Football looks ahead

KYLE BEERY | STAFF REPORTER

Butler has its eyes locked on the No. 16 team in the Football Championship Subdivision this week. The Bulldogs head to Youngstown State Saturday fresh off a season-opening 22-16 win over Wittenberg University.

The Bulldogs last played the Penguins (1-1) in 2010, a 31-7 Penguin victory. 

The Penguins begun the season ranked No. 21 in the country and jumped five spots after beating Duquesne 34-23. Youngstown State dropped its opener 28-17 at Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Illinois.

Butler senior safety Jojo Ciancio, who sealed Saturday’s victory with an interception late in the game, said the team is dialed in on the Penguins. He reiterated coach Jeff Voris’ “one-game-at-a-time” motto.

“It’s the biggest game of the year,” Ciancio said, “because it’s the next game of the year.

The Bulldogs head into the game with recent experience against teams in the top tier of the FCS, with losses against South Dakota State and Tennessee State in the playoffs.

“The older guys know how to play, and they know how to prepare for [top] FCS schools,” Ciancio said. “It’s just about helping the young guys relax, take a deep breath and understand that football is football and they have to play the same game we have to play.”

Junior Matt Shiltz leads the Bulldogs at quarterback after winning the preseason battle over sophomore Malcolm Weaver. Shiltz went 19-of-32 passing for 235 yards with two touchdowns and an interception last week against the Tigers.

Shiltz said he had nerves before his first collegiate start, but learned a lot from watching Matt Lancaster at quarterback over the last two years.

“I learned a lot from him, and I was able to talk to him during the week and try to get some advice from him,” Shiltz said.

Shiltz said he thinks the first-game jitters will be behind him heading into Saturday, as well as the rest of the Bulldogs.

“After the first time of just playing football again, I think those nerves are a little more settled,” Shiltz said. “After that first game back, we’re able to calm ourselves down and play the game and just go ahead and have fun.”

Voris said the goal every week is to win a football game, and with last week’s opener behind them, they’re on to evaluating game film and preparing for the Penguins.

“It’s a lot easier to watch the tape and go through those corrections with a ‘W’ in the column,” Voris said. “It was critical, it was a big win.”

Voris said the Bulldogs will continue to look to Ciancio as a leader of the entire team, not just the defense. 

“He’s been great for five years for us,” Voris said. “He’s a guy, who as a young freshman guy had an unfortunate knee injury, and the way he’s come back and contributed to two championship teams, and is now leading this team is great.”

“He’s a Butler student-athlete,” Voris said. “He’s a great student, he’s motivated in all aspects of his college career, and he’s a good example.”

With a ranked opponent just ahead, Voris said this is the reason kids come to play at Butler. 

“They come to play in games like this,” Voris said. “It’s one of those games that the tempo and speed of the game is going to be really, really fast, the physicality is going to be up, and it’s going to be a fun game.” 

“You have to win it during the week with your preparation, and your discipline on the trip, and just how you go about the week to give yourself a chance,” Voris said.

The Bulldogs are in for a tough test in Youngstown, according to Voris.

“They’re as good as anyone we’re going to play this year, and they’ll be real excited to see us come in there,” Voris said. “So we have to be prepared to put our best effort out there.”

Kickoff is at 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

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