The Valparaiso University football team rallied late to cut into a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit, but host Drake survived the fight from the Beacons to hang on for a 20-14 victory at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday. The Valpo defense played well throughout the day and the offense scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to give the team a chance late, but the Beacons fell just short in their fourth consecutive game that has come down to the wire.
How It Happened
- The Valpo defense forced Drake to punt on each of its first two possessions, but the Valpo offense was also held scoreless during that stretch, including a turnover on downs after a 4th-and-7 from the Drake 30.
- The Bulldogs broke through when Mitchell January scored a 57-yard touchdown from Luke Bailey to make it 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
- Drake appeared to muff a punt on its own 14 that was recovered by Valpo and ran into the end zone, but the Beacons were flagged for kick catch interference to negate the takeaway and give the hosts the ball leading 7-0 with 10:05 left in the second quarter.
- Valpo put together a promising drive, but punted on fourth-and-4 from the Drake 40 with 1:40 left in the half. This set off a bizarre final minute of the half that saw several big momentum-swinging plays both ways.
- Valpo earned its first takeaway of the day when Amar Elmore (Chandler, Ariz. / Chandler) notched a strip sack and Sam Hafner (Green Bay, Wis. / De Pere) recovered the fumble at the Valpo 41 with 35 seconds left in the half. Then, Drake picked up a strip sack of its own to take over on its own 44 with 16 ticks on the clock. Drake then completed a 46-yard pass that was nearly intercepted by Valpo before being taken away by Drake’s Trey Radocha for a reception with two seconds left in the half. This set up a 27-yard field goal by Drake that extended the lead to 10-0.
- A muffed punt by Valpo set up a short field for Drake, as the Bulldogs took over at the Valpo 30 with 10:03 left in the third quarter. A five-play, 30-yard drive resulted in a 2-yard TD pass from Bailey to Gage Vander Leest to extend the lead to 17-0.
- The next four total drives in the game (two for each team) resulted in punts before Valpo got on the board early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jeffrey Jackson (San Diego, Calif. / Bishop’s [San Diego]), who came on to replace starter Michael Appel Jr. (Springboro, Ohio / Springboro) when Appel left the game with an injury, found Solomon Davis (Brighton, Tenn. / Brighton) for a 33-yard touchdown on the left sideline to make it 17-7 with 12:19 left in the fourth.
- The two teams exchanged punts again before a 16-yard QB run on 3rd-and-28 helped Drake get back into field-goal range and set up a 42-yard field goal that made it 20-7.
- A 48-yard kickoff return by Jashon Butler (Lynwood, Wash. / Meadowdale [Arizona]) helped jumpstart a 10-play, 51-yard drive that finished with Jackson finding Moise Tezzo (Houston, Texas / Fort Bend Austin [Millsaps]) for a 15-yard score. That trimmed the lead to six at 20-14 with 1:49 on the clock.
- Valpo’s onside kick attempt was snagged by Drake, but the Valpo defense rose to the occasion again. The Bulldogs picked up six yards on third-and-7 from the Valpo 43, but committed a false start when they lined up to go for it on fourth-and-short and ultimately elected to punt.
- Valpo had an opportunity for a desperation heave to the end zone on the game’s final play, but could not get a pass off and instead the Beacons were eventually wrapped up after several pitches and handoffs.
Inside the Game
- This was Valpo’s fourth straight game decided by fewer than seven points and the Beacons have dropped three of those four contests. Valpo has played 22 one-score games out of the 46 career contests for head coach Landon Fox.
- Valpo held Drake to just 46 rushing yards on 24 attempts. The Bulldogs did not have a single first down gained on a running play. This was Valpo’s best performance in terms of rushing defense since holding Marist to 36 rushing yards on Nov. 12 of last season.
- Tezzo had the first receiving TD of his Valpo career. He had a team-high four catches for 40 yards.
- Jackson went 5-of-14 through the air for two touchdowns. Appel went 11-of-25 for 78 yards.
- It was a balanced day from the receiving corps, as 10 different Beacons caught passes. In addition, seven different players had carries, led by freshman Brian Thomas (Apopka, Fla. / Orlando Christian Prep) with nine for 37 yards.
- Davis had his fourth receiving TD of the season and the eighth of his career, all in the last two seasons. He hauled in three catches for 33 yards.
- Hafner paced the team with six tackles while also notching a fumble recovery, his second of the season.
- Elmore recorded the second forced fumble of his collegiate career.
- Punter Evan Matthes (Reston, Va. / South Lakes [West Virginia]) booted eight kicks for an average of 39.8 yards per try, pinning four inside the 20 including a long of 65.
Valpo (1-4, 0-2 PFL) will return home next week to host Morehead State on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Brown Field.