Butler Pulls Out 23-14 Victory Over Valparaiso

Butler’s normally offensive-minded football squad turned to its defensive unit to help pull out a 23-14 come-from-behind victory over Valparaiso at the Butler Bowl on Saturday (Oct. 17).  The victory lifted the Bulldogs to 6-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Pioneer Football League.

Key quarterback sacks by linebacker Nick Caldicott and defensive end Grant Hunter led to a pair of Butler scores in the fourth quarter and helped the Bulldogs overcome a 14-3 second half deficit.  It was the third straight game that Butler pulled out a victory in the final period.

“Our defense came up big,” said Butler head coach Jeff Voris after the game.  “The defense held the rope for practically a full game.  They kept fighting until the offense got untracked.”

Caldicott’s play was particularly big for the Bulldogs, who retained possession of the Hoosier Helmet Trophy.  After Butler had cut Valparaiso’s lead to 14-10 on a four-yard touchdown run by Ryan Hitchcock, the Crusaders mounted a drive that reached the Butler 35-yard line.  There on second down, Caldicott caught Valparaiso quarterback Quinn Schafer for a seven-yard loss and forced a fumble on the play.  Butler’s Pete Xander fell on  the ball at the Butler 42-yard line.

The Bulldogs then mounted a six-play, 58-yard scoring drive to take the lead for good.  Tailback Scott Gray capped the march with a seven-yard touchdown run to give Butler a 17-14 advantage.

Hunter’s sack came at the Valparaiso two-yard line on the fourth play after the Crusaders had recovered a Gray fumble.  The Butler defensive end, with an assist from linebacker Jordan Ridley, stopped Schafer on fourth down to give Butler the ball, and one play later Hitchcock scored his second touchdown of the contest to seal the win.

The Bulldogs, coming off an open week in the schedule, struggled to get anything going offensively in the first half.  Quarterback Andrew Huck, the PFL leader in passing and total offense, threw for just six yards in the opening half, and he was intercepted twice.  Butler placekicker David Lang nailed a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter for the only points by either team in the first 30 minutes.

“You can look at the layoff or the wind or anything else, but the bottom line is Valparaiso came to play,” said Voris.  “It’s a rivalry game and they played hard.  They did a lot of things that we had to adjust to and they created problems for us.”

The Crusaders (1-5, 0-3 PFL) grabbed the lead in the third quarter on a 60-yard pass interception for a touchdown by Eli Crawford and a one-yard touchdown run by Schafer.  Hitchcock’s first touchdown for the Bulldogs followed a nine-play, 75-yard drive by the Bulldogs.

Gray wound up leading the Bulldogs rushing attack with 99 yards on 22 carries, while Huck added 76 yards on nine attempts.  Hitchcock had 53 yards on seven rushes, and the Bulldogs finished with a season-high 247 rushing yards.  Huck wound up throwing for 77 yards on 10 of 20 passing with three interceptions.

Linebacker Brian Adika led Butler’s defensive effort with a career-high 13 tackles, while linebacker Derek Guggenberger added eight stops.  Defensive backs Thorn Murphy and Jack MeKenna both came up with pass interceptions for the Bulldogs.

Butler, 6-0 for the first time since 1991, will try for its seventh consecutive win on Saturday, Oct. 24, at Campbell.