The Valparaiso University football team authored another chapter in a historic rivalry on Saturday afternoon at the Sellick Bowl in Indianapolis, but a 38-yard field goal by Butler’s Drew Bevelhimer with all zeros on the clock led to heartbreak for the Brown & Gold in a 24-21 victory for the Bulldogs. Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft) passed for 264 yards and ran for 102 and the Valpo defense made key stops throughout, but the Bulldogs had a response to Valpo’s game-tying score that came with 19 seconds remaining.
How It Happened
- Bevelhimer’s game-deciding field goal attempt was actually kicked four times, but only one counted. He was short on a 43-yard try with two seconds left in the game, but Valpo had lined up offside, leading to a five-yard penalty and an untimed down. Landon Fox called timeout fractions of a second before the snap on each of the next two attempts, then Bevelhimer’s fourth and final try narrowly had enough to allow Butler to gain control of the Hoosier Helmet.
- The game appeared destined for overtime when Cody Boxrucker (West Chester, Ohio / Badin) capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a game-tying touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. That scoring drive started with a key play as Duncan found Deuce Larose (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Cardinal Gibbons) for a 21-yard gain, setting the tone for a quality series for the Valpo offense.
- A 28-yard kickoff return gave the Bulldogs hope of winning it in regulation, then a 15-yard pass and 9-yard rush followed. However, a 15-yard personal foul for targeting was called at the end of the 9-yard run, pushing the hosts into field-goal range with two seconds on the clock.
- Neither team scored in a first quarter where Valpo’s best chance came after Trey Psota recovered a fumble at the Butler 44 to set up a short field for the offense. That drive featured a conversion on fourth-and-two, but eventually ended with a missed field goal.
- The Valpo defense continued to stand tall as Butler went for it on fourth-and-two on each of the next two series, and both times the defense came away with stops.
- The Valpo offense came to life in the second quarter, cracking the scoreboard on an impressive 22-yard pass from Duncan to Ollie Reese (Franklin, Tenn. / Battle Ground) with 8:17 left until halftime. Butler had a quick answer, going 57 yards on nine plays that finished with Sam Brown finding Stephen Dennis in the end zone for a 7-yard score to even the score at seven.
- Duncan orchestrated another impressive drive, guiding his team 83 yards on nine plays that ended with a 33-yard score to Reese that saw the Valpo wide receiver come down with the ball despite being heavily held, a defensive pass interference call that was declined. Valpo went into halftime with the 14-7 lead.
- Starting late in the first half and continuing into the first two possessions of the second half, the Valpo defense forced punts on three straight drives. However, Butler capitalized after recovering a Valpo fumble at the Valpo 38 with 6:13 left in the third. The turnover set up a scoring drive capped by a five-yard TD catch by Johnny O’Shea that tied the game at 14.
- Rather than kicking a would-be go-ahead field goal, Butler again kept its offense on the field for a fourth-and-1 from the Valpo 22 with nine minutes remaining in the game and the score even at 14. Nick Turner (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren Township) delivered a big hit up the middle, leading to yet another fourth-down stop for Valpo.
- The Bulldogs quickly took back over after an interception at the Valpo 23, then scored the go-ahead TD when Nick Orlando pushed it across the plane from a yard out to make it 21-14 with 4:37 to play.
- That’s when Valpo moved down the field for the game-tying TD and kicked the extra point to officially knot the score, only to see Butler celebrate by marching down field in 17 seconds for the game-winning field goal.
Inside the Game
- Duncan had a balanced day with success both in the air (21-39, 264, 2 TDs) and on the ground (19 carries, 109 yards). Larose nearly recorded his second consecutive 100-yard outing, finishing a yard shy of that achievement while making five grabs. Three other Valpo wide receivers made four catches apiece.
- Fourth-down plays were a point of pride for Valpo on both sides of the ball. The defense stopped Butler on four of its six fourth-down tries, while the offense moved the chains on all three attempts.
- Jamari Booker (Kentwood, Mich. / East Kentwood) topped the team with eight tackles, while Kolton Sherman (Millington, Mich. / Millington) and Henry Hebda (Brington, Mich. / Gabriel Richard) finished with seven apiece. A balanced effort throughout the day saw Valpo get contributions from a variety of sources on defense. The team had nine TFL for the second straight week.
- Valpo drops to 0-4 this season and 0-7 over the last two years in games decided by seven points or fewer. The team has shown an ability to put together quality efforts, but numerous close games have gone the other way.
- The Hoosier Helmet rivalry game has seen its fair share of memorable moments over the years, but this marked the closest Valpo/Butler game since 1997, when Tom Horne’s Valpo team went to Indianapolis and came home with a 19-17 triumph. Saturday snapped a stretch of back-to-back Valpo victories in the rivalry showdown.
Valpo will celebrate the program’s senior class at next week’s home finale, a 1 p.m. kickoff against Marist at Brown Field. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with links to live video, audio and stats on ValpoAthletics.com.