Butler Stops Trojans in Soggy Home Opener
UPLAND, Ind. – Taylor managed only 100 total yards of offense and four first downs in the first half of Saturday’s home opener at Turner Stadium and could not overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit in an eventual 31-17 setback to the NCAA Division I FCS Bulldogs.
The TU offense struggled early in the rain against the BU (2-0) defense, punting on six of its first seven drives of the contest but came alive over the final 30 minutes to finish with 301 total yards of offense over 60 plays. The Trojans twice came up empty on drives that stalled inside the Butler 10-yard line, as they drove inside the 25-yard line on each of their final four possessions of the contest while flirting with a comeback bid.
The missed chances in the red zone, combined with a two-of-13 showing on third-down conversions proved to be too much to overcome against a Butler squad that piled up 250 yards on the ground and maintained a 37:18 to 22:42 advantage in time of possession.
The Trojans’ first two scores came via big plays from the special teams unit. Tyler Watson pounced on a fumbled punt return from the Bulldogs to give TU the ball on the eight-yard line and a 27-yard field goal from Austin Gunderson three plays later knotted the game at 3-3 early in the second quarter.
Taylor then drew to within 17-10 in the opening moments of the third quarter, when a Butler punt was blocked by Mark Baker and returned 29 yards for a touchdown by Holden Hodge.
Everett Pollard engineered the lone offensive touchdown of the evening for TU by completing an 18-yard pass to Craig Faulkner and a 23-yard strike to Preston Scott, before powering in from three yards out to complete the scoring at 31-17 with 10:47 remaining.
Pollard closed the game with 11 carries for 85 yards and the touchdown, while completing 10 passes for 151 yards. The senior continued his assault on the Taylor record books, becoming the program’s all-time leader with 561 career completions and moving into second with 6,336 career passing yards.
Gunderson stayed busy with the 27-yard field goal and two point-after conversions, while averaging 35.3 yards per punt in the blustery conditions. The senior unleashed one punt for 50 yards and twice pinned the guests inside their own 20-yard line.
Jeff Kaczmarek turned in a career night to highlight the defense for Taylor, leading all players with 12 tackles and piling up a game-high eight solo hits to go with a pair of pass breakups.
TJ Swore also set a new career-best with eight stops, while Jackson Bronkema, Matt Nguyen and Ra Murray all ended with seven tackles. Murray also recorded TU’s lone sack and forced one fumble.
Taylor (1-1) will head to Deerfield, Illinois for a date against Trinity International (1-2) on September 15, with kickoff slated for 2:00 pm (ET).