The Butler football team fell short of a comeback in its season opener against Western Illinois.
The Bulldogs trailed 23-0 late in the third quarter before the offense showed its first signs of life in the season.
Junior running back Trae Heeter scored on a 5-yard run with four minutes remaining in the quarter to make the score 23-7. The Bulldogs snuck an onside kick past the Leathernecks (1-0) but were unable to capitalize.
Redshirt junior Sean Grady intercepted a pass that set up the team’s next scoring drive.
Grady said it was a big spark for the Bulldogs (0-1).
“We hadn’t been able to get a turnover all game, and as a defense we really look to put the offense in a good situation by turnovers,” Grady said.
On the ensuing drive, former quarterback Tom Judge made a circus catch for the Bulldogs (0-1) to get the drive moving.
On the next play, redshirt junior quarterback Matt Lancaster connected on another long screen to Heeter before running the ball into the end zone on the final play of the drive.
On the 2-point conversion attempt, Butler ran a reverse pass from Judge to make it a one-possession game, 23-15.
“The defense helped the offense, and the offense capitalized,” coach Jeff Voris said.
By getting the 2-point conversion, Voris said they felt completing the comeback was doable.
With two minutes remaining the Bulldogs were able to use their timeouts to get the ball back on their own 1-yard line.
Butler used four complete passes and three first downs to get the ball to the Western Illinois 7-yard line. The game clock was malfunctioning during the drive, and the officials kept the time on the field.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the clock,and the officials,” Lancaster said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and competing and worrying about ourselves.”
Lancaster completed a pass to Heeter, who attempted to get out of bounds but was brought down at the 4-yard line. The game clock ran out, and the Bulldogs’ 95-yard drive came up short.
“It was a little adversity thrown at us, and we needed to respond to it a little bit differently to get it done,” Voris said.
The Bulldogs will be playing under the lights for the first time since 1941 on Saturday.
Voris said he knows the atmosphere will be special, but his team is preparing the same way as it always does.
“We understand it’s a big game,” Voris said. “It’s a game that people are going to want to attend just because of the uniqueness of the lights.”