Butler Hosts First Night Game In Seven Decades

NIGHT MOVES:  Butler will play under the lights at the Butler Bowl for the first time in seven decades when it hosts Franklin on Saturday, September 8.  The Bulldogs’ 2012 home-opener is slated for a 6 p.m. (ET) kickoff.  Butler played night football games in the Butler Bowl in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, but the final night contest was played in 1941 and the lights were removed after World War II.  Lights were re-added to the newly-renovated Butler Bowl in 2011, and the Bulldogs scheduled two home night football games for this season.  Butler is coming off a 23-15 setback at Western Illinois in its season-opener on Thursday, Aug. 30.  The Bulldogs scored the final 15 points of that game and ended the contest just four yards away from a potential game-tying score.  Franklin, 10-2 a year ago, dropped its opener at home to Mount Union, the No. 2-ranked team in the NCAA Division III, 45-7.  Butler and Franklin have split their last four football meetings.

Butler has won three straight home-openers since falling to Franklin in 2008.

ON THE AIR:  Beginning this season, Butler football webcasts for all 11 games will be available at www.butlersports.com.  Play-by-play for the broadcasts will be handled by Butler graduates Brandon Gaudin ‘06 and Mark Minner ‘12, while former Butler head coach Ken LaRose will serve as the broadcast analyst.
 
TIMED OUT:  Butler staged a furious second-half rally in its season-opener at Western Illinois, but time ran out before the Bulldogs could complete the comeback.  The host Leathernecks jumped to a 16-0 halftime lead and stretched that margin to 23-0 in the third quarter.  That’s when the Bulldogs began their charge.  Butler tallied a late third quarter touchdown and added a second TD and two-point conversion midway through the final period to make it a one possession game.   That set the stage for the Bulldogs’ final two-minute drill.  Starting at their own one-yard line with 1:55 left on the clock, the Bulldogs mounted a drive that took them to the Western Illinois seven-yard line in the closing seconds.  There, on a third down play, running back Trae Heeter took a swing pass and headed around the left end toward the end zone.  But he was tackled at the four-yard line, shy of the out-of-bounds marker, as time ran out.

LEAGUE HONOR:  Junior defensive back Sean Grady was named Pioneer Football League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Western Illinois.  He finished with a career-high 15 tackles, including a career-best 10 solo tackles, and one pass interception in the game.  The 10 solo tackles tied the most by any player in the NCAA Division I FCS in the opening week of the season.

SECOND DEBUT:  Quarterback Matt Lancaster, who transferred from Illinois State a year ago, earned the starting nod for the Bulldogs at Western Illinois, and he turned in a solid performance in his Butler debut.  Playing for the first time in more than a year, Lancaster completed 16 of 35 passes with one interception for 209 yards and one touchdown, and he rushed for 46 yards and a second touchdown.  The junior signal caller hit on 13 of 24 passes for 177 yards after intermission, and he led the Bulldogs on a pair of second half scoring drives.  In his initial collegiate debut four years ago, he completed four of seven passes (with one interception) for 42 yards against Illinois in the second game of his freshman season at Illinois State.  Lancaster passed for 311 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games with the Redbirds.   

PUBLIC DEFENDER:  Butler’s defensive unit was on the field for more than 20 minutes in the first half at Western Illinois, and the busiest Butler defender was senior Jordan Ridley.  The Butler middle linebacker was in on ten tackles in the first 30 minutes, and he finished the game with 14 total stops.  It was the fifth time in his last seven Butler games that he recorded at least 14 tackles and the 10th time in his Butler career.  Ridley has led the Pioneer Football League in tackles for two consecutive seasons, and he’s been ranked in the “Top 10” in tackles in the NCAA Division I FCS in each of the past two years.  He’s a two-time Butler Defensive Most Valuable Player.  

Jordan Ridley has had at least 10 tackles in 18 of Butler’s last 23 games.

DOUBLE THREAT:  Junior Trae Heeter picked up where he left off last year, when he led the Bulldogs and ranked fourth in the Pioneer Football League in rushing.  Heeter topped the Bulldogs at Western Illinois with 49 rushing yards on 12 carries, including a long gain of 14 yards.  He also topped the Bulldogs in receiving with four catches for 26 yards, including the Bulldogs’ first 2012 touchdown on a 10-yard catch and run.  It was his second career touchdown catch.  Heeter, who had 26 receptions a year ago, is Butler’s top returning pass catcher.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Junior Sean Grady and sophomore Bryce Barry each posted a game-high 15 tackles to pace the Bulldogs at Western Illinois.  The 15 stops were the fifth-highest total in the NCAA Division I FCS during the first week of the 2012 season.

•Bryce Barry, making his first collegiate start for the Bulldogs, recorded career-highs for solo tackles (4) and assists (11), as well as total tackles (15).  His previous career-high was three tackles against both Jacksonville and Morehead State last year.

•Junior defensive back Jayme Szafranski had a career-high 12 tackles at Western Illinois.  Szafranski ranked third on the team in tackles a year ago.

•Sophomore wide receiver Derek O’Connor made his first collegiate start at Western Illinois, and he came up with his first two collegiate catches for 32 yards.

•Former Butler quarterback Tom Judge saw action at Western Illinois as a wide receiver, and he came up with three catches for a team-high 74 yards.  His 38-yard reception late in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Western Illinois seven-yard line and a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.  Judge also utilized his former trade, throwing a two-point conversion pass to tight end Matt Jenson, after Butler’s second touchdown.

•Redshirt-freshman Kyle Annis saw his first collegiate action for the Bulldogs, and he recorded eight total tackles as a starting defensive lineman.

•The Bulldogs had just three penalties for 17 yards in the season-opener at Western Illinois.  That was the best performance by a Pioneer Football League Team in Week 1.

•Butler unveiled a new punter and a new placekicker in its opener at Western Illinois.  Redshirt-freshman Brian Akialis handled punting chores for the Bulldogs and averaged 34.5 yards on six kicks.  Freshman Jon Treloar made his debut as Butler’s placekicker, and he was successful on one extra-point kick attempt.

•Senior offensive lineman Matt Storey has started 23 consecutive games for the Bulldogs.

•Butler is 15-7 in non-league games under head coach Jeff Voris.