DES MOINES, Iowa - The Drake University football team scored 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points to defeat Valparaiso, 23-10, Saturday afternoon at Drake Stadium. The win was Drake's 14th straight home win against a Pioneer Football League opponent.
The Bulldogs (4-4, 3-2 PFL) held a 371-183 advantage in total yards of offense with 73 of Valparaiso's yards coming on its lone touchdown in the fourth quarter. Drake's defense disrupted the Crusaders all afternoon as the front four limited VU (1-7, 1-4 PFL) to four rushing yards while recording four sacks, nine tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
Offensively, Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wis.) threw for 297 yards on 27-of-41 passing with a touchdown. Eric Saubert (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) had his second consecutive 100-yard game with 104 receiving yards on eight catches with a touchdown. Gary Scott, Jr. (Forsyth, Ill.) picked up 82 yards receiving out of the backfield, along with 52 rushing yards.
Despite dominating the Crusaders on offense and defense, Drake couldn't capitalize on its scoring opportunities and found itself up by a slim 7-3 margin heading into the fourth quarter.
"When you play on Saturday, you've got to have more points than the other team," Drake head coach Chris Creighton said. "I thought offensively and defensively we got off to a really good start. But you look up at the scoreboard and it's 7-3. That got old real quick."
That inability to get the ball into the endzone reared its head on Valparaiso's second drive of the fourth quarter when quarterback Erick Hoffman found Tony Taibi behind the Drake secondary for a 73-yard touchdown pass to put the Crusaders up, 10-7, with 11 minutes left in the contest.
Drake went three-and-out on its next series, but a Cam Bohnert (Edmond, Okla.) may have been the turning point of the game. The sophomore nailed a 50-yard punt that was downed at the VU 1-yard line to turn the field on the Crusaders. The defense kept VU inside its own 5-yard line. When offense got the ball back, it needed just five plays to find paydirt on a 4-yard dive from Conley Wilkins (Overland Park, Kan.) to put Drake up 14-10.
"Cam's punt, that Drew Ormseth downed on the 1-yard line, the touchdown came from that," Creighton said. "It's always everybody working together."
The defense, which has generated game-changing plays all season, continued that trend on Valparaiso's next drive when Naser Hannoon (West Des Moines, Iowa) sacked and stripped the VU quarterback on his own 22-yard line. Sean Conerty (Arlington Heights, Ill.) recovered the ball on the 16-yard line. Despite the incredible field position, Drake failed to add points, but kept Valparaiso in the shadows of its own goal posts for the remainder of the fourth quarter.
"The defense was outstanding," Creighton said. "They gave up one big play, but the biggest thing was that they forced turnovers. When you force turnovers, you win. We did that today."
Another sack and fumble quickly followed, this one forced by Matt Acree (Shawnee, Kan.) and recovered by John Hugunin (Oswego, Ill.) on the VU 21-yard line. Hugunin finished the day with 12 tackles, three for loss, in addition to the fumble recovery.
This time, the Bulldogs took advantage of the defense's work with Wilkins adding his second score of the day on another 4-yard run with 1:18 left in the game to account for the final 23-10 tally.
Any VU comeback attempt was quickly thwarted when Brad Duwe (Dubuque, Iowa) picked off the Crusaders on their final drive to seal the win and record the Bulldogs third turnover of the day.