BOWL GAME: Butler, co-champion of the
Pioneer Football League, will play its first postseason football
game in nearly two decades when it hosts Northeast Conference champ
Central Connecticut State in the fourth annual Gridiron Classic on
Saturday, Dec. 5. The game is scheduled for 12 noon at the
Butler Bowl. The Gridiron Classic grew out of an agreement
between the two leagues to have a Bowl-type contest matching the
league champions. San Diego won the initial Gridiron Classic
in 2006, while Dayton captured the second a year later.
Albany posted the first NEC win last year. Central
Connecticut State (9-2) will be making its first Gridiron Classic
appearance. Butler (10-1) shared the PFL crown with Dayton,
but advanced to its first Gridiron Classic by having beaten the
Flyers during the regular season head-to-head match-up. The
Bulldogs are making their first postseason game appearance since
moving to the NCAA Division I in 1993. Butler’s last
postseason came in the 1991 NCAA Division II playoffs at Pittsburg
Butler set a school-record for victories with 10 in 2009.
ON THE AIR: The Gridiron Classic will be broadcast on XL 950 (AM) in Indianapolis and on the internet at BigPlayProductions.com. The game will be carried live, starting with the pre-game show at 11:40 a.m. (ET).
CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT: The Bulldogs captured their first PFL championship since 1994 in a most dramatic fashion. Butler, Drake and Dayton entered the final weekend of the regular season with identical 6-1 PFL records, and Butler hosted Drake in the season-finale, and Dayton hosted Marist. While Dayton was beating Marist, Butler and Drake kept fans in their seats right to the final buzzer. With the score tied at 17-17, Butler gained possession at midfield on a pass interception by linebacker Nick Caldicott with 0:43 remaining on the clock. The host Bulldogs marched 40 yards in seven plays and sophomore David Lang kicked a 27-yard field goal with 0:01 left for the PFL title.
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: The title-clinching field goal against Drake was the second game-winner this season by Butler placekicker David Lang. On October 3rd, the sophomore kicker nailed a 37-yard field goal with 0:01.9 left on the clock to lift Butler to a 25-24 victory over preseason Pioneer Football League favorite San Diego. It was the second-longest field goal of his young career. Lang kicked the game-winner against San Diego at the north goal and the title-clinching field goal against Drake at the south goal. He was named PFL Special Teams Player of the Week following both dramatic kicks.
BIG CATCH: Sophomore wide receiver Zach Watkins had several big pass receptions against Drake, including a 32-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to give Butler its first lead in the game. But his biggest catch came on a 19-yard, sideline route that gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Drake 14-yard line with 0:18 remaining. That play set the stage for Butler’s game-winning field goal. Watkins finished the game with 11 catches for 109 yards. The 11 receptions were the second-most of his career, and it was his third career 100-yard receiving performance.
TWO GRAND: Sophomore Andrew Huck became the eighth Butler quarterback to pass for over 2,000 yards in a season in the Bulldogs’ game at Jacksonville. He added to his total with 234 passing yards in Butler’s title-clinching victory over Drake, and he enters the Gridiron Classic in fourth place on the Bulldogs’ single season passing list with 2,272 yards. Huck needs 65 yards to match DeWayne Ewing (2001) in third place on Butler’s all-time list, and he’s 246 yards behind Matt Kobli (2008) in second place. Ewing set Butler’s all-time single season passing record with 3,182 yards in 2000.
Andrew Huck ranks third in the PFL in passing average (206.5).
RUSH JOB: Junior Scott Gray rushed for more yards in 2009 than any Butler player in the past seven seasons. The Butler rushing leader picked up 780 yards on 154 attempts (4.6) this year. The last Butler player to run for more yards was Dale Jennings, who picked up 973 yards in 2002. Gray ranks second in the PFL in rushing.
Scott Gray has five career 100-yard rushing performances.
FOUR MORE: Senior Dan Bohrer had four catches for 38 yards in Butler’s championship game against Drake. That gave him 2,172 career yards and left him four yards shy of Butler’s all-time receiving yards record, held by Eric Voss (1990-93). Bohrer is Butler’s all-time leader in pass receptions (185) and receiving touchdowns (22).
FAMILIAR LEADER: Senior Derek Guggenberger, Butler’s leading tackler for two straight years, entered the final two regular season games of his career in third place on the Bulldogs’ 2009 tackle chart. He responded with a team-high eight tackles at Jacksonville and a season-high 11 stops in the title-clinching victory over Drake. The finishing push gave him 62 tackles on the year and moved him into a tie with linebacker Nick Caldicott for the team lead in tackles heading into the Gridiron Classic.
Derek Guggenberger has 215 career tackles.
PICK TWO: Sophomore linebacker Nick
Caldicott had two pass interceptions in the Butler win over
Drake. He stopped a Drake drive in the second quarter with an
interception at the Butler 34-yard line, and he finished the play
with a 24-yard return. His second interception may have been
the biggest of the season for the Bulldogs. With the score
tied in the final minute, he picked off a pass by Drake quarterback
Mike Piatkowski at the Drake 49-yard line, setting up
Butler’s dramatic final drive.
RUN AND CATCH: Sophomore Jordan Koopman scored his first career rushing touchdown in Butler’s victory over Drake, becoming the second Butler player (Scott Gray was the first) this season to have both a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown. His scoring run against Drake, which tied the game at 10-10 in the third quarter, came on an end-around play and covered 18 yards. Earlier this year, Koopman caught a 10-yard TD pass to help Butler defeat Franklin. Koopman also handles Butler’s kick and punt return duties.
PEER PICK: Butler head coach Jeff Voris was the hands-down choice for Coach of the Year in the Pioneer Football League this season. Voris, in his fourth season with the Bulldogs, guided Butler to a school-record for victories and a share of the 2009 PFL title, Butler’s first since 1994. And he did it with a team that was picked to finish fifth in the PFL’s preseason poll. Voris has increased Butler’s win total in each season that he’s coached the Bulldogs. He’s the first Butler coach to be named PFL Coach of the Year.
ALL-LEAGUE: Butler was represented by 14 players on the 2009 Pioneer Football League All-League Team, selected by league coaches and released on Nov. 24. Chosen first team All-League were senior defensive back Spencer Summerville, junior offensive lineman Donnie Gilmore, junior running back Scott Gray and sophomore wide receiver Zach Watkins. Butler’s second team players were senior wide receiver Dan Bohrer, senior offensive lineman Brian Crable, junior offensive lineman Mike Staniewicz, sophomore linebacker Nick Caldicott and sophomore defensive lineman Grant Hunter. Earning honorable mention on the All-League team were sophomore quarterback Andrew Huck, senior linebacker Derek Guggenberger, sophomore defensive back Mark Giacomantonio, freshman punter Michael Wilson and sophomore return specialist Jordan Koopman. A year ago, Butler had one first team All-PFL performer (Hunter). three second team players and seven honorable mention picks.
•Butler is the fourth team in PFL history to record 10
victories in a season. Dayton has four 10-win seasons, San
Diego has two and Drake owns one. Dayton (1996, 2002 &
2007) and San Diego (2005 & 2006) share the PFL all-time record
of 11 wins.
•The Bulldogs have put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time as a Division I program. Butler’s last back-to-back winning seasons came in 1991 and 1992, when the Bulldogs were competing in the NCAA Division II.
•Butler leads the PFL and is tied for 18th in the NCAA Division I FCS in fewest quarterback sacks allowed. The Bulldogs have yielded 14 quarterback sacks on the season.
•The Bulldogs top the PFL and rank 24th in the NCAA Division I FCS in turnover margin (+6, 0.55).
•Butler leads the PFL and ranks 22nd in the NCAA Division I FCS in total offense (392.0). The Bulldogs are second in the league in rushing offense (178.5) and scoring offense (27.6) and third in passing offense (213.5).
•The Bulldogs rolled up a league-high 235 first downs in 2009. Butler had 103 first downs by rush and 110 by pass. The Bulldogs picked up an additional 22 first downs by penalty.
•Butler leads the PFL in pass interceptions (17), and the Bulldogs rank second in the league in pass defense efficiency (96.7). Butler ranks third in the league in quarterback sacks (26).
•Quarterback Andrew Huck topped 2,500 yards in total offense during the regular season. He currently ranks second in the PFL and 25th in the NCAA Division I FCS in total offense with 2,698 yards (245.3).
•Andrew Huck became the third quarterback in Butler history to throw 20 touchdown passes in a season with a scoring aerial at Jacksonville, and he enters the Gridiron Classic with 21 touchdown passes. DeWayne Ewing threw 22 touchdown passes in 2000 and Matt Kobli tossed a school-record 23 touchdown aerials last year.
•Andrew Huck ranks third in the PFL in pass efficiency (130.3)
•Defensive end Grant Hunter, who didn’t play in three Butler games because of illness, returned to action against Drake. Hunter led the PFL and ranked in the “Top 10” in the NCAA Division I FCS in quarterback sacks (1.07) before being sidelined. He still has a league-high 11.5 quarterback sacks, but he hasn’t played in enough games to qualify for the league statistical standings.
•Sophomore Zach Watkins set a Butler single season record for pass receptions (74) this season. He broke the mark held by Tom Redmond since 1972. Watkins leads the PFL and is tied for 17th in the NCAA Division I FCS in receptions per game (6.7).
•Zach Watkins stands fourth on Butler’s single season list for receiving yards with 877 this season. He needs 94 yards to catch teammate Dan Bohrer (2008) in third place. Watkins ranks fourth in the PFL in receiving yards (79.7).
•Zach Watkins ranks fourth in the PFL in scoring (5.5) and third in the league in touchdowns (10). He’s one touchdown catch shy of the school record set by Dan Bohrer last season.
•Sophomore safety Mark Giacomantonio tied for the PFL lead in pass interceptions with five this season, but he didn’t play in enough games to qualify for the league’s statistical rankings. Giacomantonio missed three games because of injury.
•Linebacker Nick Caldicott, in his first season as a Butler starter, led the Bulldogs with 35 solo tackles and tied for the team lead in total stops with 62.
•Sophomore Jordan Koopman topped the 1,000 yard mark in all-purpose yards with 101 yards against Drake. He stands fifth in the PFL with 1,052 all-purpose yards on the season.
•Jordan Koopman leads the PFL in kick return average (23.5). He has 635 yards on 27 kickoff returns this season.
•Sophomore David Lang ranks third in the PFL in kick scoring (4.5). Lang has booted two game-winning field goals in the final seconds this season.
•Punter Michael Wilson led the PFL in 2009 in number of punts inside the 20-yard line (27). Wilson had seven punt of 50 or more yards, including a long punt of 69 yards.
•Offensive guard Donnie Gilmore started his 33rd consecutive game for the Bulldogs in the victory over Drake.