Football bounces back, blanks Valparaiso

The Bulldogs bounced back from their one-point loss to Morehead State last weekend by recording the first shutout of an opponent for Butler football in 12 years.

In addition to holding Valparaiso scoreless for 60 minutes, the Bulldogs (4-5, 2-4 PFL) put up 48 points against the Crusaders (0-9, 0-6 PFL).

The Bulldogs face a tough challenge Saturday when they host league-leading Jacksonville, who put up 86 points on Valparaiso earlier this season.

Head coach Jeff Voris said he didn’t let the Bulldogs dwell on homecoming weekend’s close loss.

“It all goes back to the approach we’ve taken all season,” Voris said. “Homecoming was a hard pill to swallow, but if you don’t move on, you can’t get anywhere.

“We have 11 one-game seasons.”

Gaining 483 yards of total offense against Valparaiso, Butler distributed the ball evenly, picking up 270 rushing yards and passing for 221.

Junior Andrew Huck, the Butler quarterback for a majority of the snaps, went 12-of-15 on the day, throwing for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

Huck’s favorite receiver of the day was junior Zach Watkins, who had eight receptions for 92 yards. Huck also hooked up with six other receivers throughout the game.

“The chemistry among everyone is good,” Watkins said. “We’re all out there trying to get each other open.”

Some of the Bulldogs’ biggest plays, however, came on the ground.

Butler had three different players rush for touchdowns, and two of those touchdown runs were for more than 30 yards.

Senior Scott Gray rattled off a 34-yard run on a fourth-and-one late in the second quarter and Trae Heeter ran 64 yards for the last of Butler’s six touchdowns.

Senior Matt Kobli picked up the other Butler rushing touchdown on a three-yard rush with 3:27 remaining in the second quarter.

Butler had seven different players rush for positive yardage, with Gray leading the way. He carried the ball nine times for 87 yards.

Voris likes spreading the ball around the whole team.

“We’ve got a good group of offensive guys with a unique skill level,” Voris said. “The more we can get them into a position to make plays, the more comfortable they’ll be in those roles.”

After junior David Lang kicked a 41-yard field goal into the wind, the defense picked up a score for the Bulldogs.

Senior defensive tackle Tyler Skaggs recovered a fumble with 4:36 left in the first quarter and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. The score put the Bulldogs up 10-0.

In the second quarter, Lang kicked another field goal and the Bulldogs scored three more touchdowns, including one on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Huck to senior Eddie McHale.

Up 34-0 at halftime, Butler cruised through the second half, tacking on another two touchdowns.

The defense kept the Crusaders off the board in all four quarters by forcing three fumbles and seven three-and-outs.

Valparaiso averaged only 2.8 yards per carry on the ground and were held to 80 total yards through the air.

Sophomore Jordan Ridley led the Bulldogs’ defense with eight tackles.

“The defense was just dominating,” Watkins said. “We came close to a shutout earlier in the year, but this shows how we can just ground it out.”

This Saturday, Butler will welcome Jacksonville (8-1, 6-0 PFL) into the Butler Bowl for the final home game of the season.

Jacksonville recently became 25th in the national rankings for the Football Championship Subdivision Poll this week.

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