INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Quarterback Wade Markley answered the biggest call of his collegiate career and helped lead Butler to a 24-14 victory over Drake in a key Pioneer Football League game at the Butler Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 19. The win, Butler's first over Drake since 2009, kept the host Bulldogs on top of the PFL standings.
Markley was given his first start of the season, replacing injured PFL Offensive Player of the Year Matt Lancaster. The senior signal caller responded by passing for a career-high 253 yards and one touchdown and rushing for a second score. He had a career-best 27 completions and a career-high 44 attempts with no pass interceptions.
The fourth-year quarterback helped lead Butler to 396 total yards and the 10-point win.
"The guys trust in him and believe in him" said head coach Jeff Voris of his senior quarterback. "He puts every bit of time in and effort that our top guys have through the years. Our guys didn't blink all week, offensively or defensively."
"It was business as usual. (Markley) prepared great. It might have been our best week of practice this year," added the Butler coach.
The win came against a team that had beaten Butler three straight times and entered the contest just a game behind Voris' squad in the standings. Butler improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in PFL play, while Drake fell to 3-4 on the season and 2-2 in league play.
"We talked about putting three phases together," Voris said of his team's performance. "I thought we had a positive special teams outing, the defense played well and the offense moved the ball when they had to. We played for 60 minutes. It was a complete football game with great effort and intensity."
With Lancaster watching from the sidelines, Markley marched Butler down the field for a touchdown on the first possession of the game. He led the nine-play, 75-yard drive and finished it with an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver JT Mesch.
Drake, which shared last year's PFL crown with Butler and San Diego, tied the game midway through the second period on a five-yard Andy Rice to Nick Rosa touchdown pass, but the host Bulldogs answered with their longest drive of the year right before halftime. Markley guided a 14-play, 98-yard march that finished with a clever, three-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Tom Judge to tight end Dylan Johnson. That play put Butler in front for good.
Placekicker Jon Treloar nailed a 32-yard field goal, his fifth in as many tries this season, in the third quarter to stretch Butler's lead to 17-7, but Drake took advantage of a Butler mistake to trim the margin to three points in the final period. Markely threw a lateral pass to running back Rico Watson, and when the ball fell to the ground, Drake's Brandon Coleman picked it up and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
Butler responded with a strong defensive stand on Drake's next possession, coming up with a turnover when linebacker Paul Yanow fell on a fumbled lateral at the Drake 47-yard line. From there, running back Trae Heeter sparked a drive that ended with Markely's four-yard touchdown run and a 24-14 Butler lead.
The rest of the quarter belonged to Butler's defense, which stopped Drake's final three drives.
"(Our defense) got (Drake) in long yardage. They pressured and harassed the quarterback. They really took (Drake) out of any kind of consistent running game," said Voris of his team's defensive unit. "When you can get a team into Plan B, you have a good shot."
Linebacker Zack Sedivy led Butler's defense with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss. Defensive back David Burke added six tackles, including three for loss. Yanow had a pair of fumble recoveries, while defensive end Christian Eble and defensive back Ryan Kelsey each came up with a pass interception.
Heeter recorded his fourth straight 100-yard rushing performance and his fifth in six games with 113 yards on 27 attempts. The senior tailback boosted his career rushing total to 2,835 yards and moved into fifth place on Butler's all-time rushing list.
Judge, in addition to throwing his first touchdown pass of the season, led Butler's receivers with eight catches for 74 yards. Senior Brendan Shannon added seven receptions for 46 yards.
The win wrapped up a three-game homestand for Butler. The Bulldogs will play three of their final four games on the road, beginning with a test at league co-leader San Diego on Saturday, Oct. 26. The Toreros entered a Saturday night contest at Dayton with a 4-2 overall record and 3-0 PFL mark.