Valparaiso (3-6, 3-3 PFL)
at Butler (2-7, 0-6 PFL)
Game #10 Saturday, Nov. 13, 11 a.m. CT
Sellick Bowl (5,647) – Indianapolis, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: Every game means a lot, but this one means the most to the Valparaiso University football team. The Pioneer Football League’s oldest rivalry will feature an unprecedented third installment within the same calendar year as Valpo and Butler get together on Saturday at the Sellick Bowl in Indianapolis. The Beacons will attempt to clinch at least a .500 finish in PFL and notch their second straight victory on Saturday.
Previously: Valpo posted the fifth-highest single-game scoring output in program history and highest since 1996 in a 65-55 victory over Presbyterian last week at Brown Field. The game set the record for the most combined points in a Valpo contest. Several other records were altered in the bizarre battle as the Beacons had a school-record eight rushing touchdowns, Nick Orekoya tied a program record for individual rushing TDs in a single game with four and Brian Bartholomew converted a program-record eight extra points. The Valpo defense notched 10 sacks including 18 tackles for loss.
Series Notes: Valpo will look to move to 3-0 against Butler in the calendar year of 2021. The Beacons prevailed 24-14 on March 13 in Indianapolis before repeating the success with a 28-25 triumph on March 27 at Brown Field. The two teams have clashed 80 times over the years, with Valpo owning a 29-51 record. The Beacons have won four of the last five meetings with the only loss in that span coming by a three-point margin in 2019. This matchup has occurred every year since 1951. Valpo has won four of five from their instate rivals for the first time since prevailing in seven straight showdowns from 1994-2000.
Following the Beacons: This week’s game will be broadcast with a free video feed on YouTube Live courtesy of Butler Athletics. Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Tom Byrne (analyst) will have the hometown radio call on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, WVUR, ValpoAthletics.com and the TuneIn Radio app. For in-game social media updates, follow @valpoufootball on Twitter. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Landon Fox: Landon Fox (8-19) is in his third season as the head coach of the Valparaiso University football program in Fall 2021. During his second season at the helm in Spring 2021, Fox was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award – which is presented annually to the FCS National Coach of the Year – after guiding Valpo to its best winning percentage since 2003 and tying for the squad’s best winning percentage since 1999. He led his team to Pioneer Football League runner-up honors, the program’s highest finish in the league standings since the PFL championship season of 2003. Fox’s defensive roots paid dividends on that side of the football in his second year at the helm, as the team enjoyed its best defensive season in four decades. Valpo held opponents to 283.3 yards per game, the program’s best total defense in the last 40 years. Valpo limited the opposition to 172.2 passing yards per game, the program’s best passing defense since 2008. In addition, the squad boasted its best rushing defense (111.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.7 points per game) since 1999. In Year 1 of the Fox Era in 2019, Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense (32.0, fifth), total defense (381.6, fourth), rushing defense (184.2, fourth) and passing defense (197.3, fifth). After spending the previous 11 seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Dayton, Fox was named the head football coach at Valpo prior to the 2019 season. He helped the Flyers finish with 10 winning seasons in his 11 years on staff and guided a defensive backfield that produced one All-American, four Academic All-Americans, two PFL Special Teams Players of the Year and three corners who were invited to NFL Rookie Minicamp. Prior to joining Dayton’s staff, Fox served as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Wayne State University in Detroit from 2005-2007. He also spent time as a defensive graduate assistant at Ball State University (2004), Dayton (2002-2003) and Lakeland College (2001). Fox began his coaching career as an assistant varsity coach at Preble Shawnee High School in Camden, Ohio during the 2000 season. During his playing days, Fox was a team captain and all-conference performer at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio from 1995-1999 and graduated with a degree in physical education and health in May 2000 before earning his master’s degree in education from Lakeland in May 2002.
Putting Up Points: Valpo posted the fifth-highest single-game scoring output in program history and highest in 25 years in the 65-55 victory over Presbyterian on Nov. 6. The 65 points marked the team’s highest total since beating Alma 66-21 on Sept. 14, 1996. The game against the Blue Hose was Valpo’s second-highest point total since 1958. In addition, the 120 combined points shattered the previous school record of 110 established in Valpo’s 1923 victory over Lewis, which came by the highly unusual score of 110-0. The 65 points were the 12th-most in a single game in the FCS nation this season.
Receiving Recognition: Valpo’s record-setting 65-55 victory over Presbyterian on Nov. 6 was followed by significant attention. Most notably, running back Robert Washington received a “Helmet Sticker” on ESPN’s College Football Final for his standout performance. Washington’s big day earned him Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Week status from both the league office and College Sports Madness. In addition, Brian Bartholomew was named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week. Valpo has received nine weekly awards this season from either the league office or College Sports Madness.
Name Opponent Date Award
Austin Martins Dartmouth 9-18 College Sports Madness PFL Defensive POTW
Austin Martins at Drake 9-25 PFL Special Teams POTW
Ben Niesner at St. Thomas 10-9 PFL Special Teams POTW
Austin Chilton Dayton 10-23 PFL Defensive POTW
Austin Chilton Dayton 10-23 College Sports Madness PFL Defensive POTW
Ben Niesner at San Diego 10-30 PFL Special Teams POTW
Robert Washington Presbyterian 11-6 PFL Offensive POTW
Robert Washington Presbyterian 11-6 College Sports Madness PFL Offensive POTW
Brian Bartholomew Presbyterian 11-6 PFL Special Teams POTW
In addition, Valpo players have earned STATS FCS National Player of the Week honorable mention on six occasions this season.
9/25 at Drake – Austin Martins (ST)
10/9 at St. Thomas – Ben Niesner (ST)
10/23 vs. Dayton – Austin Chilton (D)
10/30 at San Diego – Austin Martins (D), Ben Niesner (ST)
11/6 vs. Presbyterian – Robert Washington (O)
Rewriting Rushing Records: Valpo shattered the program record for single-game rushing touchdowns with eight on Nov. 6 vs. Presbyterian. The previous record of seven was established on Oct. 16, 1954 and was matched on three occasions – 1956, 1969 and most recently on Sept. 23, 1995 at Kalamazoo. The eight rushing scores are the most in the FCS nation by any team this season. Valpo joins Michigan (Sept. 18 vs. Northern Illinois) as the only two Division-I college football teams (FBS or FCS) with eight rushing TDs in a single game this year. Nick Orekoya rushed for four touchdowns, tying an individual single-game TD record. That mark was established in 1956 and matched on five previous occasions, most recently by Jeff Horton on Sept. 2, 2006 at Wisconsin Lutheran. By accounting for 24 points, Orekoya also equaled the single-game program record for points scored. He tied for the fifth-most points in a single game in the FCS nation this season, while his four rushing TDs are tied for the fourth most. Orekoya became just the ninth player nationally to rush for four scores this year. Washington ran for three TDs of his own in the victory over the Blue Hose, accruing a career-high 234 rushing yards, the most by a Valpo player in a single game since Jake Hutson had 248 on Nov. 2, 2012 at Campbell. Washington finished the game with 282 all-purpose yards. His 234 yards on the ground are the fifth-most in a single game in the FCS nation this season.
Robert in the Record Book: Valpo running back Robert Washington has rushed for 1,497 career yards in just 15 games in a Valpo uniform. He owns the most career rushing yards of any Valpo player in the last 14 years since Jeff Horton closed out his career in 2007 with a school-record 3,072. In order to crack the top 10 in program history in career rushing yards, Washington would need to get to 1,644. The reigning PFL Offensive Player of the Year has rushed for 844 yards this season, which currently ranks fifth in single-season program history. He bumped Ross Wiemer’s 2008 season (824) from the all-time top five during the Nov. 6 game vs. Presbyterian. Washington’s next target is Brandon Hall, whose 2014 season is fourth at 855. Washington is currently at 164 carries this season and needs 179 to crack the program’s single-season top five. He owns 11 TDs on the year, second on Valpo’s single-season rushing TD list. With his three rushing scores against Presbyterian, Washington surpassed a four-way tie for second with 10 (Brandon Hall, Ross Wiemer, Jeff Horton and David Zurcher) and now is only behind Dave Newnam’s 1977 season of 14 rushing TDs.
Valpo Single-Season Rushing Yards
Name Year Yards
Jeff Horton 2005 1,358
Dave Newnam 1977 1,009
John Knight 1961 998
Brandon Hall 2014 855
Robert Washington 2021 844
Valpo Single-Season Total Rushes
Name Year Rushes
Jeff Horton 2005 257
Dave Newnam 1977 191
Derrel Sanders 1976 186
Bob Foley 1984 183
Bobby Mason 1986 179
Robert Washington 2021 164
Team Rushing TD Tracker
As a team, Valpo has rushed for 18 touchdowns this season, two shy of cracking the top five in single-season program history.
Rank Year Rushing TDs
1 1969 36
2 1971 25
T-3 2000 22
T-3 1961 22
T-5 1996 20
T-5 2017 20
--- 2021 18
PAT Palooza: Kicker Brian Bartholomew went 8-for-8 on PATs in the Nov. 6 victory over Presbyterian, shattering the single-game program record of seven that was set by Kevin Mackey in 1984 and matched on six occasions, most recently by Dimitrios Latsonas on Oct. 28, 2017. Bartholomew also converted his lone field-goal attempt, a 37-yard effort, in the game against Presbyterian. He booted three touchbacks and averaged 47.3 yards per kickoff on 11 attempts. Bartholomew is now 24-of-24 on PATs this season and 37-of-37 in his Valpo career. The program record for consecutive PATs without a miss is 49, set by Mackey from 1983-1985. Bartholomew is six made extra points away from cracking the single-season top five, as Jacob Newman (2014) is fifth with 30. Bartholomew is up to nine made field goals on the season, two away from cracking the program’s single-season top five in that category.
Stops Behind the Sticks: Valpo piled up 10 sacks in the Nov. 6 win over Presbyterian, becoming the fifth team in the nation with a double-figure sack total in a game this year. Valpo is tied for third nationally as only two FCS teams have surpassed 10 sacks in a single game this autumn. The 10 sacks were one shy of a PFL record set by Dayton in 2011 and tied by Stetson earlier this season. The 10 sacks marked Valpo’s most in over 20 years. The team accrued 18 tackles for loss in the game against the Blue Hose, tied with two others (Stetson and Wagner) for the most TFL in a single game in FCS this year. That marked Valpo’s highest single-game TFL total since at least 2004. Trejuan Purty had five tackles for loss including four sacks in the Presbyterian game. The single-game sack total of four was tied for sixth-most nationally while the five tackles for loss were tied for fifth. Gavin Twigg boasted four TFL, while Nick Price recorded three sacks. For the season, Valpo is up to 28 sacks, needing two more to crack the program’s all-time top five. The team is also two TFL away from cracking the program record book in that area.
Valpo Single-Season Team Sacks
Rank Year Number
1 1999 49
2 2000 40
3 1982 39
4 1984 34
5 2007 30
--- 2021 28
Valpo Single-Season Team Tackles for Loss
Rank Year Number
1 1984 94
2 2007 78
3 1982 71
T-4 2019 70
T-4 1985 70
--- 2021 68
Block Party Remains a Hit: Valpo tied a Pioneer Football League record with three blocked kicks in a single game on Oct. 30 at San Diego. The Beacons became the first PFL squad to achieve that feat since Morehead State vs. San Diego in 2018. The team followed that up with a blocked PAT in the Nov. 6 win vs. Presbyterian. With eight blocked kicks on the season, Valpo leads all of Division-I college football (FBS and FCS). Delaware State is second in FCS with six and no FBS program has more than five. Nathan Orlandini’s blocked PAT against Presbyterian helped this year’s team move into sole possession of second in program history in that area, snapping a second-place tie with 2002 (7). The program record of 14 was established in 1991.
Block Type Opponent Date
Brett Bittner punt Dartmouth 9-18-21
Austin Martins field goal Drake 9-25-21
Tre’ Purty field goal Marist 10-2-21
Brett Bittner punt Marist 10-2-21
Diego Del Castillo punt at San Diego 10-30-21
Brett Bittner punt at San Diego 10-30-21
Nathan Orlandini field goal at San Diego 10-30-21
Nathan Orlandini PAT Presbyterian 11-6-21
The Lead Blockers: Brett Bittner has been at the forefront of Valpo’s kick-blocking prowess, rejecting three punts this season. He is one of three players in all of Division-I college football – all FCS players – who have three blocked kicks this season. Kevin DeShields of Delaware State and Anthony Knighton of Southern Illinois are tied with Bittner for the national lead. In addition, Bittner has cracked the program record book for kicks blocked in a season. He is now tied with Adam Rundh (2008) for fifth in program history. Steve Moseley (1991) holds the program record with eight, while three others are tied for second with four. Nathan Orlandini came up with his second block of the year on Nov. 6. Only 16 players nationally have multiple blocked kicks this season, and two of them are Beacons.
Niesner Notes: After tying the program and league record at 43.6 yards per punt last season, Ben Niesner is threatening the mark again this season. His current season average is 43.0 yards per punt, which would rank third in single-season program history. He is among the FCS active career leaders in total punt yards with 8,418 in his career, which ranks eighth.
Turnover Tidbit: Valpo owns a 7-0 edge in the turnover category over the last three games and has put together three consecutive turnover-free performances.
Noteworthy National Rankings
Player Category FCS Rank Value
Robert Washington rushing TDs T-10th 11
Robert Washington rushing yards 11th 844
Robert Washington rushing yd/G 18th 93.8
Robert Washington total TDs 14th 11
Brett Bittner blocked kicks T-1st 3
Team blocked kicks 1st 8
Chuck Maxwell kick return AVG 25th 24.1
Chuck Maxwell combined kick returns 13th 458
Ben Niesner yards/punt 16th 43.0
Team sacks/game 11th 3.22
Team TFL/game 8th 7.6
Brian Bartholomew FG/game 27th 1.12
Josh Becton punt return AVG 22nd 7.7
Scouting the Opponent: The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week after falling 38-31 at Dayton in their most recent game on Oct. 30. The loss to the Flyers was Butler’s second one-score setback of the season as the team fell 6-3 in the battle of the Bulldogs on Oct. 2 vs. Drake. Butler was picked 11th of 11 in the PFL preseason poll. Head coach Jeff Voris’ team has dropped 13 straight league games with its most recent victory coming 24-21 over Valpo on Nov. 16, 2019.
Strength of Schedule: Valpo’s three nonconference opponents currently hold a combined 23-3 record. North Dakota State is 8-1 and is ranked fifth nationally in the STATS Perform FCS Top 25 and sixth in the FCS Coaches’ Poll. Dartmouth owns a 7-1 mark and is ranked 22nd in the STATS poll and 23rd in the coaches poll. Indiana Wesleyan checks in at 8-1 and is ranked sixth nationally in NAIA.
100-Yard Efforts: Running back Robert Washington a career-high 234 rushing yards on Nov. 6 vs. Presbyterian, representing his eighth 100-yard rushing game in a Valpo uniform in just his 15th appearance. Over the last five seasons, there have been 13 100-yard rushing games by Valpo players, and Washington has accounted for eight of them.
Player Date Opponent Yards
Robert Washington 11/6/21 vs. Presbyterian 234
Robert Washington 10/2/21 vs. Marist 149
Robert Washington 9/25/21 at Drake 143
Robert Washington 9/18/21 vs. Dartmouth 117
Robert Washington 4/10/21 at Morehead State 180
Robert Washington 4/3/21 at Drake 101
Robert Washington 3/27/21 vs. Butler 120
Robert Washington 3/13/21 at Butler 199
Chris Duncan 11/16/19 at Butler 102
Elias Earley 10/26/19 vs. Stetson 112
Chris Duncan 10/12/19 vs. Dayton 154
Kyle Cartales 10/6/18 at Dayton 116
Jarrett Morgan 9/16/17 at TIU 127
Martins Mastery: Austin Martins continued his strong season with a career-high 12 tackles on the Valpo defensive line in the Oct. 30 game at San Diego. His tackle output doubled his previous career watermark of six. Martins accrued 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, one of which was a strip sack that led to a Valpo fumble recovery. His 4.5 TFL against the Toreros tied for the eighth most in the FCS nation this season. The 4.5 TFL marked the most by a Valpo player in a single game in over 20 years, and then a week later it was surpassed by teammate Trejuan Purty, who had five TFL against Presbyterian.
Twice is Nice: When freshman Jamauri Jackson pulled off a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown to cap the scoring in the Oct. 23 victory over Dayton, it marked the first pick six by a Valpo player since Drew Snouffer’s 40 yarder in 2018. Remarkably, Jackson started the scoring in Valpo’s next game – Oct. 30 at San Diego – in the same fashion, this time returning his interception 83 yards to find paydirt. That 83-yard return was the 11th longest in the FCS nation this season. It was Valpo’s longest interception return since Mark Kaiser’s 94 yarder during the 2000 season.
Downing Dayton: Valpo’s 45-28 victory over Dayton on Oct. 23 was significant in more ways than one. Valpo head coach Landon Fox earned his first victory against his former team, where he spent 11 years as defensive coordinator and secondary coach prior to earning Valpo’s top job. The win marked a considerable turnaround from Fox’s first matchup with his ex-employer, a defeat on Oct. 12, 2019 by a similar score of 41-28. The win was Valpo’s fourth in 30 all-time meetings with Dayton and first since 2017. The 45 points were the program’s most in any of the 30 matchups with the Flyers. The 17 points also represented Valpo’s largest margin of victory in the all-time series. Valpo has defeated Drake and Dayton – traditionally strong programs and fellow founding members of the PFL – in the same season for the first time since 2003 and the second time ever.
Rare Breathing Room: Valpo’s 17-point margin of victory in the 45-23 win vs. Dayton on Oct. 23 marked a welcome change from the team’s typical flair for the dramatic. It represented Valpo’s most lopsided triumph since beating Jacksonville 48-30 on Nov. 10, 2018. In addition, it snapped a Valpo streak of seven straight PFL games decided by seven points or fewer and a stretch of 14 straight decided by 12 points or fewer. Valpo’s previous four victories were decided by a combined total of 10 points with each of the four games decided by three points or fewer. The Dayton win was Fox’s largest margin of victory to this point in his head coaching career.
Beating the Bulldogs: Prior to the 10-7 win at Drake on April 3, 2021, Valpo had lost 17 straight head-to-head meetings with the Bulldogs and was 0-14 all-time at Drake. After the 24-21 victory on Sept. 25, the Beacons have won back-to-back games in the head-to-head series and earned their first two wins in Des Moines in the same calendar year. This marks the first time ever that Valpo has recorded consecutive wins over Drake.
Starting in Style: The Beacons have won the Pioneer Football League opener in back-to-back seasons after going on the road to beat Butler in the spring and starting the fall PFL slate with a win at Drake. Prior to the Spring 2021 PFL-opening victory, Valpo’s last win to begin league play was 2016 vs. Davidson. Valpo has started the conference docket with a victory in consecutive years for the first time since 2005 and 2006.
Team Captains: Fifth-year senior long snapper Doug Haugh, senior wide receiver Ollie Reese, senior running back Robert Washington, redshirt sophomore linebacker Evan Annis and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Nathan Orlandini were elected team captains by their peers. Haugh is in his second year as a team captain, while the other players occupy that role for the first time this season.
A Look Back at Spring 2021
- Finished with the program’s best winning percentage since 2003 (.666), tying for the squad’s best winning percentage since 1999.
- Held its best record through the first six games of a season (in this case, the only six games of the season) since 1999 and its best record through six league games since 1964.
- Won four PFL games in the same season for the second time ever (five, 2017) and four league games in any conference for just the second time since 1968.
- Snapped a 14-game losing streak to San Diego, earning the program’s first victory over the Toreros since 2003.
- Snapped a 17-game head-to-head skid by picking up its first win over Drake since 2003 and its first-ever win in Des Moines.
- Beat a San Diego team that was receiving votes in the latest STATS FCS Top 25 and AFCA Coaches Top 25 at the time of the matchup. The Toreros were nationally ranked earlier in the season. The loss marked San Diego’s second in its last 42 PFL games.
- The final four games of the season were all decided by four points or fewer, and all six games were dictated by 11 points or fewer.
- Completed a significant turnaround, going from 1-11 during the 2019 fall slate to 4-2 in Spring 2021 and a second-place finish in the PFL, the team’s highest finish in the PFL standings since the 2003 season.
- Five players earned all-PFL First Team honors, the team’s most since 2005.
- Placed 56 on the academic honor roll, a 15 student-athlete jump from the previous year and the second-most in program history (60, 2018).
- Outrushed opponents 910-668, the team’s first time gaining more yards on the ground than its opponents since 2007.
- Eclipsed 150 rushing yards per game for the second time in the last 12 seasons and the first time since 2014.
- Held opponents to 283.3 yards per game, the program’s best total defense in the last 40 years.
- Held opponents to 172.2 passing yards per game, the program’s best passing defense since 2008.
- Held opponents to 111.2 rushing yards per game, the team’s best rushing defense since 1999.
- Held opponents to 18.7 points per game, the team’s best scoring defense since 1999.
Fall 2021 Preseason Picks
- Valpo was picked to finish sixth of 11 in the Pioneer Football League preseason poll.
- Davidson was projected to win the league, edging out perennial favorite San Diego.
- Valpo boasted five players on the Preseason All-PFL team – running back Robert Washington, linebacker Jaxon Peifer, defensive back Keyon Turner, kicker Brian Bartholomew and punter Ben Niesner.
- Washington was named the Phil Steele PFL Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Niesner and Bartholomew joined Washington on the Phil Steele Preseason PFL First Team. Valpo’s second-team honorees included offensive lineman Aaron Byrd, defensive lineman Trejuan Purty, Turner, Peifer, kick returner Chuck Maxwell and long snapper Doug Haugh. In addition, linebacker Evan Annis was named to the third team.
- Niesner was also named to the FCS Punter of the Year Preseason Watch List by the Augusta Sports Council.
Spring 2021 Awards/Honors
- Landon Fox – Finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, presented annually to the FCS National Coach of the Year
- Keyon Turner – Finalist for Jerry Rice Award, presented to the FCS National Freshman of the Year… Named a Freshman All-American by HERO Sports
- Chuck Maxwell – Named a Freshman All-American by HERO Sports
- Robert Washington – PFL Offensive Player of the Year, first in program history (since the award began in 2001)
- Ben Niesner – co-PFL Special Teams Player of the Year (first in program history, conference began handing out the honor in 2015); FCS National Punter of the Year semifinalist (one of 10 nationally).
- PFL Players of the Week - Drew Gedrys – co-Special Teams Player of the Week (April 18); Robert Washington Offensive Player (March 28), Keyon Turner co-Defensive Player (March 28), Niesner co-Special Teams Player of the Week (April 4), Niesner Special Teams (March 21).
- College Sports Madness Players of the Week – Washingon (O – March 15), Washington (O – March 29)
- STATS FCS Perform National Team of the Week Honorable Mention on April 20 after win over San Diego.
- STATS FCS Perform National Player of the Week Honorable Mentions: Drew Gedrys (ST, April 20), Chuck Maxwell (ST, April 20), Ben Niesner (ST, April 20), Keyon Turner (D, March 30), Robert Washington (O, March 23).
- All-PFL First Team: Robert Washington, Jaxon Peifer, Ben Niesner, Keyon Turner, Brian Barthlomew
- All-PFL Second Team: Evan Annis, Chuck Maxwell
- All-PFL Honorable Mention: Aaron Byrd, Trejuan Purty, Doug Haugh, Jadarius Horton
- Cade Bishop – CoSIDA Academic All-District 5 Team
- Academic All-PFL First Team: Drew Parrish, Evan Annis, Cade Bishop, Ben Niesner; Academic All-PFL Second Team: Aaron Byrd & Kohlton Sherman
Spring 2021 Individual Achievements
- Ben Niesner finished with a season punting average of 43.6 yards per punt, tying Greg Wood’s 2010 program record for single-season punting average (when rounded to the nearest 10th of a yard). When taken to the next decimal place, Wood’s 2010 mark is slightly ahead of Niesner’s Spring 2021 mark at 43.63 and 43.85, respectively. Wood’s 2010 mark is also the PFL record with Niesner now second in PFL history.
- Niesner’s career-long 72-yard punt against San Diego was only the fifth punt of 72 yards or more in FCS during the Spring 2021 season, tied for the fourth longest in the nation.
- Drew Gedrys had two blocked kicks against San Diego, becoming only the third player in the FCS nation with multiple blocked kicks in a single game in the Spring 2021 season.
- Keyon Turner was part of a turnover in all six games with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He finished the season as the outright leader in takeaways. He was one of only five players in the nation with four or more interceptions… Lone freshman on all-PFL First Team… One of only five Valpo players with four or more interceptions in a single game over the last 12 years despite the fact that the slate was shortened to six games. He ranked in the top 10 nationally in interceptions per game, led the nation in interceptions among freshmen and became the first Valpo player with an interception in four straight games in over two decades and the first Valpo freshman with four interceptions in a season in over 20 years.
- Robert Washington – ranked eighth nationally in FCS in rushing yards per game at 108.8. Accrued 100 or more rushing yards on four occasions including a season-high 199 on 39 carries in the March 13 season opener at Butler, the highest single-game rushing output by a Valpo player since 2012. His 199-yard performance marked the ninth-highest single-game rushing number in the nation during the Spring 2021, and he was one of three players nationally with multiple games of 180+ rushing yards. Had the most rushing yards in a season by any Valpo player since Brandon Hall’s 855 in 2014 despite the Spring 2021 slate being shortened to six games… Ranked 11th nationally in total rushing yards (653) and 12th in all-purpose yards per game (129.33)…. One of seven unanimous All-PFL selections… First Valpo player with four 100-yard rushing games in the same season since Jeff Horton had six in 2005.
- Brian Bartholomew – Boasted the league’s best field-goal percentage at 87.5 percent, converting seven of his eight attempts. He had the most PATs without a miss in the league, going a perfect 13-for-13 on PATs. The redshirt sophomore ranked sixth in the PFL in scoring at 5.7 points per game. His season-long 49 yard field goal came at a critical time as it represented the first points of an eventual 10-7 win over Drake. He had Valpo’s best single-season field goal percentage in over 15 years.
- Chuck Maxwell finished his season as the FCS national leader in kickoff return average at 29.8 yards per return. He had 151 kickoff return yards in Week 6 vs. San Diego, the most by any PFL player in a single contest during the season. The 86 yarder marked the second-longest return by a PFL player in Spring 2021.
- QB Chris Duncan finished among the program’s career leaders in both passing yards (4086, sixth) and total offense (4,902). He finished his career ranked 21st in yards of total offense among active players in Division-I FCS.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
*Based on two-deep, starters subject to change
- WR-z #4 Matt Ross – Started his career at Eastern Illinois... Transferred to Valpo for the Spring 2021 season... Made his debut in the March 13, 2021 season opener, but missed the rest of the season with an injury... Made his first career start on Oct. 30 at San Diego after coming off the bench for each of the first six games.
- LT #68 Aaron Byrd, R-Jr. – Majoring in bioengineering with a strong interest in prosthetics… The launch of Valpo’s bioengineering program within the school’s nationally-ranked College of Engineering attracted him to the University… Has performed undergraduate research in the Human Movement Research Laboratory under Craig Goehler, Ph.D., an associate professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering… Serves as a student tutor in the Hesse Learning Center on campus… Was a starter in 2019 and saw action in all 12 games… Started again in Spring 2021 and received All-PFL Honorable Mention, Academic All-PFL Second Team and the Sever Award, which is presented to the team’s top offensive lineman.
- LG #70 Jeremiah Orr, So. – Appeared in all six games and made four starts in Spring 2021… Four-year varsity letter winner in high school… Owns Drone Pilot Certification.
- C #72 Drew Parrish, R-So. – Did not see game action in his first season on campus in 2019… Started his collegiate debut on March 13, 2021 at Butler… Received the award given to the player with the highest GPA on his high school football team… Played six years of baseball including two in high school… Received numerous academic honors in high school… Majoring in electrical engineering… Enjoys hiking in Arizona when on vacation to visit his family there… Goes on a fishing trip every Thanksgiving to Branson, Mo. and stays at Lazy Valley Resort… Tutors other engineering students at Valpo’s Hesse Learning Resource Center… Named to the Spring 2021 Academic All-PFL First Team.
- RG #62 Carter Woody, So. – Appeared in all six games and made three starts on Valpo’s offensive line in Spring 2021… Helped his high school team to an impressive 56-6 record throughout his career… Also played four years of high school rugby and was a team captain in 2018.
- RT #75 Jon Stone, So. – Engineering major… Two-time first-team all-conference pick and two-time Detroit Free Press all-state pick in high school… Also competed in basketball, track & field and wrestling in high school… Brother Dan competes in track & field at Michigan State and brother Nate plays rugby at Air Force Academy in Colorado.
- TE #84 Brett Bittner, R-Sr. –Started each of Valpo’s first four games during the Spring 2021 season… Class valedictorian in high school… Blocked a punt on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth and another one on Oct. 2 vs. Marist, becoming just the third player in the FCS nation with multiple blocked kicks this season... Blocked his third punt of the season on Oct. 30 at San Diego, cracking the program record book for single-season blocked kicks while moving into a tie for the national lead.
- WR-x #6 Ollie Reese, Jr. – Had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Oct. 12, 2019 vs. Dayton… Father Steve is a financial wholesaler and mother Margie works at an antique shop in the city of Franklin… Has one sister, Bailey, who is a member of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Class of 2019… Father and grandfather both played college football… Father played football and baseball at Bridgewater College in Virginia and graduated in 1985… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention, Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Appeared in all 12 games in 2019 and led Valpo in receptions (34), receiving yards (545) and receiving touchdowns (five) while averaging 16.0 yards per catch and 45.4 receiving yards per game… Established career highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (86) on March 20, 2021 vs. Drake, earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Week Award… Led the Valpo receiving core in Week 1 with three catches for 60 yards, including several difficult grabs where he battled a member of the Indiana Wesleyan secondary to pull down the football… Caught his sixth career TD and first since 2019 on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth, a 14-yard toss from Teryn Berry… Made a 42-yard catch on 4th-and-17 from the Valpo 28 in the final two minutes of Valpo’s 24-21 win at Drake on Sept. 25, 2021… Made three catches for a team-high 94 yards on Oct. 2, 2021 vs. Marist, the most by a Valpo player in a single game through the first five weeks of the season.
- Slot #12 Jordan Bingham, R-So. – Appeared in all six games in Spring 2021 after appearing in four games during his first season on campus in 2019… Played the drums when he was younger… Had a team-high 31 receiving yards and shared the team lead with four receptions on Sept. 18 vs. Dartmouth… Made a heroic, juggling catch for Valpo’s game-winning 30-yard touchdown on 4th-and-10 with 1:05 remaining in the 24-21 victory at Drake at on Sept. 27, 2021.
- #5 Ben Nimz, R-Jr., QB – Helped his high school team to a 23-3 record in 26 career starts… Took over at QB midway through the April 10, 2021 game at Morehead State and nearly led Valpo to its biggest comeback since 1995… Made his first career start on April 17, 2021 vs. San Diego and led Valpo to an upset victory over a team that was receiving votes nationally, the program’s first win over the Toreros since 2003… His first career TD pass was the go-ahead score with 21 seconds remaining against San Diego, a 9-yard toss to Braden Contreras that put Valpo ahead 20-19… Made his first start of the season on Sept. 11, 2021 at No. 5/4 North Dakota State… Came off the bench with 2:39 remaining on Sept. 25, 2021 at Drake to lead a game-winning touchdown drive. Completed a 42-yard pass to Ollie Reese on 4th-and-17 and a 30-yard TD pass to Jordan Bingham on 4th-and-10… Made his second start of the season and the third of his career on Oct. 2 vs. Marist and completed 15 passes for 193 yards... Went 14-of-23 for a career-high 233 yards on Oct. 23 vs. Dayton. The game featured a 48-yard completion to Robert Washington, his career-long pass.
- #1 Jeffrey Jackson, R-Jr., QB – Transferred to Valpo from PFL member San Diego, where he spent the Spring 2021 season but did not see game action... First team all-conference selection in 2018 at the University of Chicago, setting a school record for completion percentage at 64.5... Played in two games at UChicago in 2019... Saw action off the bench for Valpo on Sept. 11 at North Dakota State, Oct. 23 vs. Dayton, Oct. 30 at San Diego and Nov. 6 vs. Presbyterian.
- #3 Robert Washington, Sr., RB – Played in 12 games and made three starts at Old Dominion in 2019… Previously spent the 2016 season and part of the 2017 campaign at Charlotte… Was rated a four-star recruit by ESPN.com out of high school… Ranked as the 13th-best running back prospect nationally by ESPN.com out of high school... Earned the following honors in Spring 2021: PFL Offensive Player of the Year, All-PFL First Team, (unanimous), 2x College Sports Madness PFL Offensive Player of the Week (March 15, March 29), PFL Offensive Player of the Week (March 28), Team Offensive Player of the Year, Valparaiso University Male Athlete of the Year (ARC Awards), Valparaiso University Male co-Newcomer of the Year (ARC Awards)… Was the first player in Valpo history to earn PFL Offensive Player of the Year honors… Ranked eighth nationally in FCS in rushing yards per game at 108.8… Rushed for 653 yards and five touchdowns… Accrued 100 or more rushing yards on four occasions including a season-high 199 on March 13, 2021 at Butler… Had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season and the fifth of his career with 24 carries for 117 yards on Sept. 18 vs. Dartmouth. Also threw a jump pass for a successful two-point conversion in the game against the Big Green… Had two TD runs including an 80 yarder – tied for the third longest in the FCS nation this season – in Valpo’s 24-21 win at Drake on Sept. 25. He totaled 143 yards on the ground and finished with 199 all-purpose yards by producing a team-high eight receptions… Had his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 27 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns on Oct. 2 vs. Marist... Impacted the offense in all three facets with 91 rushing yards, three receptions for 59 yards and a 14-yard pass on a trick play in the Oct. 23 win over Dayton. He boasted a career-high three rushing TDs, becoming the first Valpo player to rush for three TDs in a game since October 2018... Received a “Helmet Sticker” on ESPN’s College Football Final for his Nov. 6 performance vs. Presbyterian, which featured 234 rushing yards on 26 carries including three rushing TDs plus four receptions for 48 yards. He was named the PFL Offensive Player of the Week by both the league office and College Sports Madness.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
*Based two-deep, starters subject to change
- DE #4 Trejuan Purty, Sr. – Transferred to Valpo for the 2019 season after spending the previous two years at East Tennessee State… Finished 2019 tied for sixth in the PFL with 3.5 sacks… Had six tackles for loss totaling 31 yards and racked up 31 tackles including 14 solos in 2019… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention and Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Spring 2021 All-PFL Honorable Mention after starting all six games… Had 20 tackles including a team-high 5.5 tackles for loss in Spring 2021... Boasted five tackles for loss including four sacks in the Nov. 6 game vs. Presbyterian. The single-game sack total of four was tied for sixth-most nationally while the five tackles for loss were tied for fifth.
- NG #93 Kurt Kessen, So. – Appeared in all six games during the Spring 2021 season… Had a strong showing on the defensive line in Week 1 at Indiana Wesleyan, racking up seven tackles including four solos…. Followed with six tackles in Week 3 vs. Dartmouth.
- DT #94 Nathan Orlandini, Sr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… Competed in all 12 games in 2019 and totaled 28 tackles (12 solo) during his junior campaign…Started all six games on Valpo’s defensive line in Spring 2021… Had 2.0 TFL in Week 1 of the Fall 2021 season, leading a collection of 10 Valpo players who were involved in at least one tackle for loss… Had his first career fumble recovery while also accruing six tackles on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth... Blocked a field-goal try and recovered a fumble in the Oct. 30 game at San Diego... Turned away a PAT attempt on Nov. 6 vs. Presbyterian, becoming the 16th player nationally and second Beacon with multiple blocked kicks this year.
- #46 Austin Martins, DE, R-Sr. – A junior college transfer from Modesto JC… Started his collegiate career as a Division-III running back… Had 2 ½ sacks to lift Valpo to the April 3, 2021 win at Drake, the most sacks in a single game by a Valpo player since 2015… Was named the Marines Valpo Valor Player of the Game following that performance…. Played in all six games and made two starts during the Spring 2021 slate… Named the College Sports Madness PFL Defensive Player of the Week following his performance on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth. He recovered two fumbles, both in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Valpo player with two fumble recoveries in a single game since 2005. In addition, he had six tackles including five solos… Named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 4 after blocking Drake’s potential game-tying field goal with all zeros on the clock to clinch Valpo’s 24-21 win in Des Moines on Sept. 25, 2021... Had a career-high 12 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks including a strip sack that led to a Valpo fumble recovery in the Oct. 30 game at San Diego. The 4.5 TFL marked the most by a Valpo player in a single game in over 20 years.
- LB #2 Evan Annis, R-So. – Appeared in four games in his first season on campus in 2019, retaining four years of eligibility… Also a four-year letter winner in lacrosse in high school… Member of a fraternity on campus and majoring in bioengineering while playing football… Maintained a 4.0 GPA all through high school… Shared the team lead in tackles with nine including 1 ½ TFL on March 20, 2021 vs. Drake… Again tied for the team lead with nine tackles on March 27, 2021 vs. Butler… Led the team in tackles for the third straight game and had eight or more for the third consecutive contest with an eight-tackle output in the April 3, 2021 win at Drake… Finished the Spring 2021 season ranked second on the team and eighth in the league with 6.8 tackles per game… Earned Spring 2021 All-PFL Second Team, Academic All-PFL First Team and the team’s Koenig Award, which is presented to an individual who displays outstanding sportsmanship and character… Shared the team lead with seven tackles on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth while also forcing a fumble, the first of his collegiate career… Led the team with nine tackles including 1.5 TFL on Oct. 2 vs. Marist.
- LB #6 Gavin Twigg, R-Sr. – Played in all 22 games over his two seasons plus eight games in 2019 despite missing time with an injury... Did not play in Spring 2021 but has returned to the gridiron this fall... Had a career-high eight tackles at San Diego on Oct. 30, 2021 before following that up with seven including four tackles for loss, a sack and an interception in the Nov. 6 game vs. Presbyterian.
- LB #24 Trey Psota, R-Jr. – Finished third on the team with 69 tackles and had the most tackles among non-seniors in 2019… Had two tackles for loss, a pass breakup, a QB hurry, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a blocked kick during his redshirt freshman season… Had a season-high 11 tackles on two occasions in 2019, Sept. 28 vs. Charleston and Oct. 26 vs. Stetson… Played in the 13U Little League World Series during his youth, taking on teams from all over the United States as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and other international opponents… Shared the team lead in tackles with nine including four solos and 1 ½ TFL on March 20, 2021 vs. Drake… Played in all six games and made four starts during the Spring 2021 season, totaling 23 tackles… Crossed the 100-tackle career milestone on Sept. 11 at North Dakota State… Had Valpo’s first safety since 2006 and the team’s first credited to an individual in over two decades when he sacked the Dartmouth quarterback in the endzone on Sept. 18, 2021… Blocked a 22-yard field goal try in the second quarter on Oct. 2 vs. Marist... Had a team-high nine tackles on Oct. 23 vs. Dayton.
- CB #1 Keyon Turner, So. – Spring 2021 finalist for Jerry Rice Awards (FCS National Freshman of the Year), HERO Sports Freshman All-American, All-PFL First Team and Team Newcomer of the Year… Led the FCS nation in takeaways with six (four interceptions, two fumble recoveries)… Had a takeaway in all six games he played… Saw his remarkable streak of notching a takeaway in each of his first six collegiate games come to an end in Week 1 of the Fall 2021 season at Indiana Wesleyan, but the sophomore standout did turn in a career-best nine tackles.
- S #29 Kohlton Sherman, Sr. – Spring 2021 Academic All-PFL Second Team… Spring 2021 Team Outstanding Hitter… Ranked third on the team with 28 tackles and second on the squad with 19 solo stops… Grabbed an interception in the Spring 2021 finale vs. San Diego… Had a big game on Sept. 11 at North Dakota State, racking up a team-high 10 tackles including four solos. It was his second-career double-figure tackle game and first since Nov. 2, 2019 at Davidson. He also crossed the 100-tackle career milestone in that contest against the Bison.
- S #20 Austin Chilton, R-So. – Appeared in three games and made one start in Spring 2021… Racked up seven tackles including 0.5 TFL on April 10 at Morehead State… Had six tackles in the April 17 finale vs. San Diego… Lives a few minutes from Walt Disney World and can hear the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from his neighborhood every night… Mechanical engineering major whose career goal is to design and build roller coasters for Disney World… Turned in Valpo’s first takeaway of the season in Week 1 at Indiana Wesleyan by notching an interception, the first of his career… Set a career watermark with seven tackles to share the team lead on Sept. 18 vs. Dartmouth... Had his second interception of the season on Oct. 9 at St. Thomas, as he accounted for both of the team’s picks through the season’s first six games... Named the PFL Defensive Player of the Week by both the league office and College Sports Madness following the Oct. 23 victory over Dayton. In the game against the Flyers, he made an interception and recovered a fumble while also notching five tackles.
- CB #3 Jadarius Horton, Sr. – Transferred from Southwestern College prior to 2020-21… Earned All-PFL Honorable Mention… Started all six games and finished the season with 15 tackles (13 solos) and three pass breakups… Notched a sack on Sept. 11 at North Dakota State for his first career tackle for loss. The sack went for a loss of seven, one of the defensive highlights of the day for the Beacons.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K #87 Brian Bartholomew, R-Jr. – Did not seen game action in either of his first two seasons on campus (2018 and 2019)… Started his career as a walk-on and evolved into a First Team All-PFL kicker in Spring 2021, earning the team’s Most Improved Player Award… Went 7-of-8 on field-goal tries and 13-of-13 on PATs in Spring 2021… Ranked fifth in the league in scoring at 5.7 points per game, second in field goals per game at 1.17, first in made PATs without a miss and first in field-goal percentage at 87.5… Boasted Valpo’s best single-season field goal percentage in over 15 years… Went 1-for-2 on field goals in Week 1 at Indiana Wesleyan and made from 34 yards out, moving to 8-of-10 in his Valpo career… Went 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth to improve to 10-of-12 in his Valpo career and 3-of-4 this season… Made a 39-yard field goal on Sept. 25, 2021 at Drake that proved to be the difference in a 24-21 victory… Made a 25-yard field goal in overtime on Oct. 2 vs. Marist... Went 2-for-3 on field-goal attempts in the Oct. 9 game at St. Thomas, making from 32 and 31... Named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance on Nov. 6 vs. Presbyterian, a game where he converted his only field-goal try and went 8-for-8 on PATs, shattering the single-game program record for made extra points.
- P #33 Ben Niesner, Sr. – Joined the team in 2019 as a transfer after spending the previous two seasons at Portland State, where he earned the starting role at punter… Started school at Oregon State in 2016-17 before transferring to Portland State, where he beat out a scholarship punter to become the starter for the final game of 2017 and all of 2018… Didn’t begin teaching himself how to punt until after his senior year of high school… Before his first year at Portland State in 2017, hadn’t played football in his life except a brief stint of youth football… Named All-PFL Honorable Mention in 2019… Earned the following honors in Spring 2021: PFL co-Special Teams Player of the Year, All-PFL First Team, FCS National Punter of the Year Semifinalist, Academic All-PFL First Team, 2x PFL Special Teams Player of the Year (March 21, April 4), Stats FCS Perform National Player of the Week Honorable Mention (April 5), Team Special Teams Player of the Year… Led the PFL and ranked eighth nationally in FCS in punting average in Spring 2021 at 43.58, that mark ranked second in PFL and program history or tied for the PFL record in both categories when rounded to the nearest 10th… Averaged 38.8 yards per punt on four boots and pinned one inside the 5-yard line in Week 1 at Indiana Wesleyan… Was a bright spot for Valpo on Sept. 11 at North Dakota State, totaling 302 yards on seven attempts for an average of 43.1 yards per punt. He placed two kicks inside the 20 including a 58 yarder, his longest of the season to that point… Also turned in Valpo’s longest rush of the day, a 17-yard gain to move the chains on fourth-and-4 from the Valpo 36-yard line early in the second quarter… Had six attempts for 267 yards, averaging 44.5 yards per punt on Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth. Pinned four of his six boots inside the 20 and rocketed a long of 55… Surpassed the 7,000-yard threshold for his collegiate career (Valpo and Portland State) on Sept. 25 at Drake… Pinned seven of his eight punts inside the 20 on Oct. 2 vs. Marist... Earned PFL Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging a career-best 53.2 yards per punt on six attempts in the Oct. 9 game at St. Thomas... Earned PFL Special Teams Player of the Week recognition for the second time this season and the fourth time in his collegiate career after averaging 48.7 yards per attempt on seven kicks including a pair of boots that traveled over 60+ yards on Oct. 30 at San Diego.