The University of Dayton football team traveled to the west coast for a Pioneer Football League games against the University of San Diego and the Flyers self-destructed with six turnovers, including a pick-six interception late in the game that thwarted a comeback try and led to a 40-25 defeat.
San Diego, CA — With at least six beaches within a quick-kick punt of downtown San Diego, one wonders if the University of Dayton football team played with sand in its eyes Saturday afternoon.
The Flyers opened their Pioneer Football League season against the University of San Diego, and the PFL title usually stops in Dayton or San Diego.
As the Flyers discovered in a 40-25 loss, it is difficult, nearly impossible, to win with a half dozen turnovers. UD showed San Diego the path to victory with charity — six turnovers.
And the fifth was the kick to the kneecaps.
The Flyers were down, 33-10 at the half and it looked as if the Toreros were going to push them all the way to the Mexican border, and nobody brought their passports.
But UD put it together in the secon half with a 15-0 run and trailed by only eight, 33-25, late in the game. And they possessed the football.
That’s when it collapsed. San Diego intercepted a Cole Dow pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to tuck away, the only points the Toreros scored in the second half.
Even then, the Flyers moved the ball down the field and reached the San Diego 14 and once again kicked themselves in the groin with a fumble.
San Diego came into the game 0-and-3, but all of its seniors had been suspended for those games due to a hazing incident.
They were ready, willing and oh-so-able to take on the Flyers, who were going in blind as far as scouting San Diego.
And sure enough, it was four who didn’t play in the first three games who did the Flyers dirty, beginning with the quarterback.
Straight dropback quarterback Grant Sergent was 19 for 26 for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Ja’Seem Reed caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. And Isiah Williams carried the ball 19 times for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
San Diego grabbed a quick 14-3 lead in the first quarter. First, they traveled 95 yards in nine plays, puncuated by a 33-yard touchdown pass to the end zone from Sergent to Josh Heverly on third-and-seven.
Then came the first UD turnover and it was turned into a touchdown as fast as one can say, “Tigers in the San Diego zoo.”
On third-and-20 from his own 25, UD quarteback Cole Dow tried for it all with a pass and it was interrupted and intercepted.
San Diego set up camp on its 42. First play: A 45-yard pass completion. Second play: 13-yard touchdown run by Williams, untouched by human hands.
San Diego outgained the Flyers in the first quarter, 153-31. . .and the domination continued in the second quarter as the Toreros put 19 points on the board, the first two touchdowns coming after UD fumbles, for their 33-10 lead.
The turnovers could have been much worse. The Flyers fumbled six times in the first half, but lost only two.
UD’s comeback in the third quarter came on a blocked punt, setting up a 15-yard touchdown toss from Dow to Alec Keathley, cutting San Diego’s lead to 33-17.
And the Flyers drew ever so closer early in the fourth quarter by driving 80 yards in 11 plays, Dow barging in from the one for his second touchdown with 12:43 left in the game.
Suddenly, the Flyers were within eight, with plenty of time, but the pick-six by San Diego doused all hope.
Dayton running back Michael Neel carried eight times in the first quarter and finished the game with 60 yards for his work day. Quarterback Dow carried 10 times for 57 yards and two TDs and added 76 yards on passing.
Unfortunately for Dow and the Flyers, he completed four passes to his teammates and three to USD defenders, three interceptions.
Alternate quarterback Dante Casciola was 6 for 16 for 56 yards.
Derek Williots snagged three passes for 48 yards and Joey Swanson pulled in three passes for 29 yards. Linebacker Aiden McKinley led the defense with eight tackles, six unassisted.
It gets no easier for the Flyers. Their second PFL game is Saturday afternoon at Welcome Stadium against defending league champion St. Thomas.
The Tommies are 2-2, but the losses came against higher-class teams, South Dakota and Harvard. St. Thomas won its PFLopener, 35-28, over Morehead State.