San Diego hogged the football and dominated the game, sending the UD Flyers to their fourth defeat of the season, their worst mark since 2006.
DAYTON — The University of San Diego football team came as advertised — fully loaded and even better than its sticker price.
The Toreros, like the University of Dayton Flyers, are yearly powers in the Pioneer Football League and before the season San Diego was a near unanimous choice by the league coaches to win the championship.
And after Saturday afternoon, it appears the Toreros are on their merry way toward another championship. The Flyers spotted them an early lead and couldn’t scramble back en route to a 23-7 loss.
San Diego is 2-and-0 in the PFL and the Flyers are 0-and-2. In addition, UD is 1-and-4 on the season, already the most losses in a season since 2006 when they finished 5-and-6.
But the next year the Flyers not only won the PFL, they won the FCS national championship.
But this is 2017 and the Flyers are struggling.
San Diego owned the football only twice in the first quarter, but they hogged the football like a selfish uncle and scored both times on long trips for a 14-0 lead.
The Toreros (Spanish for bull fighters) didn’t need a red blanket to race 89 yards in 11 plays after the opening kickoff, eating up more than six minutes.
The big play was a 42-yard pass from quarterback Anthony Lawrence to Justin Priest and the touchdown was a two-yard sneak by Lawrence.
The Lawrence-Priest combination was something the Flyers knew about and thought they were prepared to defend. Lawrence was co-offensive PFL Player of the Week last week after throwing five touchdown passes against Valparaiso.
And Priest came into the game leading the PFL with 106 catches and in San Diego’s previous two games, both victories, he caught 20 passes, for four touchdowns.
On Saturday, Lawrence was 19-for-30 for 273 yards and two touchdowns. Priest caught five passes for 90 yards, while tight end Ross Dwelley roamed across the middle to snag six passes for 82 yards.
After the San Diego’s opening drive, the Flyers started at their nine. A holding penalty and three incomplete passes from UD quarterback Kyle Kaparos forced a punt.
And the Toreros moved down the field again, like a bull fighter performing a series on veronicas. This time they took 4 ½ minutes to go 58 yards in eight plays, including a third-and-three seven-yard first down pass from Lawrence to Dwelley.
The score came on a 32-yard pass from Lawrence to the end zone to Alex Spadone and the Flyers trailed, 14-0, with 2:14 left in the first quarter.
“They’re good, they’re very good,” said UD coach Rick Chamberlin. “But we dug a hole early and we just could not get back or get into a rhythm or get anything established.”
The Flyers had a shot to scramble back into it late in the first half. They had field position after a San Diego punt at their 48 with 8:40 left in the half. And they moved to the San Diego 15, where they had a third-and-two.
Tucker Yinger got one to make it fourth-and-one. Cole Kaparos, who earlier in the drive ran 24 yards on a third-and-1, was given the ball again. But two Toreros met him in the backfield for a two-yard loss.
And the Toreros took off again. They moved 83 yards in seven plays and scored again with three minutes left in the half. Lawrence completed three straight passes on first down plays for 16, 23 and 16 yards. The last one was good for a touchdown to Zach Holland with a minute left in the half.
Then the Flyers then came alive. In the last minute of the half they pushed 68 yards in five plays, including a 24-yard run by quarterback Kaparos and a 17-yard pass from Kaparos to Adam Trautman that put the ball at the San Diego two with 18 second left in the half.
Kaparos again hit Trautman for the touchdown. It assured the Flyers would stretch their record of never being shutout to 459 straight games, longest streak for any college football team in the nation. They were last shutout back in 1976, 9-0 by Marshall University.
So the Flyers trudged to the locker room at halftime down, 21-7.
The second half was a defensive tussle and the San Diego won it, 2-0, on a safety early in the fourth quarter.
But as Chamberlin said, the Flyers dug themselves a deep foxhole and could barely stick their helmets above ground after that.
“We had a little spurt there in the second half and I thought, ‘OK, we’re starting off good in the second half.’”
But a stout San Diego defense kept the Flyers away from the end zone.
“They have some great skill players in guys like Priest, their tight end Dwelley, their quarterback (Lawrence). They made plays, put the ball where they needed to, they were running the ball.”
Freshman running back Emilio Martinez carried 29 times for 114 yards. One of UD’s biggest weapons, running back Tucker Yinger, third in the PFL with an average of 107 yards per game, was pretty much taken out of the game when San Diego jumped to the 21-0 lead. He carried only nine times for 34 yards.
“Again, it was the mistakes we made, not executing, penalties killed us early and late in the game. You just can’t do that and I’ve said it again and again and again. Against good teams you can’t beat yourself. That’s what we’re doing right now. We have to relax, show more poise and be more confident.”