Butler Opens Home Slate Against Wittenberg

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HOME DEBUT:  The second week of the 2013 football season will see Butler shift from playing one of the top teams in the NCAA Division I FCS to hosting one of the top teams in the NCAA Division III.  The Bulldogs will play their first home game of 2013 against perennial Division III power Wittenberg on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m., in the Butler Bowl.  Wittenberg, ranked tenth in the Division III preseason poll, will be visiting Indianapolis for the first time since 1984.  The Tigers return 16 starters from last year's team, which captured it third North Coast Athletic Conference title in four years.  Head coach Joe Fincham's squad, boasting 30 seniors, is favored to repeat as NCAC champ this season.  Butler opened its season with a 55-14 setback at South Dakota State on Saturday (Aug. 31).  The Jackrabbits, ranked sixth in the NCAA Division I FCS, broke a 7-7 tie with 34 consecutive points to nail down the opening win.  Butler's game against Wittenberg will be the first of back-to-back contests against Division III "Top 20" squads.  The Bulldogs will visit No. 19 Franklin on Saturday, Sept. 14.                 

The Bulldogs own a six-game winning streak in the Butler Bowl.

NIGHT LIGHTS:  For the second consecutive year, Butler will open its home season with a night game.  Last year's home-opener against Franklin was the first night game in the Butler Bowl in 71 years, and the Bulldogs responded to playing under the lights with a 42-13 victory.  Butler also defeated Morehead State, 39-35, in the only other night game played in the new Butler Bowl.  The Wittenberg game is the first of two home night games for the Bulldogs in 2013.

BUTLER WEBCAST:  The Butler-Wittenberg game will be the first of six home football webcasts for the Bulldogs this season.  Mark Minner '12 and Butler senior Matt Schumacker will handle broadcast duties for the game on ButlerSports.com.

POTENT FOE:  South Dakota State wasted no time in living up to its lofty preseason ranking.  The Jackrabbits, coming off a 9-4 season and an appearance in the FCS playoffs, needed just two plays and 39 seconds to record their first 2013 score.  Tailback Zach Zenner, who led the FCS in rushing a year ago, scampered 39 yards on the first play of the game to start the South Dakota State offense.  He then went 36 yards for a touchdown on the second play!  Butler tied the game at 7-7 on its second possession, but the Jackrabbits responded with another first-quarter touchdown and then added 17 more points in the second period for a 31-7 halftime lead.  The margin grew to 41-7 before Butler reached the end zone again in the third quarter.     

MARCHING ORDERS:  Butler put together two long scoring drives to account for its point total against nationally-ranked South Dakota State.  Quarterback Matt Lancaster capped a crisp 10-play, 85-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run to tie the game midway through the first quarter.  Lancaster completed six of seven passes for 75 yards to key the drive.  Butler's final touchdown followed a 10-play, 88-yard drive late in the third quarter.  Lancaster completed five of six passes for 31 yards on that march, and he had a 44-yard run to set up the five-yard touchdown run by senior Trae Heeter.

Butler had 26 scoring drives of 75 yards or more in 2012.

CHART CLIMBING:  Senior Matt Lancaster completed 17 of 26 passes for 140 yards in Butler's season-opener at South Dakota State.  That effort boosted his career passing total to 2,848 yards in just 12 games (237.3 ypg).  Lancaster currently stands 12th on Butler's all-time passing list, just 147 yards shy of Eli Stoddard (1994-97) in the No. 11 position.  Dick Reed (1966-69) holds the No. 10 spot on Butler's all-time passing list with 3,170 career passing yards.  Lancaster also led the Bulldogs in rushing at South Dakota State with 63 yards on six attempts.

Matt Lancaster ranked second in the PFL in total offense (3,116) in 2012.    

VERSATILE EFFORT:  Senior Tom Judge has been a quarterback and a wide receiver for the Bulldogs.  This season, he earned the spot as the team's top punt returner.  And on Saturday in South Dakota, he stepped in for injured sophomore Brian Akialis and handled the team's punting duties.  Kicking for the first time in a collegiate game, Judge averaged 37.3 yards on six punts.  He had two punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, and he recorded a long kick of 46 yards.  The Butler wide receiver also had three receptions for 31 yards in the contest.

CLEAN START:  Butler was penalized just twice for 11 yards in the season-opener at South Dakota State.  That was the best performance by a PFL team on the opening-weekend of play.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Senior Matt Lancaster played his first Butler game without throwing a touchdown pass in the Bulldogs' opener at South Dakota State.  Lancaster had thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his first 11 starts for the Bulldogs.

•Matt Lancaster had the fifth-highest rushing total by a PFL player on the opening weekend of play with 63 yards.  Lancaster had the second-best yards-per-carry average with 10.5 yards per attempt.

•Matt Lancaster has run and thrown for 30 touchdowns in his first 12 Butler games.

•Senior Trae Heeter was held to his lowest rushing total in his past 15 games as a Butler player in the Bulldogs' loss at South Dakota State.  The PFL rushing leader managed just 17 yards on nine carries against the Jackrabbits.  Heeter had five games with 100 or more rushing yards a year ago, including two outings with more than 200 yards!  

•Trae Heeter shared Butler's lead in receiving at South Dakota State with four catches for 31 yards.  Tight end Dylan Johnson had four receptions for 30 yards.

•Wide receiver JT Mesch had two receptions for 17 yards against the Jackrabbits.  Mesch has caught at least one pass in 12 consecutive games for the Bulldogs.

•Senior wide receiver Brendan Shannon, who had three receptions at South Dakota State, earned honorable mention on the 2013 "FCS Senior Scout Bowl" Preseason All-America Football Team.

•Defensive back David Burke had a career-high eight tackles to lead the Bulldogs at South Dakota State.  Burke had a team-high five solo tackles and three assists against the Jackrabbits.

•Sophomore Marquese Martin-Hayes earned his first start as a kick returner for the Bulldogs and finished with three kickoff returns for 52 yards at South Dakota State.  He had a long return of 25 yards.  The second-year player also had a pair of pass receptions in the game.

•Senior Paul Yanow, taking over for 2012 Butler leading tackler Jordan Ridley, had five tackles, including one quarterback sack in his debut as the Bulldogs' starting middle linebacker.

•Butler is 16-9 in non-league games under head coach Jeff Voris.