The Valparaiso football team trailed the entire way Saturday afternoon in a 56-17 loss to the Butler Bulldogs on Homecoming Weekend at Brown Field in the Battle for the Hoosier Helmet.
The Crusaders turned the ball over on their first two offensive possessions and were outgained 598-375 in the game. Butler scored 28 first-quarter points and led 42-3 at the half way point.
“You can’t turn the ball over anyways, but to turn it over on your first two possessions, you’re just going to put yourself in a position where you get yourself in a big hole,” said Crusader head coach Dale Carlson. “We’ve got to start learning these lessons.”
Valparaiso took the opening kickoff and started from its own 11-yard-line. Gabe Ali-El (Baltimore, Md./Polytechnic Institute) took the opening carry and was stripped by Butler’s Bryce Barry. Jay Brummel jumped on the loose ball and two plays later, Butler’s Trae Heeter took it in for a one-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the game. On the ensuing possession, the Crusaders appeared to be on the move after a 10-yard run from Ali-El. Moments later, on 3rd and 10 from their own 40 yard line, Eric Hoffman (Manitowoc, Wis./Lincoln) was sacked by Kyle Annis. The sack forced a fumble that was recovered by Butler’s Glen Somers. Two plays later, Heeter ripped a 35-yard touchdown scamper to put Butler up 14-0 with 12:21 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Crusaders tallied more first downs (29) than Butler and won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 32:47. Twice in the first half, the Crusaders penetrated inside the Butler 30-yard-line but did not come away with any points.
On the Crusaders' third possession, the Crusaders reached the Bulldogs’ 25-yard-line, but Hoffman’s fourth-down pass to Ali-El was incomplete. In the second quarter, the Crusaders had it 4th and goal from the Bulldogs’ three yard-line but Hoffman’s pass to Tanner Kuramata (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont) was broken up in the end zone.
“It was kind of reminiscent of last year when we moved the ball in between the 20s against [Butler], but yet we didn’t finish those drives,” Carlson said. “You’ve got to finish. When you’re dug in a hole, you have to play perfect football.”
The Crusaders only score of the first half came on a career-long 41-yard field goal from Mike Pando (Hamilton, Mich./Hamilton) with 3:12 remaining in the opening half.
After three straight rushing touchdowns from Streeter, Butler’s Matt Lancaster took to the air. Lancaster closed the first quarter with a 45-yard touchdown strike to Tom Judge and added second-quarter strikes to Brendan Shannon and J.T. Mesch.
Freshman running back Jake Hutson (Blanchard, Mich./Montabella) had a career afternoon, setting career-highs with 16 carries for 63 yards to go along with two touchdowns. The Crusaders best drive of the afternoon came in the second half when Hoffman led an 18-play, 60-yard scoring drive that lasted 6:40. On the methodical drive, Valpo did not have a play longer than eight yards. Hoffman completed passes to Eric Slenk (Holland, Mich./Christian), Fred Gladney (Milwaukee, Wis./Dominican) and Jabril Baker (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central (Wabash). Hutson carried the ball six times for 25 yards on the possession and capped it off with a two-yard touchdown run. The Crusaders trailed 42-10 with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter.
After Steve O’Bryant (Chicago, Ill./Carthage) blocked a 25-yard field goal attempt from Jon Treloar, Ben Lehman (Elgin, Ill./Saint Edward Central Catholic) took over for the final three plays of the third quarter and led a 12-play, 70-yard scoring drive on a possession that stretched into the fourth quarter. Lehman was 5-for-5 on the drive which included a 25-yard strike to Tim Bennett (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic). Hutson closed it out with a one-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game. Lehman finished 11-for-14 with a career-high 111 yards.
Butler scored the game’s final 14 points. Butler’s backup quarterback Wade Markley threw a 19-yard touchdown to Rico Wilson with 3:34 left in the game. David Thomas added a 39-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds remaining in the game.
Hoffman finished 25-for-35 for 152 yards. Gladney was the Crusaders leading receiver for a second straight week, hauling in nine passes for 56 yards. Kuramata finished with five catches for 32 yards, all in the first half. Defensively, Alex Grask (Naperville, Ill./Central) amassed a game-high 14 tackles, a new personal best.
For Butler, Heeter carried the ball 11 times for 76 yards and three scores. Watson carried 10 times for 87 yards. The Bulldogs amassed 262 net rushing yards. Lancaster was 11-of-13 for 246 yards and three touchdown passes. JT Mesch caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.
“When you’re young, the light bulb is eventually going to go on,” Carlson said. “We still have six opportunities to get the light bulb to go on. We’re just going to learn from it, we’re going to teach off the video, and we are going to go next week and get ready for Drake.”
Valparaiso (0-5, 0-2) remains home to host Drake University next Saturday at Brown Field. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CDT, and the game can be heard live via the Valpo Sports Radio Network on WAKE, 1500 AM. Links for the live audio, as well as live stats, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com.