UPLAND, IND. -- Butler turned up the "Heet" on offense and stifled its opponent on defense to pull away to a 23-6 victory over host Taylor in a non-league game at Jim Wheeler Memorial Stadium on Saturday (Sept. 17). The victory lifted the Bulldogs to 2-1 heading into the start of Pioneer Football League play.
Sophomore Trae Heeter provided the spark that ignited the Bulldogs in their first-ever visit to Taylor. The Butler tailback finished with a career-high 23 carries for a career-best 155 rushing yards and one touchdown, while leading the Bulldogs to 225 total yards on the ground. He also had three pass receptions for a career-high 59 yards and a second TD. His 155 rushing yards were the most by a Butler player since 2008, when Dionte Wiggins rushed for 188 yards against Jacksonville.
"(Heeter) had a really good day," said Butler coach Jeff Voris after the game. "The offensive line played vey well in opening things up, and he did a nice job of running to daylight."
Heeter gave the Bulldogs the lead early in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown catch on a pass from quarterback Andrew Huck. It was the first career touchdown catch for the second-year Butler back.
Moments later, Heeter increased Butler's lead with a 45-yard touchdown run, capping a four-play, 69-yard scoring drive. It was Heeter's second rushing touchdown this season and gave Butler a 14-0 halftime lead.
The margin grew to 20-0 when Butler took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 81 yards for a third score. Huck finished the drive with a 29-yard run, but David Lang missed the PAT kick, his first miss this season.
Lang later added his fourth field goal of the season from 22 yards out to give Butler a 23-0 margin in the fourth quarter. That was more than enough for Butler's tenacious defense.
Taylor (2-1) threatened several times early in the game, but the Bulldogs' defense came up with big plays to keep the game scoreless. The Trojans took the opening kickoff and drove to the Butler 14-yard line, but were stopped by linebacker Jordan Ridley's pass interception inside the Butler 10-yard line.
On Taylor's second drive, sophomore Jayme Szafranski picked off a pass from quarterback Nick Freeman at the Butler 20-yard line and returned it 24 yards. The Trojan's third possession stalled at the Butler 25-yard line.
"The story of the game really was the job our defense did early on and really all game," added Voris. "Our guys were put in some tough situations, and they really played well to keep Taylor off the board."
Taylor had an excellent scoring opportunity in the second half, when a snap on a Butler punt attempt hit one of the Bulldogs and gave the Trojans a first down on the Butler six-yard line. But the Bulldogs' defense, in what Voris termed "an awesome stand," stopped the home team on four straight plays.
The Trojans finally found the end zone with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard Freeman to Darvon Blackmon touchdown pass. The two-point PAT attempt came up short.
Butler rolled up 475 yards in total offense in the win, including 250 passing yards from Huck. The Butler quarterback completed 22 of 36 passes without an interception. He also rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries. Senior Jordan Koopman led Butler's receivers with seven catches for 85 yards.
Zach Watkins, who also had seven receptions in the game, became Butler's all-time leader in career catches with 197, passing previous record-holder Dan Bohrer (192, 2006-09). Watkins also moved into second place on Butler' career list for receiving yards with 2,217 yards. Bohrer holds Butler's all-time record of 2,241 yards.
The Bulldogs' defense limited Taylor to 288 total yards, including just 17 on the ground. Ridley led the defensive unit with 14 total tackles, while defensive back Sean Grady added six. Senior Andy Dauch added a third pass interception for the Bulldogs.
Butler will begin PFL play at home with a game against Drake on Saturday, Sept. 24. That contest at the Butler Bowl is slated to start at noon (ET).