In the Butler football season opener, the team picked up where it left off last December.
Junior quarterback Andrew Huck passed for three touchdowns and junior wide receiver Jordan Koopman caught nine passes in Butler’s 29-13 win at Albion on Saturday.
Huck, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 222 yards, said his offensive line deserves much of the credit for his individual success.
“We missed some opportunities to score early in the game,” he said. “But, [our offensive line] did a good job of protecting me and consistently threw blocks downfield.”
The Bulldogs also showcased their rushing attack, amassing 245 yards on 34 carries from senior Scott Gray, junior Ryan Hitchcock and redshirt freshman David Thomas.
Huck credited the rushing attack with making the passing game so open.
“We take pride in being a good running team,” Huck said. “Our rushing success forced [Albion’s] defense to play more man-to-man coverage, which our receivers exploited.”
After the Butler defense held on to the game’s first possession, junior kicker David Lang’s 22-yard field goal gave Butler a 3-0 lead. Lang added a 35-yard field goal on the Bulldogs’ subsequent possession to make the score 6-0 at the end of first quarter.
The Butler offense struck quickly on its next series, driving 74 yards in four plays. The drive was capped by a 17-yard touchdown connection between Huck and junior Zach Watkins.
The Bulldog defense was strong throughout the first half, surrendering just one first down on the Britons’ first four possessions.
Butler head coach Jeff Voris said his defense’s first-half play was instrumental in earning the win.
“It’s always hard to find your stride in the first game,” Voris said. “The defense did a great job of getting the ball back to us and was really the key to us extending our lead.”
Huck said he is confident that the defense will continue to perform at a high level.
“Going up against this defense in practice, there’s no doubt they’ll be good this season,” he said. “They’ve got good athletes and understand their [defensive] responsibilities.”
Albion scored a touchdown midway through the second quarter but Lang’s third field goal gave Butler a 16-6 lead going into halftime.
Lang’s three field goals earned him the Pioneer Football League’s Special Teams Player of the Week award for the third time in his career.
The Bulldogs proceeded to frustrate the Britons’ defense with a 15-play, 78-yard drive that exhausted more than half of the third quarter. Huck finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Koopman, bringing the score to 23-6.
After running more than 11 minutes off the clock during its next three possessions, Butler put the game out of reach when Huck and Koopman connected on a 26-yard touchdown pass with barely three minutes remaining.
Albion finished with 232 yards of total offense, led by sophomore running back Clinton Orr’s 108 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.
The Britons’ sophomore quarterback Spencer Krauss struggled to lead the offense against the deficit. He completed just 44 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions. The first pick was made by junior strong safety Logan Sullivan and was returned 31 yards just across mid-field. The other was made by junior cornerback Jack McKenna. Both took place late in the forth quarter.
Voris said he was pleased with his team’s effort in clinching the win, but said his offense needs to do a better job of converting in the red zone.
“We had chances [to score more touchdowns], but we didn’t execute when given the opportunities,” Voris said. “We need to figure out how to get seven points instead of three.”
Butler will face one of its toughest opponents of the season Saturday at Youngstown State.
The Penguins have a rich football history, winning four NCAA Division 1-AA championships during the 1990s under the helm of current Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.
Last week, Youngstown fell 44-14 to No. 18 Penn State.
Voris said he and his team are excited for the opportunity to travel to Youngstown.
“[Youngstown State] will be an outstanding challenge,” he said. “There’s such a great history and tradition of football at that school and area of the country.
“We have a lot of work ahead this week to get ready.”
The game in Youngstown, Ohio is slated for 6 p.m.