LEAGUE OPENER: Butler certainly hasn't taken an easy route into the 2013 football season, and the rough road continues with the start of the Pioneer Football League slate. The Bulldogs will visit Jacksonville, one of the PFL's most potent offensive squads, for their first league contest on Saturday, Sept. 28. The game at Jacksonville's D. B. Milne Field is scheduled for a noon kickoff. In the first four weeks of the season, Butler has faced the No. 6-ranked team in the NCAA Division I FCS, two "Top 15" teams in the NCAA Division III and a strong foe from the Ivy League. This week, the Bulldogs visit a team that is averaging 46.5 points per game and is coming off back-to-back 69-point performances! Jacksonville (2-2, 1-0 PFL), picked third in the preseason league poll, defeated Warner, 69-16, last weekend. The previous week, the Dolphins opened their PFL schedule with a 69-19 win over Morehead State. In the past two games, Jacksonville has rolled up 1,344 yards in total offense! Butler (2-2), one of three defending champions in this year's PFL race, dropped its final pre-conference game to Dartmouth, 30-23, last weekend. The loss snapped Butler's seven-game home field winning streak.
Butler is making its sixth visit to Florida and seeking its first Sunshine State win.
LATE CHARGE: Butler shook off a slow start against Dartmouth with another furious comeback effort, but wound up seven points shy of the visiting Big Green. Dartmouth scored on its first three possessions in the game and led, 21-10, at halftime. That margin stretched to 30-10 in the fourth quarter, before the Bulldogs mounted back-to-back scoring drives. Quarterback Matt Lancaster finished a 13-play, 81-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Collins with 7:36 remaining. Lancaster then finished a 67-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left to cut the Dartmouth lead to a single touchdown. Butler's defense stopped the Big Green on four plays, and the Bulldogs began their final drive with 1:03 left. Lancaster marched Butler to the visitor's 34-yard line, but three incomplete passes ended the Bulldogs' bid.
AERIAL ASSAULT: Butler and Dartmouth combined for nearly 1,000 yards in total offense, and much of that production came through the air. The Bulldogs finished with 480 total yards, including 395 passing yards, while Dartmouth picked up 259 of its 497 yards via the pass. The two squads combined on 109 passes, breaking the previous Butler record for most passes by two teams by 13 throws! Butler and Franklin set the previous school mark of 96 combined passes in 1982, and the Bulldogs tied that mark against Morehead State last year.
RECORD GRAB: Quarterback Matt Lancaster continued his assault on Butler's football record book with another big effort in the Bulldogs' game against Dartmouth. The senior signal caller set a pair of Butler single game records with 42 pass completions and 68 pass attempts against the Big Green. The 42 completions eclipsed the previous school mark of 36, set by DeWayne Ewing against St. Francis (Ind.) in 2000, while the 68 attempts topped Lancaster's own school record of 53, set last year against Morehead State. The Butler quarterback, who threw two touchdown passes and rushed for a third in the game, finished with a career-high 395 passing yards against the Big Green. That number ranks as the third-highest single game passing total in Butler football history.
Matt Lancaster ranks ninth in all-time passing yards (3,669) at Butler.
GOOD HANDS: Senior Brendan Shannon recorded his sixth career 100-yard receiving performance with eight receptions for 100 yards against Dartmouth. That effort came on the heels of a 119 yards on 11 catches performance against Franklin a week earlier, marking the second time in his Butler career that he's had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. Shannon, who missed Butler's second game this season with injury, currently leads the Pioneer Football League in receptions per game (7.3). He ranks fifth in the league in receiving yards per game (75.7).
Brendan Shannon was injured and missed last year's game with Jacksonville.
COACH TO CURE MD: Butler's entire coaching staff is joining with football coaches nationwide this weekend in support of the Coach To Cure MD program, which has raised more than a million dollars to battle Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The Butler coaches will wear a Coach To Cure MD logo patch on the sidelines of the Jacksonville game, where fans will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD). Last year, 10,000 college coaches at a record 580 institutions participated in Coach To Cure MD events.
•Butler ran 92 offensive plays against Dartmouth, just two short of the school record set against Franklin in 1985.
•Quarterback Matt Lancaster completed 23 of 43 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville last year. He scored the game-winning touchdown with two seconds remaining and was named the PFL's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.
•Matt Lancaster ranks third in the PFL in total offense (276.0) and stands fifth in the league in passing average (240.2). Lancaster ranked second in the PFL in total offense last year.
•Matt Lancaster started his 15th consecutive game for the Bulldogs last weekend against Dartmouth. Butler is 10-5 with Lancaster as a starter.
•Running back Trae Heeter led the Bulldogs with 74 rushing yards against Dartmouth. He enters this week's game at Jacksonville in eighth place on Butler's all-time rushing list with 2,243 career yards.
•Trae Heeter ranks third in the PFL in rushing after four games (72.2 ypg).
•Wide receiver JT Mesch had a career-high 13 receptions for 112 yards against Dartmouth. The 13 catches are the most in the PFL this season, and they equal the fourth-highest single game total in Butler football history.
•JT Mesch joined teammate Brendan Shannon (100) with a 100-yard receiving performance against Dartmouth. The last time Butler had two receivers with 100 yards was a year ago, when Mesch and Shannon turned the feat against Valparaiso.
•Linebacker Bryce Barry and defensive back David Burke led Butler's defense against Dartmouth with nine tackles each.
•Defensive back Sean Grady is seventh in the PFL in passes defended (1.25).
•Butler defensive end Jeremy Stephens had a pair of quarterback sacks against Jacksonville last year. Stephens wound up leading the Bulldogs on the season with 8.5 quarterback sacks.
•Tight end Zack Wolfe scored his first career touchdown on a three-yard pass from Matt Lancaster against Jacksonville last year.
Bulldogs Begin PFL Play At Jacksonville