Regardless of the score, winning the Hoosier Helmet is always sweet for the Valparaiso University football team.
But this score? This one made for an even more joyous bus ride north after an unforgettable day in Indianapolis – Valpo 47, Butler 3.
The Beacons outgained the Bulldogs 421-191 en route to the most lopsided league win in program history while also setting a program record for margin of victory against a Division-I opponent. Valpo has now won three straight in the rivalry series, all this calendar year.
How It Happened
- Believe it or not, Butler scored the game’s first points on a nine-play, 69-yard opening drive that resulted in a JJ Wadas 27-yard field goal. A 48-yard connection between quarterback Bret Bushka and Johnny O’Shea put the hosts in the red zone.
- It didn’t take long for Valpo to respond, as the Beacons scored on a six-yard pass from Ben Nimz (Waukesha, Wis. / Catholic Memorial) to Connor Hebbeler (Franklin Lakes, N.J. / Bergen Catholic [Wake Forest]) with 6:19 remaining in the opening quarter to make it 7-3. That drive was highlighted by a 31-yard Nick Orekoya (Billerica, Mass. / Everett [Massachusetts]) run.
- Valpo’s next possession also resulted in points, as Brian Bartholomew split the uprights from 24 yards out to extend the lead to seven at 10-3. That drive was highlighted by an Ollie Reese (Franklin, Tenn. / Battle Ground) reception from Nimz that covered 43 yards.
- After forcing a turnover on downs, Valpo went 50 yards on six plays to score on a Barret Labus (Wadsworth, Ohio / Wadsworth) 15-yard TD snag, creating a 17-3 advantage with still 10:50 on the clock.
- Valpo got another fourth-down stop on Butler’s next drive when Austin Martins (Newman, Calif. / Orestimba [Modesto JC]) came up with a key sack on fourth-and-8. Valpo again capitalized as Nimz completed a 38-yard TD pass to Matt Ross (Naperville, Ill. / Montini Catholic [Eastern Illinois]) on a third-and-8 from the Butler 38. That made it a 24-3 rout with 39 seconds left in the half.
- Just when it seemed the first half could not go any better, Trey Psota (Bay Village, Ohio / Bay) forced a Butler fumble that was recovered by Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson), who returned it 35 yards to the Bulldogs’ 10. That set up a 7-yard Nimz scramble for a score (PAT missed) to make it 30-3 at the break.
- The game was over by halftime, but the Beacons kept pouring it on by adding a 63-yard TD drive to open the second half. Robert Washington (Huntersville, N.C. / East Gaston [Old Dominion]) had a 32-yard run and a 37-yard reception before rushing it across the goal line from a yard out to make it 37-3 with 10:59 to go in the third.
- Bartholomew made a 45-yard field goal with 2:41 left in the third, then Martins recovered the second Butler fumble of the day after Valpo got a stop on fourth-and-1. That resulted in another scoring drive, with Washington running it in from six yards out to boost the lead to 44 at 47-3. That stood as the game’s final score.
Inside the Game
- The 44-point margin of victory was Valpo’s largest since beating Missouri Baptist by 48 on Oct. 11, 2014. This was Valpo’s largest margin of victory in league play in program history, and also set the program record for margin of victory against a Division-I opponent. In addition, this was Valpo’s most lopsided win over Butler in the longstanding rivalry.
- Valpo held an opponent to three points or fewer for the first time since beating Butler 17-3 on Nov. 8, 2014.
- The Beacons have won five of the last six rivalry matchups, their best stretch in the head-to-head series since prevailing in seven straight from 1994-2000. They are now 3-0 against Butler in the calendar year of 2021.
- Nimz passed for a career-high 241 yards on an efficient 19-of-24 through the air. He also passed for three TDs and rushed for one while throwing no interceptions.
- Washington rushed for 102 yards, all in the second half, his ninth career 100-yard rushing game in a Valpo uniform in just his 16th appearance. He added 38 receiving yards on four catches.
- Washington rushed for two touchdowns, bringing his season total to 13, which is second on the program’s all-time single season list. He needs one to tie or two to break Dave Newnam’s 1977 record of 14 rushing scores. Entering play on Saturday, there were only four players in the FCS nation with 13 or more rushing TDs this season.
- Washington’s 102-yard total upped his season mark to 946. He surpassed Brandon Hall (855, 2014) for fourth on Valpo’s all-time single-season rushing list. If he rushes for at least 54 yards in the season finale vs. Morehead State, Washington will become the third player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. If he rushes for more than 63 yards, he’ll finish second on Valpo’s single-season rushing list.
- Washington’s career rushing total is up to 1,599. He needs 45 more yards to crack the top 10 in program history.
- As a team, Valpo is up to 21 rushing TDs this season, cracking the top five in program history. The 21 ranks fifth, one behind a tie for third.
- Reese accrued a team-high 81 receiving yards on two catches. Ross’ TD grab was the first of his career, while Labus’ touchdown was his first career catch of any kind. In addition, Hebbeler became the first Beacon with two receiving scores this year.
- Bartholomew’s streak of made PATs ended at 40, nine shy of the program record. His miss came from added distance after a 15-yard penalty. However, with his five made PATs, Bartholomew has 29 for the season, one away from cracking the program’s single-season top five.
- Bartholomew went 2-for-2 on field-goal tries, boosting his season total to 11. He now ranks tied for fourth in program history for made field goals in a single season and needs two to tie or three to break Kevin Mackey’s single-season record of 13 next week.
- Valpo has cracked the top five in program history in single-season tackles for loss. With three on Saturday, the team has 71 this season, tied with the 1982 team for third in program history. This marks the team’s most TFL in a single season since 2007 (78).
- With two sacks in the game, Valpo is up to 30 for the season, tied for the fifth-most in single-season program history with the 2007 squad. One more will allow Valpo to own its highest single-season sack total since 2000.
- Annis had his first career fumble recovery, while Martins had his third, all this season. Psota forced a fumble for the second time in his career and first since 2019. Martins moves into a tie for the FCS lead in fumble recoveries. Entering Saturday, only five players in the FCS nation had five fumble recoveries this year.
- Valpo owns a 9-0 edge in the turnover category over its last four games. Saturday marked the squad’s fourth consecutive turnover-free performance.
- Valpo has earned a fourth win in PFL play for just the third time ever and second straight season (2017, Spring 2021). This marks just the third time since 1968 that Valpo has garnered a fourth league win in any conference.
- Valpo has scored 112 points over the last two games, tying with the 2017 squad (vs. Marist, vs. Morehead State) for the program’s most points in consecutive games since 1985.
- Kohlton Sherman (Millington, Mich. / Millington), Jadarius Horton (Charlotte, N.C. / West Charlotte [Southwestern College]) and Annis shared the team lead with five tackles apiece.
Valpo (4-6, 4-3 PFL) will attempt to close out a winning PFL season next Saturday on Senior Day at Brown Field. Morehead State will be in town for a 1 p.m. kickoff in a game that will air on ESPN3. For ticket information, visit www.valpoathletics.com/tickets.