Valpo Falls to Drake Despite Strong Defensive Effort
The Valparaiso University football team fell 17-6 to visiting Drake in the Spring 2021 home opener on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. Kicker Brian Bartholomew (Sugar Grove, Ill. / Kaneland) made a pair of field goals to account for the Valpo scoring, while Keyon Turner (Chicago, Ill. / Marist) and D.J. Hutcherson (Leesburg, Va. / Heritage) each forced turnovers for the Brown & Gold defense, a unit that put together a strong performance on Saturday. The Valpo defense held Drake to 211 yards of total offense, the fewest permitted by Valpo in a Pioneer Football League game since 2010.
How It Happened
- Valpo got a quick first down on a Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft) to Ollie Reese (Franklin, Tenn. / Battle Ground) pass on the opening possession, but the drive stalled at that juncture. Punter Ben Niesner (Black Diamond, Wash. / Tahoma [Portland State]) booted a beauty of a punt 54 yards that sliced out of bounds at the Drake 2-yard line.
- After the Valpo defense forced a punt on the opening possession for the Bulldogs (1-1), a 10-play, 40-yard Valpo drive culminated with Bartholomew sending one through the uprights from 30 yards out to give the hosts a 3-0 lead with 6:17 left in the opening quarter.
- A 42-yard touchdown run by Caden Meis accounted for the first Bulldogs score. Drake tacked on with a 20-yard field goal by Nathan De Bruin with 11:53 left in the second quarter.
- Turner, a true freshman, snagged an interception at the Valpo 45 and returned it 25 yards to the Drake 30 with 7:47 remaining in the half.
- The ensuing Valpo possession reached the doorstep of the end zone, but the Brown & Gold couldn’t punch it in on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and Drake took over on downs.
- Valpo reached the red zone again in the closing minute of the half after an 18-yard Duncan-to-Reese hookup, but the Brown & Gold settled for a long field goal try that was off the mark as time expired to conclude the second quarter.
- The Valpo defense forced Drake punts on each of the first two Bulldog possessions of the second half.
- A big play on special teams gave Valpo a jolt midway through the third. DJ Hutcherson (Leesburg, Va. / Heritage [Howard]) fell on a fumbled punt return, setting up first-and-10 from the Drake 11 for the Brown & Gold. Valpo took the points on fourth-and-3 from the 4 as Bartholomew connected on a 21-yard field goal.
- The Valpo defense forced another punt late in the third, but a short field for Drake early in the fourth led to a 5-yard TD run by Cross Robinson to make it17-6 with 14:06 to play.
- The Valpo defense continued to play well in the fourth quarter, forcing punts on all four Drake possessions (one of which saw Valpo take over after a fumbled snap on the punt.)
Inside the Game
- Trey Psota (Bay Village, Ohio / Bay) and Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) led Valpo defensively with nine tackles apiece. Each accounted for 1 ½ tackles for loss, helping Valpo accrue six TFL. Freshman Nick Price (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) also contributed 1 ½ TFL.
- Valpo has had six TFL or more seven times in its first 14 games under head coach Landon Fox. By comparison, Valpo had six or more tackles for loss just once in the 27 games prior to Fox’s arrival.
- Turner has been involved in key turnovers in each of his first two collegiate games. The freshman defensive back had a fumble recovery and 35-yard return in Week 1 before an interception and 25-yard return in Week 2.
- Valpo outgained Drake 216-211. The 211 yards allowed marked the fewest permitted by Valpo since Sept. 16, 2017 at Trinity International (204) and the fewest allowed in conference play since holding Drake to 210 on Sept. 25, 2010.
- The Valpo defense limited the Bulldogs to just 47 yards through the air on 7-of-19 passing. This is the second straight season Valpo has kept an opponent to under 50 passing yards in a game as it held Stetson to 40 a year ago.
- Valpo held Drake to just 3-of-15 on third down, while the Brown & Gold went 5-of-19.
- Niesner booted a pair of punts 50+ yards including a 54 yarder that was 2 shy of his career best. He pinned three of his punts inside the 20.
- Duncan passed for 101 yards on 11-of-30 through the air, moving to within 89 passing yards of becoming the eighth player in program history to reach 4,000.
- Reese was Duncan’s top target on Saturday as he registered eight receptions netting 86 yards, achieving career highs in both areas. The junior totaled 112 all-purpose yards against the Bulldogs.
- The 17 points allowed tied for the fewest permitted by the Valpo defense in a head-to-head matchup with Drake since 2001. The 2014 team also allowed just 17 points to the Bulldogs.
Thoughts from Head Coach Landon Fox
Valpo (1-1) will return to action next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Brown Field with the Hoosier Helmet up for grabs as Butler comes to town. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with links to live video, audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.