Bulldogs Fall To Tennessee State In NCAA Playoffs

Quarterback Matt Lancaster (Photo by Brent Smith)

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -  Butler's first appearance in the NCAA Division I Football Championship came to an end at the hands of #17 Tennessee State, 31-0, at the Butler Bowl on Saturday (Nov. 30).  The loss snapped Butler's four-game homefield winning streak.

The Tigers (10-3), one of the top defensive teams in Division I FCS, limited Butler to a season-low 257 yards, including a season-low 122 passing yards.  It was the first time this season that the Bulldogs, 36.1 points per game, failed to reach the end zone.

"Tennessee State's got a heck of a football team.  They made plays when they had to and we couldn't get anything consistently going on offense," said Butler head coach Jeff Voris after the game.

"I'm extremely proud our team and our staff for the way they competed today and the season they've put together," added the Butler coach.

Tennessee State, out of the Ohio Valley Conference, jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Michael German to Ryan Mitchell, and then extended that lead to 10-0 on a 45-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey in the second period.

Butler had its first scoring opportunity late in the first half, when defensive end Jeremy Stephens forced a fumble by German and lineback Phillip Powell returned it 11 yards to the Tennessee State 14-yard line.  But the Tigers' defense held and a 38-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Jon Treloar hit the right upright and bounced out.

Stephens also had a 37-yard fumble return to the TSU 20-yard line in the third period, but again the Tennessee State defense stepped up to the challenge and held the Bulldogs.

"That's why we're playing here today, because we've capitalized on those opportunities all year long," said Voris of the turnovers created by the Bulldogs' defense.  "Our defense has been great at creating turnovers and our turnover takeaway margin has been outstanding.  Throughout the year we were able to capitalize on those, but today we weren't able to do that."

German wound up passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns, while back-up quarterback Ronald Butler came in and tossed a third TD.  The Tigers also picked up a defensive score when Daniel Fitzpatrick came up with a pass interception and returned it 26 yards to the end zone.

Quarterback Matt Lancaster, playing his final game for the Bulldogs, completed 15 of 39 passes for 122 yards, and he added 74 rushing yards on 14 attempts.  Senior running back Trae Heeter, who led the Pioneer Football League in rushing for a second consecutive year, added 64 rushing yards on 12 carries.  Senior wide receiver Brendan Shannon led both teams with five catches for 63 yards.

Powell led Butler's defense with 12 tackles, while linebacker Paul Yanow added 10.

The Bulldogs, who shared the conference championship with Marist, became the first PFL team to appear in the NCAA Division I playoffs.  Butler ended its season with a 9-4 record.

Tennessee State advances to the second round of the playoffs and will face No. 2-seed Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Dec. 7.