We’ve told you before, and we’ll tell you again today. When the Valparaiso University football team takes the field, expect a game that comes down to the final play.
For the fifth consecutive week, the Beacons played a game that was hanging in the balance until the moment the game clock reached all zeros, this time a heartbreaking 24-21 defeat to visiting Morehead State at Brown Field that saw the Eagles kick a 28-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired to win a Pioneer Football League battle that Valpo led 21-14 with 2:31 remaining on a wet and chilly Saturday in Northwest Indiana.
How It Happened
- After both teams had three-and-outs on their first drives of the game, Morehead State turned it over on downs with Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) pressuring the quarterback on fourth-and-6 from the Valpo 21.
- Valpo once again punted it away, then Morehead State put together a six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to take the lead on a 1-yard rush by Carter Cravens with 5:17 left in the first.
- Valpo responded by finding the end zone on the ensuing drive, a seven-play, 75-yard march that ended with Jeffrey Jackson (San Diego, Calif. / Bishop’s [San Diego]) finding Ryan Mann (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Vernon Hills [Northern Illinois]) for a 21-yard score.
- Late in the first quarter, Tyler Geiman (Zion, Ill. / Zion-Benton Township [Dubuque]) made an interception to allow Valpo to take over with good field position on its own 40. However, that drive was stopped and resulted in a punt.
- The Beacons grabbed their first lead of the game as Mann once again found pay dirt, this time doing so on the ground. He busted free for a 23-yard TD waltz with 8:41 left in the second quarter to make it 14-7 in favor of the hosts.
- The defensive line including Sam Hafner (Green Bay, Wis. / De Pere) and Onye Nwosisi (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cardinal Ridge [Muskingum]) made a big stop on fourth-and-2 at the Valpo 33 to force a turnover on downs, and the two teams exchanged punts before Jackson completed six passes on one drive including three to Chris Gundy (Smithfield, Va. / Smithfield) and a 31 yarder to Brandon Jimenez (Suffern, N.Y. / Don Bosco Prep [Albany]) to set up a field goal try before halftime. However, the attempt was missed and it stayed 14-7 Valpo at the break.
- The Valpo defense forced another turnover on downs on the first Morehead State drive of the second half, and then the Beacons recorded a pair of sacks with George Trojanek (Carpentersville, Ill. / IMG Academy) and Hafner in on the first and Kobey Fitzgerald (Eastvale, Calif. / Servite [UCLA]) notching the second to snuff out the second Eagles’ drive of Half 2.
- Early in the fourth quarter, Valpo faced fourth-and-7 from the Morehead State 47, and the Beacons elected to call a fake punt. Punter Evan Matthes (Reston, Va. / South Lakes [West Virginia]) threw a 23-yard pass to Mark Johnson (Nashville, Tenn. / Lipscomb Academy) for a first down.
- Later in that drive, Valpo went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Morehead State 4, but the Beacons were stopped and Morehead State took over trailing 14-7 with 9:39 remaining.
- Ryan Upp caught a 46-yard touchdown pass with 6:03 left to help the Eagles tie the game at 14.
- Valpo responded with a key drive that started with a 39-yard connection between Jackson and Solomon Davis (Brighton, Tenn. / Brighton). That drive finished with the Beacons regaining the lead on a 6-yard TD catch by tight end Jake Vickers (Canton, Mich. / Canton) on a pass from Jackson to make it 21-14 with 2:27 to go.
- On the first snap of the ensuing Morehead State drive, Upp hauled in an 80-yard TD pass, and just like that, the game was back to even.
- Valpo went three-and-out, setting up a booming 67-yard punt by Matthes that was downed at the Morehead State 13.
- Once again, the first offensive snap following the change of possession was a big play. Morehead State completed a 64-yard pass to the Valpo 23. This set up a field-goal try that was initially missed from 39 yards, but a roughing the kicker penalty allowed the Eagles to retry from 28 yards, and this time they hit the game winner.
Inside the Game
- Mann had his second career rushing touchdown and his first through the air. He finished with 102 rushing yards on 12 carries, becoming the first Beacon back to rush for 100 yards in a game this season and first since Aaron Dawson on Nov. 12, 2022 at Marist (199). He added the one catch for 21 yards to his big day.
- Jackson went 18-of-29 passing for 202 yards and a pair of scores in his first start in a Valpo uniform.
- Davis had seven catches for 94 yards, while Gundy finished with six grabs for 74 yards after entering the day with one career catch.
- The 19 completions were one shy of the team’s season high set at Indiana Wesleyan and the 225 passing yards were nine shy of a season high set vs. Marist. The Beacons ran for a season-high 143 yards and accrued 368 yards of total offense, by far a season best.
- Morehead State passed for 396 yards and totaled 447 yards of offense. Valpo was difficult to run the ball against yet again, holding the opponent to fewer than 80 rushing yards for the fifth straight week and fewer than 55 for the third time this season (51).
- Vickers’ TD catch was the third of his career and the first this season. He now has exactly one score in each of the last three seasons.
- Geiman’s interception was his first in a Valpo uniform. He, Annis, Hafner and Caleb Rao (Liberty Township, Ohio / Lakota West) shared the team lead with six tackles apiece. Hafner had 1.5 tackles for loss.
- Matthes averaged 42.7 yards per punt on six kicks including a 67 yarder, his eighth of 50+ yards this season. He also completed his first pass in a Valpo uniform.
- This was the fifth game in the last six matchups with Morehead State decided by seven points or fewer.
- This marked Valpo’s fifth straight one-score game. The Beacons have dropped four of those five nail biters including each of the season’s three conference contests.
- This marked the 23rd game in Landon Fox’s 47 as Valpo head coach decided by one score.
- This marks the first time Valpo has had a streak of five or more one-score games consecutively since six straight in 2003 – at Jacksonville, vs. Morehead State, at Dayton, vs. San Diego, vs. Drake and at Butler.
- Since the start of last season, seven of the nine games played at Brown Field have been one-score affairs including all three this season.
Postgame Press Conference
Click here for postgame press conference.
Valpo (1-5, 0-3 PFL) will hit the road next week to visit Davidson at noon CT in Davidson, N.C.