Senior Dimitrios Latsonas (Westmont, Ill. / Westmont) connected twice from longer than 40 yards in the second quarter of Saturday’s game, but that was the extent of the scoring for the Valparaiso University football team in a 35-6 defeat to Drake in the Pioneer Football League opener. Fifth-year senior Nick Turner (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren Township) was again the team’s leading tackler, racking up 10 including 3.5 tackles for a loss.
How It Happened
- The Valpo defense kept a multi-faceted Drake offense in check on the first two drives, forcing a turnover on downs followed by a punt.
- The third time the Bulldogs (2-3, 2-0 PFL) possessed the football, they went for 64 yards over 15 plays spanning 6:20 late in the first quarter and early in the second. That drive ended with veteran tailback Drew Lauer scoring from two yards out to make it 7-0.
- Quarterback Ian Corwin found Caden Meis for a freshman-to-freshman 11-yard touchdown pass that doubled the lead to 14-0 with 9:51 left in the second quarter.
- A 13-yard rush by Elias Earley (Land O’Lakes, Fla. / Carrollwood Day) on the first play of the ensuing possession set the stage for Valpo’s first scoring drive of the day. The team moved the ball into field-goal range, and Latsonas did the rest, as his boot from 46 yards had plenty of distance to put the visitors on the board.
- Lauer had his second score of the day on a 15-yard run to make it 21-3, but Valpo responded with its most exciting drive of the afternoon to close out the first half. The possession appeared to stall when punter Benjamin Niesner (Black Diamond, Wash. / Tahoma [Portland State]) came onto the field on fourth-and-9 from the Valpo 42, but the team successfully converted on a fake-punt play. Niesner took off for 10 yards to advance the ball into Drake territory and move the chains.
- The drive extended by the fake punt resulted in points as Latsonas drilled one from 41 yards out as the final seconds of first-half time ticked off the clock.
- Meis ran for a 53-yard score on the second play after halftime to extend the lead to 28-6, then Devin Cates tacked on a four-yard touchdown on a pass from Corwin to account for the final score.
Inside the Game
- Latsonas is 4-for-4 on field goal attempts over the last two weeks after starting the season 0-for-4. Three of his makes, including both this week, have come from longer than 40 yards. He’s up to 24 made field goals in his Valpo career.
- Turner led the team in tackles for the second straight week, registering another double-figure output. Five of his team-high 10 came in the opening quarter. The fifth-year senior racked up 3.5 TFL, becoming the third PFL player with 3.5 or more TFL in a game this season. His company consists of San Diego’s Kevin Glajchen (4.0 vs. Harvard) and Morehead State’s Vaughn Taylor (3.5 vs. Union).
- Turner became the first Valpo player with 3.5 TFL in a single game since John Guilford on Oct. 17, 2015 vs. Dayton. He equaled the most by a Valpo player since Guilford’s 4.0 on Nov. 8, 2014 vs. Butler.
- Earley finished as the team’s leading rusher with 10 carries for 52 yards. Senior Kyle Cartales (Loxahatchee, Fla. / Cardinal Newman) led the team with six catches for 29 yards. Michael Scarsella (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso) chipped in six tackles, including 3.0 TFL.
- As a team, Valpo dropped Drake players behind the line of scrimmage on 12 occasions for 32 yards. There are only 14 instances in the Division-I FCS this season of teams racking up more than 12 tackles for loss in a game.
- Valpo had a dozen TFL in a single game for the first time since Sept. 20, 2014 at William Jewell. It was the most TFL by Valpo in a league game since Sept. 25, 2010 vs. Drake (13).
- Two of the most memorable tackles for loss by the Valpo defense came late in the third quarter, when Turner and freshman Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) made back-to-back sacks.
Valpo (0-5, 0-1 PFL) will face off with head coach Landon Fox’s former team as the University of Dayton makes its way to Brown Field next week. The kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday with the game broadcast available on ESPN+.