Butler knocks off St. Thomas (Fla.) 31-26 in season opener

Quarterback Bret Bushka throws a pass in Butler’s season opener on Sept. 3. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics.

NICK ORR | SPORTS REPORTER | nporr@butler.edu

Butler football opened its season with a 31-26 win against St. Thomas (Fla.) on Saturday, Sept. 3. The Bulldogs began the season on the right foot, earning a 1-0 record. 

Butler, led by Senior quarterback Bret Bushka, erased an 11-point halftime deficit, racking up 312 yards of offense in the second half. 

The Bulldog defense started the game well, picking off St. Thomas quarterback Tyler Thomas. The Bulldog offense wasn’t able to get anything going, leading to a disappointing drive that ended with a punt block. 

The Bobcats capitalized on the miscue, as sophomore running back Rontavious Farmer ran it in from two yards out to give St. Thomas a 7-0 lead. 

Butler and St. Thomas each punted on their next drive. With 4:11 left in the first quarter, the Bulldogs took over. The Dawgs marched down the field, putting together an 18-play, 71-yard drive that spanned just under seven minutes of game time. The drive ended in a 19-yard field goal from redshirt senior kicker Luka Zurak to trim the lead to 7-3.  

St. Thomas answered with a 17-play, 92-yard drive of their own, capped off by a Damian Heller eight-yard touchdown run that extended the Bobcat lead to 14-3. 

Coming out of halftime, a rejuvenated Bulldog offense quickly marched 70 yards down the field and found the endzone. Bushka connected with junior receiver Jeremy Johnson for a 21-yard score that cut the Bobcat lead to 14-10. 

The Bobcats once again responded, putting together a 75-yard drive, culminating in a 33-yard run by freshman running back Damian Heller. Sophomore kicker Alejandro Prado was unsuccessful on the PAT attempt, only extending the lead to 20-10. 

Butler punted on their next drive but regained possession after a failed fourth down conversion attempt by St. Thomas. 

The Bulldogs took over, and Bushka hooked up with graduate receiver Tyler Adams for a 63-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 20-17. 

The Butler defense came up with a big stop, leaving the offense with the ball at the end of the third quarter. The offense would take advantage, assembling a 10-play, 80-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, capped off by a three-yard passing touchdown to freshman tight end Cameron Heald

The Bulldogs got momentum after yet another stop on defense, allowing zero yards gained to the Bobcats’ offense. On the ensuing drive, Bushka once again led the Bulldogs down the field and found Adams for the second time. Bushka’s fourth passing touchdown of the game stretched the Butler lead to 31-20. 

St. Thomas showed some fight, though, as Thomas immediately connected with junior receiver C’Quan Jnopierre for an 82-yard score. The two-point attempt was unsuccessful, so Butler maintained a two-possession lead at 31-26. 

Butler got the ball back, looking to run down the clock and secure the win. Things went awry, as the Bulldogs fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Bobcats. Needing a stop, the Butler defense provided. The Dawgs forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with 1:31 to play in regulation. 

The Bulldogs lined up in victory formation and secured the 31-26 win over St. Thomas. 

Butler will look to build on this win, as they take on Taylor University at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Sellick Bowl. 


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