game – while Hawk’s redemption moment was just as crucial in the game’s outcome, as he had plenty of leg on a 34-yard field goal in overtime that proved to be the game winner.
How It Happened
- Both teams punted on their first drive, but Stetson recovered a muffed punt after their initial drive stalled. The Valpo defense picked up the special teams unit by forcing another three-and-out and a punt.
- Stetson made a defensive interception to take over at the Valpo 43, but the Beacon defense again stepped up by forcing a three-and-out.
- Quarterback Rowan Keefe (Park Ridge, Ill. / Maine South) had a pair of completions on the next drive, but it still resulted in a punt. The biggest offensive play of the first quarter by either team came on the final play as Stetson completed a 44-yard pass to finally climb into positive yardage for the game in total offense.
- The Hatters struck first with a 25-yard field goal early in the second quarter. After a Valpo interception, a four-yard touchdown run by Devon Brewer extended the lead to 10-0 with 5:20 on the second-quarter clock.
- Valpo’s third interception of the half allowed Stetson to take over, but the Beacons overcame that turnover thanks to Samuel’s blocked punt, which was recovered in the end zone by Micah Mackay (Zionsville, Ind. / Lutheran) for a touchdown to make it 10-7 with 34 seconds left in the second quarter.
- The Valpo defense forced two punts early in the second half, and the Beacons found paydirt when Jeffery Vercher’s (Nashville, Tenn. / Franklin Road Academy) 36-yard run set up a 1-yard go-ahead scoring plunge by Ryan Mann (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Vernon Hills [Northern Illinois]) to make it 13-10 Valpo. The PAT was missed.
- The Hatters responded with an 11-play, 75-yard TD drive to go back ahead at 17-13.
- Valpo turned it over on downs early in the fourth, but the ensuing Stetson possession resulted in a punt and Samuel’s second block of the day. This one was picked up by Vercher and taken 51 yards to the Stetson 6.
- Valpo converted on the short field when Jeffrey Jackson (San Diego, Calif. / Bishop’s [San Diego]) pushed into the end zone for a 1-yard TD to make it 20-17 Valpo.
- Stetson tied it with a 41-yard field goal with 1:25 to go, in essence sending the game to OT.
- Valpo started OT with possession and Hawk drilled his 34 yarder before the defense got a game-winning stop highlighted by an Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) sack on third-and-11. The fourth-down play was a heave into the end zone that fell incomplete.
Inside the Game
- Valpo outgained Stetson 318-263 and managed to overcome a minus-four disparity in the turnover margin to win the game. Valpo threw three interceptions and muffed a punt, while Stetson did not turn it over.
- Samuel has three blocked kicks this season, including two on Saturday. He is now tied for fifth in program history for blocked kicks in a season, joining Brett Bittner (Fall 2021) and Adam Rundh (2008).
- Samuel is only the eighth player in the FCS nation to block multiple kicks in a single game this season. He is only the 11th in all of Division-I football (FCS and FBS). Owen Goss of Colgate is the only player nationally to block three kicks in one game this year.
- This marked Valpo’s second OT game of the season and sixth one-score game. Four of the five home games this season were decided by one score including a pair that went to overtime.
- Mann ran for a personal-best 121 yards on 25 carries. The touchdown was the third of his career, all this season.
- Jackson had his first rushing touchdown of the season and the second of his Valpo career.
- Mackay’s recovery of the block for a punt-return TD was his first collegiate score. He also had a 33-yard catch.
- Colin Graves (Seattle, Wash. / Bishop Blanchet) and Austin Chilton (Windermere, Fla. / West Orange) had 10 tackles apiece to lead the team. Chilton boasted seven solos. Annis contributed nine tackles including three tackles for loss and two sacks.
- The team notched 10 tackles for loss and five sacks, both season highs.
- The defense was credited with nine pass breakups including three by Tyler Geiman (Zion, Ill. / Zion-Benton Township [Dubuque]).
- Valpo’s stellar rushing defense was evident again on Saturday. The Hatters could muster only 60 yards on the ground, the seventh time in 10 games that Valpo’s rushing defense has kept the opposition under 80 rushing yards.
- The Beacons recognized 25 seniors in a pregame Senior Day ceremony.
Postgame Press Conference
Click here for postgame press conference.
Valpo (3-7, 2-5 PFL) will finish out the season next Saturday, Nov. 18 with a visit to St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. The game will kick off at 1 p.m.