Bulldogs Roll In Football Home-Opener
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Quarterback Matt Lancaster passed for four touchdowns in the first half and Butler rolled to a 49-24 non-conference victory over Wittenberg at the Butler Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 7. The game was Butler's home-opener and the win lifted the Bulldogs to 1-1 on the young season.
Lancaster played only one half, but it was more than enough for the home squad. The senior quarterback completed 13 of 17 passes for 205 yards and found four different receivers in the end zone, before retiring for the evening with his team in front, 42-3.
The Bulldogs, coming off a season-opening loss at #6 South Dakota State, wasted little time establishing the upper hand before the home crowd. On the first play after the opening kickoff, senior tailback Trae Heeter raced 52 yards to the Wittenberg 18-yard line. Two plays later, Lancaster hit wide receiver Quinn Murphy with an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Butler never looked back. The Bulldogs' defense forced five first-half turnovers, including a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Bryce Barry and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Josh Willis. Lancaster added three more touchdown passes, and Butler rolled up 335 yards in total offense in the first two periods.
"Obviously when the defense does well, it motivates the offense," stated Lancaster. "We stalled on our second drive and the defense came out and stopped them and got that pick six. That adds motivation to (the offense) and I think we came out and scored on the three straight drives."
Lancaster threw a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dylan Johnson to start the second quarter. The scoring play followed a 54-yard Lancaster to Johnson aerial to the Wittenberg four-yard line. Lancaster then found Heeter with a 16-yard touchdown pass and completed the stretch of three consecutive drives with a 40-yard scoring aerial to wide receiver Tom Judge.
Butler head coach Jeff Voris was able to rest many of his starters in the second half and give a good portion of his squad ample playing time. Wittenberg, ranked No. 10-ranked in the NCAA Division III and playing its season-opener, did battle back with three second half touchdowns, but the outcome was never in doubt.
"It was a good win. I thought our guys showed up ready to play. We played with some emotion," said Voris. "Football is a game of turnovers and take-aways and there's no doubt that was a key to the game. The defensive scores and the turnovers helped us separate a little bit."
Heeter led Butler's ground game, which accounted for 213 yards, with 69 rushing yards on seven carries, while sophomore Rico Watson, who scored Butler's final touchdown with a two-yard run in the fourth quarter, finished with 54 yards on 12 attempts. Eight different Butler players gained rushing yards for the Bulldogs.
Johnson led Butler's receiving corps with 79 yards on four catches, while Judge, the team's busiest player, finished with 60 yards on three receptions. Judge also handled the team's punting and punt return duties.
Senior defensive back Jayme Szafranski led a balanced defensive effort with eight tackles, while linebackers Phillip Powell and Zach Sedivy added seven, apiece. Defensive back Sean Grady added a pass interception, while defensive back David Burke and defensive lineman Steven Sreniawski each had fumble recoveries.
Butler will be back on the road to face another ranked team on Saturday, Sept. 14. The Bulldogs will travel to nearby Franklin, ranked 19th in Division III, for a 6 p.m. contest.