KYLE BEERY | STAFF REPORTER
The Butler football team ended a tough year on a tough streak – by losing two straight rivalry games to finish the season 4-7 overall and 2-6 in the Pioneer Football League.
With back to back losses against Valparaiso University—17-3 on the road—and the University of Dayton—21-14 at home—the season came to a close in a much different fashion than Butler fans are accustomed to. 2014 was Butler’s first season with a losing record since 2011 and second since 2007. The Bulldogs won a share of the PFL title in 2012, and a title with an automatic access to the Football Championship Subdivision playoff in 2013.
The Bulldogs battled injuries all season, especially at quarterback. Junior starting quarterback Matt Shiltz suffered a broken wrist in week six in a 28-9 road loss to Campbell University.
Shiltz had 1,324 passing yards, a 62 percent completion rate, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in the six games he played in. He also had 216 rushing yards.
Sophomore Malcolm Weaver took over for Shiltz the rest of the way. Weaver finished his five games with a 47.6 percent completion rate for 1,010 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Shiltz and Weaver came into the season in a quarterback battle, with Shiltz winning it during the first week of the regular season.
Assistant coach Joe Cheshire said Weaver and Shiltz will be back competing for the starting position when fall camps roll around.
“I think at this point, every position is up for grabs,” Cheshire said. “You’re heading into an offseason, and when spring rolls around, we will have 15 practices and another opportunity to see the guys play. That is the nice thing about football at the Division I level.”
Cheshire said with just seven seniors graduating this year, the Bulldogs will once again be a young team next season, creating depth and competition within the team. Shiltz was not the only key injury of the year, as many younger players saw playing time, which Cheshire said will help bring depth and competition.
“It is a young group, but I think it will be a hungry group with a lot of guys trying to earn jobs, which I think makes you better,” Cheshire said. “The more competition you have with the depth, the better off the team is going to be moving forward.”
Senior Bret Shannon ended his career on a positive note despite the team’s losing record. He finished with 8.5 sacks, leading the PFL in solo sacks and total sacks. Shannon also finished with the sixth-most tackles-for-loss in the conference with 12.
While the Bulldogs are losing seniors such as Shannon and Jojo Ciancio, who led the team with 83 tackles and three interceptions, on defense, the offense has several emerging young players.
Freshman running-back Sam Schrader led the team with 604 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Schrader also had 11 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide-receiver Marquese Martin-Hayes will also be returning for his senior season. Martin-Hayes had 49 catches for 604 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The 2015 schedule has yet to be finalized, but Cheshire said the PFL schedule works on a rotation in which two teams are left off the conference schedule for two straight years. Mercer University and Davidson College will return to the Bulldogs’ schedule next season, but Cheshire said the two conference teams they will not play are yet to be determined.
The Bulldogs have recently played FCS perennial powers such as Youngstown State University, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University, but Cheshire said he is unsure if the Bulldogs will have a similar opponent in 2015.
“That is always a good opportunity for our guys to play that level of competition with a full scholarship team,” Cheshire said.