Bulldogs Rush Past Jacksonville

Bulldogs Rush Past Jacksonville
Running back Trae Heeter (Photo by Brent Smith)

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- Senior Trae Heeter rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns and Butler rallied from a 13-7 halftime deficit to post a 45-27 victory over Jacksonville on Saturday (Sept. 28).  The game at D. B. Milne Field in Jacksonville, Fla., was Butler's Pioneer Football League opener.

Heeter gained 178 of his yards and scored both of his touchdowns after intermission.  His 222 total rushing yards were the most by a player in the PFL this season and marked the second-highest single game total of his Butler career.

"Trae was Trae,"  said Butler head coach Jeff Voris after the game.  "He had a lot of three and four-yard runs in the first half that ended up being body blows.  He wound up breaking some big ones in the second half.  We didn't get away from the run early on, which was good.  We just kept handing it to him, and eventually he's going to pop one."

Heeter was one of a number of Bulldogs who turned in key performances in the win.  Quarterback Matt Lancaster passed for 208 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed for 95 yards and two more scores to ignite Butler's offense.  Wide receiver Brendan Shannon caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, placekicker Jon Treloar was perfect on six PAT kicks and one field goal attempt and running back Rico Watson rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive backs David Burke, Sean Grady and Jimmy Schwabe each came up with a pass interception, while Burke and linebackers Zack Sedivy and Jordan Massey came up with fumble recoveries to give Butler a 6-2 advantage in turnovers.   

The Bulldogs (3-2), who shared last year's PFL title with San Diego and Drake, were looking for their first win in six trips to the Sunshine State.  The host Dolphins reminded Voris and his squad how tough it is to win at Milne Field on the first possession of the game. Dylan Lynch capped a short drive with a 43-yard field goal to give Jacksonville a 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.

Lancaster answered with a one-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to put Butler on top, 7-3, but the Dolphins closed out the half with ten unanswered points to take the halftime lead.

Butler re-gained the lead on Shannon's 11-yard touchdown catch two minutes into the second half and then answered a pair of big touchdown plays by the Dolphins with 31 unaswered points to end the game.

"We just kept playing," said Voris.  "We got the early touchdown to re-take the lead and that energized everybody.  We were really locked into playing the next play.  We got some turnovers to shorten the field and we had some big plays in the run game that made it easier to score."

The Bulldogs blanked Jacksonville in the fourth quarter and held the Dolphins nearly 20 points below their season scoring average for the game.  Jacksonville was coming off back-to-back 69-point scoring performances!

Butler recorded the key PFL win, despite an impressive performance by Jacksonville quarter Steven Hughes.  Making just his second start for the Dolphins, Hughes connected on 25 of 61 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns.  The Bulldogs answered that out-put with 610 yards in total offense!  Butler's 402 rushing yards in the win were just two yards shy of the school record set against Valparaiso in 1988.

The Bulldogs will return to Indianapolis to begin a stretch of three consecutive home games with a contest against new PFL member Stetson on Saturday, Oct. 5.  That game at the Butler Bowl will start at 1 p.m.