BY KYLE BEERY | SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR
The Butler football team came up short Saturday, losing 27-21 to the University of San Diego at the Butler Bowl. The Bulldogs fell to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in the Pioneer Football League.
The Toreros (5-1, 3-1) were in complete control of the game at halftime, with a 21-0 lead. That changed quickly with an interception by freshman Ethan Brunhofer on the Toreros’ first possession of the half.
Malcom Weaver threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Guy DiBalsamo on the next play to cut the deficit to 21-7.
The Bulldogs were down 24-7 late in the third quarter when DiBalsamo broke out for a 57-yard touchdown to give new life to the game heading into the 4th quarter.
DiBalsamo finished with 72 yards rushing on five carries.
Butler got within one score when Weaver led a 79-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard pass to Derek O’Connor.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by San Diego, but Butler’s run defense showed up on its final defensive possession of the game, stuffing the Toreros on three straight plays.
Butler got the ball back with just over a minute to go, but a last-play hook and ladder desperation fell short, ending the game.
Butler coach Jeff Voris said despite coming out on the wrong end of the game, he thought they played a great second half to keep the game close.
“We competed, we played hard,” Voris said. “We responded to a lot of balls bouncing the other direction, and we never gave in. But we didn’t make enough plays to win, and a lot of the plays we didn’t make were self-inflicted wounds.”
Voris said that waiting until the second half to really compete once again came back to bit them.
“We have to do a better job of being a 60-minute team,” Voris said. “It’s been from week one through now week seven. We’ve put together some spurts where we’ve been as good as we’ve ever been, and we’ve also put together some spurts where we lose focus and we aren’t on top of our game.”
Butler had 10 penalties for 76 yards. Voris said the Bulldogs were hurt by their penalties and missed opportunities.
“Again, we had too many penalties and a couple crucial opportunities we didn’t execute the way we needed to in order to score,” Voris said.
Weaver stepped into the starting role after Matt Shiltz broke his hand early in the game last week against Campbell University. Voris said Weaver showed maturity in his first career start.
“I was pleased with the preparation all week, and I was pleased with how [he] competed,” Voris said. “He got better all game.”
Weaver was 22-of-45 with two touchdowns and 208 yards. Weaver threw two interceptions.
His counterpart, Keith Williams went 20-for-28 through the air for 251 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two picks.
With any possibility of a PFL title and a trip to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs likely gone after Saturday’s loss, the Bulldogs now turn around and face the Drake Bulldogs next weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.
Butler beat Drake 24-14 last year. Drake is 3-3 on the year, with a 2-1 record in the PFL.
Voris said while the team doesn’t have much of a shot at the PFL title at this point, they have plenty to play for. No one on Butler’s current roster has ever won at Drake.
“That’s where this group is going to be fine,” Voris said. “They understand the one-game season.”
“They’ll be ready and it will be another Pioneer Football League game, “Voris said. “They all seem to be like this, where a couple plays here and there is the difference in winning and losing. It’s been that way for a lot of years in this league.”
Kickoff is at 2 p.m. Eastern Time in Des Moines.