The Flyers took its first possession and looked as if they wouldn’t stop until they reached the banks of Lake Michigan. The Beacons took it right away with that long second half kickoff return. Despite a 1-5 record, the Beacons outscored the Flyers Saturday afternoon on Brown Field, 45-28.
VALPARAISO, Ind. — As the University of Dayton football team discovered Saturday afternoon, a bad record can be as much of a mirage as a palm tree and a puddle of water in the middle of the desert.
Valparaiso University entered Saturday’s game against the Flyers with a 1-and-5 record, but. . .
Three of the Beacons’ non-conference losses are to ranked teams with a combined 16-and-1 record. And they were 1-and-2 in the Pioneer Football League before they rubbed out Dayton Saturday afternoon on Brown Field, 45-28.
Their two PFL losses were, 27-20, in overtime to Marist, a team that beat Dayton last week, and a 20-13 loss at St. Thomas.
And the newly-minted Beacons, formerly known as the Crusaders until the political correctness police got them, had two incentives that pushed and prodded them to victory:
—UD had beaten Valpo 26 times in 29 meetings, but those were Crusaders and these are Beacons.
—Valpo is coached by Landon Fox, who spent 11 years at the University of Dayton as Flyer coach Rick Chamberlin’s assistant.
Even Chamberlin, who knew this could be a trap game, was a tad confused afterward.
“I can sum this up in one word,’ he said. ‘They wanted it more than us. . .well, that’s two words.”
Actually, it’s six words, but Chamberlin had a right to be confused because the young Flyers seemed bewitched, bothered and confused more than a few times.
“We played bad, just too many mistakes,” he added. “Too, too, too many. Dropping balls and penalties, bad execution.”
The Flyers took its first possession and looked as if they wouldn’t stop until they reached the banks of Lake Michigan.
UD quarterback Jack Cook connected on four straight passes to put the Flyers inside the Valpo 10. But the offense was beached at the three and Sam Webster booted a 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Valpo, though, took it the other way all the way on its first possession, converting a pair of third-and-longs. A third-and-five pass completion by quarterback Ben Nimz for nine yards and a third-and-nine 35-yard completion to Braden Contreras put the ball at the UD 29.
Nimz immediately turned the right corner and sprinted to the UD 8 and two plays later Nimz tossed a touchdown pass for a 7-3 Valpo lead.
The Flyers had the ball for only three plays before Cook was intercepted and three plays later Robert Washington barged in from the six for a 13-3 Valpo lead.
It was time for the Flyers to turn on the ignition switch. They scored the next 17 points to take a 20-14 lead into break time.
Cook choreographed the first touchdown on a 57-yard scramble pass to Luke Brenner that set up Cook’s three-yard touchdown pass to Chisholm on the second quarter’s first play, slicing Valpo’s lead to 13-10.
Valopo went 1-2-3-kick and the Flyers embarked on a go-ahead touchdown trek, highlighted by Cook’s 23-yard third-and-14 pass to Joey Swanson and the Flyers took a 17-13 lead on Chisholm’s sprint around left end.
Left footed kicker Webster tacked on three points on a 31-yard field goal just before the half and the Flyers rested, 20-10, at intermission.
The euphoria last only until they lined up for the second half kickoff . Valpo’s Charlie Maxwell took the kickoff at his two and didn’t stop until he was at the UD 22.
Zack Rumpke forced Valpo into a 22-yard field goal when he hog-wrestled Washington for a three-yard loss on third-and-goal at the two, preserving Dayton’s lead at 20-17.
But the Flyers went three-and-out, Nimz hit Contreras on a 42-yard pass, setting up Washington’s 34-yard touchdown sprint up the middle during which he ran through the clutches and grasps of several UD defenders.
“We were in the wrong alignment and he busted it right down the middle,” said Chamberlin. “It was a basic alignment and we were in the wrong alignment.
“We lost poise and you know how important that is,” he added. “Things are not going to go your way an entire contest. There are going to be ups and downs. You can tell we have a whole lot of guys who haven’t played a lot of college football.
“It doesn’t mean they aren’t trying,” said Chamberlin. “They’ll be OK, but right now they are having a rough time.”
After Washington’s sprint against a broken defense, Valp was back in front, 24-20, midway through the third period.
The Flyers did their own 1-2-3-kick and Nimz went air-happy to score again — 12 to Maxwell, 25 to Contreras, 17 to Contreras again and 14 to Maxwell for the TD and a 31-20 Valo lead.
UD forced Valpo to punt from the back of its end zone and the Flyers set up at the Beacons’ 26. The Flyers had a first-and-goal at the three and it took three plays for Cook to sneak it over. The Flyers went for two and made it on Cook’s pass to Sam Bubonics. That drew the Flyers to within three, 31-28.
Alas, getting within three was an illusion. On the first play after UD’s touchdown, Nimz struck Washington with a 50-yard pass, setting up Washington’s two-yard touchdown, pushing Valpo back to a 10-point lead, 38-28, with 11 -1/2 minutes left in the game.
And all hopes and aspirations dissipated late in the fourth quarter when Valpo’s Jamari Jackson intercepted a Cook pass and returned it 37 yards for a game-wrap-up touchdown, 45-28.
“This was one was tough because it was in all phases,” said Chamberlin. “Offense, defense and our special teams. . .long kickoff returns. We had momentum (20-14 halftime lead), but they took it right away with that long second half kickoff return. Luckily, we held them to a field goal. . .but that made it 20-17 and then the wheels fell off.”
Indeed. . .the wheels, the hub caps, the lug nuts, the entire kit and kaboodle as the Beacons outscored the Flyers 17-0 in the third period and didn’t even have to look back over their shoulders.
With a 3-and-4 overall record, 2-and-3 in the PFL, a league championship is the wildest of dreams for the Flyers.
“As far as Valparaiso, I told the guys all week, ‘Don’t worry about their record, watch what you are seeing on film.’ Washington is the finest running back in the conference and we did fine. . .except for two plays.”
Washington carried 20 times for 102 yards that included his 34-yard touchdown. He also caught three passes for 59 yards, including a 48-yarder and he even completed a pass for 14 yards.
Meanwhile, Valpo pretty much vaporized Dayton’s top threat, running back Jake Chisholm. He carried 19 times for 68 yards. And it wasn’t the greatest of days for UD quarterback Jack Cook. He spent much of the afternoon protecting his health and well-being by fleeing the pocket. He was 16 for 36 for 247 yards and a touchdown, but also had two picked off.
“We’re home (next Saturday against Butler) and we have three games left,” said Chamberlin. “As I was telling the guys, our goal is the PFL championship. We’re one of the few teams in the conference that can say that every year. That’s a goal for us. That’s why losses like this hurt. You have teams like Valpo and others that lose all the time.
“To them, a loss is just another loss,” he added. “But for Dayton, it’s tough.’
The PFL title is pretty much gone, but goals remain.
“Our second goal is to have a winning season,” said Chamberlin. “We still have a chance for that and that’s what we’re gonna do.”