LEADER BOARD: The two teams picked in the preseason to fight it out for the 2013 Pioneer Football League title will meet when San Diego hosts league-leading Butler on Saturday, Oct. 26. The key PFL game at San Diego's Torero Stadium will kickoff at 4 p.m. (ET). Both teams have lived up to their preseason billing, and both are locked in one of the most competitive PFL races ever. San Diego (3-1), the favorite in the PFL coaches' preseason poll, is tied with Dayton, Marist and Morehead State for second place in the PFL, one game behind unbeaten Butler (4-0). The Bulldogs were tabbed second in the preseason poll, a single point behind San Diego. Newcomer Mercer (2-1) sits in sixth place, just a game-and-a-half back. San Diego suffered its first league setback last weekend, falling in double-overtime at Dayton, 45-38. The loss snapped San Diego's three-game winning streak, and dropped the Toreros from a share of the league lead. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, completed a three-game homestand and recorded their fourth consecutive victory with a 24-14 win against Drake. Butler will play three of its final four games on the road, including three games against teams currently tied for second in the league standings.
Butler and San Diego shared the 2012 PFL title with Drake.
DOG FIGHT: Butler never trailed in its game against Drake, but the outcome wasn't settled until a final defensive stop late in the fourth quarter. The two teams that share the same nickname traded scores in the first half, before Butler went in front for good, 14-7, on a three-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Tom Judge to tight end Dylan Johnson shortly before halftime. Drake trailed by just 10 points, 24-14, with seven minutes remaining, but solid defensive stands by Butler on the visitors' final three drives ended any late comeback hopes. The victory snapped Butler's three-game losing skid to Drake and moved Butler into sole possession of first place in the PFL.
NEXT MAN: Senior Wade Markley was given his first start of the season against Drake, and the Butler quarterback responded with a career-best effort. Stepping in to replace reigning PFL Offensive Player of the Year Matt Lancaster, who was sidelined with concussion symptoms, Markley guided the Bulldogs on four scoring drives and engineered a 10-point victory. He passed for a career-high 253 yards, recording a career-best 27 completions and a career-high 44 attempts with no interceptions. The fourth-year signal call put Butler in front less than four minutes into the game with an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver JT Mesch, and he added an insurance score midway through the final period with a four-yard touchdown run. The touchdown run was the first of his Butler career.
VERSATILE VET: Senior wide receiver Tom Judge has caught passes, scored touchdowns, gained rushing yards, punted the football and returned punts already this season. And now he's added a touchdown pass to his 2013 resume. Judge, a former quarterback for the Bulldogs, attempted his first pass of the year against Drake on an end-around play in the second quarter, and he wound up connecting with tight end Dylan Johnson for three-yard touchdown that gave Butler the lead for good. He also caught a career-high eight passes in the win for a team-high 74 yards. Judge passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns in five games as a quarterback in 2011.
Tom Judge is the sixth player to lead Butler in receiving yards in a game this season.
FIRST DEFENSE: Linebacker Zack Sedivy matched his season-high with seven tackles and helped Butler's defense limit Drake to just 34 rushing yards for the game. Sedivy had two of Butler's seven tackles for loss in the game. It was the third time in the past six games that Butler held its opponent under 100 rushing yards.
Butler ranks third in the PFL in team rushing defense (123.1).
HEET CHECK: Butler running back Trae Heeter recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance and his fifth in the past six games with 113 yards on 27 carries against Drake. The Butler senior picked up 92 yards on the ground in the final two quarters, including 42 of 47 yards on Butler's final scoring drive. Over the past four PFL contests, Heeter has rushed for 592 yards and six touchdowns, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He's averaging 146.8 rushing yards against PFL opponents.
Trae Heeter has rushed for 100 or more yards in 12 games during his Butler career.
TAKE-AWAY: Butler had a 4-1 advantage in turnovers against Drake. In four PFL games this season, the Bulldogs are a league-best +9 in turnover margin.
•Quarterback Matt Lancaster had a streak of 18 consecutive starts snapped when he was sidelined for the Drake game with concussion symptoms. He's expected back for the San Diego contest. Butler is 13-5 with Lancaster as a starter.
•Matt Lancaster moved into sixth place on Butler's all-time passing list in the Bulldogs' victory over Campbell. He enters this week's action with 4,241 career yards, trailing Curt Roy (1979-83) in fifth place by 320 yards.
•Matt Lancaster ranks third in the PFL in total offense (270.4). He's tied for fourth in the league in touchdowns (7).
•Matt Lancaster is a semifinalist for a 2013 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Award. The award includes an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
•Running back Trae Heeter has taken over the No. 5 spot on Butler's all-time rushing list with 2,835 career rushing yards. He's 44 yards shy of Leroy Thompson (1953-56) in the No. 4 position on the all-time list.
•Trae Heeter leads the PFL in both rushing (109.5) and all-purpose yards (125.8). Heeter led the PFL in rushing and ranked second in all-purpose yards in 2012.
•Trae Heeter returned five kickoffs for 114 yards against San Diego as a freshman in 2010. Heeter has not had a rushing attempt against the Toreros.
•Wide receiver Brendan Shannon, who had seven catches for 46 yards against Drake, continues to lead the PFL in pass receptions (7.5). He ranks fifth in the PFL in receiving yards (85.5).
•Linebacker Paul Yanow came up with a pair of fumble recoveries against Drake, and he's tied with teammate David Burke and three other players for first in the PFL in fumbles recovered (2).
•Defensive back Ryan Kelsey and defensive end Christian Eble each recorded his first career pass interception in Butler's victory over Drake. Kelsey also had a pair of pass breakups in the game.
•Placekicker Jon Treloar, who was perfect on three PAT kicks and one field goal attempt against Drake, ranks second in the PFL in PAT kicking percentage (.971). He's tied for fifth in the league in kick scoring (6.0). Treloar has connected on 19 consecutive PAT kick attempts.