It seemed the Butler football team had their homecoming tilt against Morehead State wrapped up with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Instead, the Bulldogs (3-5, 1-4 PFL) will spend the next few days before Oct. 30’s conference game against Valparaiso wondering how they managed to drop another Pioneer Football League contest.
Butler let the game slip away on Saturday, as the Eagles (3-4, 2-2 PFL) picked up a 21-20 victory thanks to a field goal by sophomore Rainer Duzan with 14 seconds left.
The first half of the game was closely matched, with only three points being put up by the two teams combined. Head coach Jeff Voris was disappointed with the lack of offensive production in the first and second quarters.
“We left some points on the board,” Voris said. “We have to finish every opportunity we get.”
The Bulldogs had only two drives of more than 25 yards in the first half. The longer of the two, a 10-play, 71-yard drive, ended with a missed field goal by junior David Lang.
Butler’s defense, however, kept the Bulldogs in the game.
Despite accumulating 178 yards in the half, Morehead State could only pick up a field goal by Duzan late in the second quarter.
The second half featured a scoring increase.
It started on Butler’s first drive of the half with junior quarterback Andrew Huck leading the charge, completing a key 24-yard pass to junior wide receiver Zach Watkins to put the Bulldogs in the red zone.
Junior running back Ryan Hitchcock collected six points for Butler with a 10-yard run into the end zone.
Huck had a decent showing against the Eagles, completing 15 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. Watkins proved to be Huck’s favorite target throughout the game, hitting him eight times for 118 yards.
“Offensively, we’re all in the same boat,” Voris said. “[Huck] was solid, but everybody has to do their job for one guy to play well.”
Butler’s next offensive possession didn’t end as well. A punt placed the Bulldogs at their own 1 yard line. Huck was sacked on the first snap in the end zone, handing Morehead State a safety.
The Eagles quickly added on via two completions and two rushes from sophomore quarterback Zach Lewis. The second of Lewis’s two rushes went for six points. A two-point conversion attempt after the touchdown was unsuccessful.
The Butler defense didn’t do itself any favors, committing a 15-yard personal foul penalty during the touchdown-scoring drive.
The back-and-forth scoring then shifted in Butler’s favor. A nearly five-minute long drive ended with a field goal from Lang. The 45-yard kick was the longest of Lang’s collegiate career.
An acrobatic interception by sophomore linebacker Jordan Ridley set up the next Butler scoring opportunity.
After multiple rushes by Huck and senior quarterback Matt Kobli, Huck completed a touchdown pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Brendan Shannon to put the Bulldogs ahead 15-11.
Another completion to junior wide receiver Jordan Koopman on a two-point conversion attempt gave Butler a 17-11 lead.
Morehead State responded quickly, as Lewis chucked his only touchdown pass of the day to junior fullback Desmond Cox.
Following a punt from each team, Butler got the ball back with 4:08 remaining in the game. The ensuing drive forced Morehead State to use all of their remaining timeouts and resulted in a Lang field goal with 59 seconds remaning.
Some questionable play calling during that drive stopped the clock a few times for the Eagles, aiding their game-winning drive.
“When you play a team that throws as often as Morehead State, they have players who will make plays,” Voris said.
Now, the Bulldogs will look ahead to the contest against Valparaiso. The Crusaders haven’t won a conference game since Nov. 15, 2008, and offer Butler a chance for a bounce-back game.
Butler will be looking to score early and often against a Valparaiso team that has been outscored by a 373-71 margin this season.
“The one thing about this team is that they’re willing to work,” Voris said. “We’ll look at the tape and evaluate for next week.”
The game will be held at Valparaiso’s Brown Field Oct. 30 at 2 pm.