PHOTO GALLERY (Photos by Jim White)
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Senior Zach Watkins completed his climb to the top of Butler's receiving charts, but it wasn't enough to lift Butler at home on Saturday (Sept. 24). The host Bulldogs fell to Drake, 24-14, in the Pioneer Football League opener for both teams.
Watkins, who one week earlier became Butler's all-time leader in pass receptions, grabbed the top spot on Butler's all-time list for receiving yards with a seven-catch, 91-yard performance against Drake. He boosted his career yardage total to 2,308 yards, breaking the previous school mark of 2,241 set by Dan Bohrer (2006-09).
A 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver from Chicago, Ill., Watkins broke the Butler record in dramatic fashion. He dove to the corner of the end zone to haul in a 24-yard touchdown pass from fellow wide receiver Jeff Larsen for Butler's first score in the game. The catch gave him 2,247 career yards and pushed Butler to a 7-6 lead.
"It's a big accomplishment," Watkins said after the game. "I consider it more of a team goal than an individual goal. The "(offensive)" line has to make all of the blocks, the quarterback has to make all of his reads, the other receivers have to run their routes. At the end of the day, I catch the ball, but it wouldn't happen without ten other guys. It's a big accomplishment for the offensive team."
Watkins also became the first player in Butler football history to record 200 career catches. His third reception against Drake boosted him to that lofty level, and he finished the day with 204 career receptions.
Drake (3-1, 1-0 PFL) responded to Watkins' go-ahead catch with 18 unanswered points. Kevin Marshall caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Mike Piatkowski to give the visitors the lead at 6:58 of the second quarter, and Patrick Cashmore, who scored Drake's first touchdown on a six-yard run in the first quarter, added a 14-yard TD run shortly before halftime.
Kicker Billy Janssen closed Drake's scoring late in the third quarter with a 31-yard field goal.
Butler (2-2, 0-1 PFL) made a run late in the final period. Senior Jordan Koopman caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Huck with 1:25 remaining to cut the margin to 10 points, and Butler threatened moments later after Jeff Poss recovered a Drake fumble.
Huck guided the home Bulldogs to the Drake 25-yard line, but he was intercepted with half a minute remaining to end Butler's bid.
Drake rolled up 441 yards in total offense, including 165 on the ground. Butler finished with 391 total yards. Huck, who completed 27 passes for 291 yards in the game, had a school-record 51 pass attempts, breaking the previous mark of 50 shared by Curt Roy (1981) and Eli Stoddard (1997).
Senior Jordan Koopman finished with a career-high 11 pass receptions for a career-high 130 yards. Sophomore Trae Heeter posted 175 all-purpose yards (75 rush, 30 receiving and 70 kickoff returns).
Junior Jordan Ridley led Butler in tackles for the third time in four games, finishing with a game-high 13 stops. Senior linebacker Nick Caldicott and sophomore Sean Grady each had a pass interception in the contest.
Butler will face defending PFL co-champ Dayton on the road next Saturday, Oct. 1, at Welcome Stadium. It will be first of consecutive road contests for the Bulldogs.