Photo courtesy of Mark McDonald
A fourth-down touchdown pass and a four-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left propelled Drake to its biggest win of the season last Saturday.
Trailing 24-17 against Jacksonville, which was undefeated in the Pioneer Football League heading into the 1 p.m. contest at Drake Stadium, the Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 PFL) reached the end zone twice in the final four minutes to move into a tie for first place in the conference.
Fifth-year senior running back Pat Cashmore had a career-high 160 yards on 35 carries, also a career high. His second touchdown of the day gave the Bulldogs a 31-24 victory.
“It speaks to the character of our guys,” head coach Chris Creighton said. “They believe in each other and love each other.
“The way that (the win) happened showed what our team is all about.”
The Drake defense recorded four interceptions on the day. Fifth-year senior cornerback Mike Lahart had two picks, including one in his own end zone to stop a Jacksonville (6-3, 5-1 PFL) threat.
Trailing by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs caught a break. Fifth-year kicker Billy Janssen’s punt bounced off a Jacksonville player, and sophomore wide receiver Jacob Dines jumped on the ball at the Drake 46-yard line.
Then senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski shook off a tough game to engineer a 15-play, 54-yard scoring drive. On fourth and goal from the Dolphins’ 8-yard line, Piatkowski found junior wide receiver Joey Orlando to tie the game at 24 with 3:49 left.
“I knew we were going to score on that fourth down,” Cashmore said. “In the end, we put our foot down and got the win.”
Piatkowski completed 17 of 30 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He moved into second place on the Drake all-time career passing list.
With the game tied at 24, the Drake defense forced its biggest turnover of the game. Jacksonville quarterback Josh McGregor, who is the PFL’s all-time leading passer, floated a pass toward the sideline that was picked off by senior cornerback Lyndon Crawford.
Drake then took the ball 58 yards in nine plays to capture the lead for good. Cashmore plunged into the end zone, leaving the Dolphins little time to respond.
It was Cashmore’s fourth 100-yard effort of the season and sixth of his career.
“Pat (Cashmore) is a special guy,” Creighton said. “He wants it so badly…he’s tough, not your typical tailback…but he’s got as good of feet as anybody.”
McGregor was 23 of 37 passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked five times by the Bulldog defense.
McGregor’s first touchdown pass came two plays after a Cashmore fumble on a 39-yard strike to put Jacksonville up 7-3 in the second quarter. After adding a field goal, Piatkowski responded with a 28-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Drew Blackmon to tie the game at 10 with 5:09 left in the first half. Blackmon led the Bulldogs’ receivers with 86 yards on four catches.
Senior Nick Chenier’s interception set up a Drake score to give the Bulldogs the lead heading into the locker room. Cashmore scored his first touchdown of the game from one yard out with 1:02 left in the second quarter to put Drake on top 17-10.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, but Jacksonville converted after Piatkowski’s second interception. Jacksonville defensive back Andre Addison returned the interception to the Drake 21, and McGregor connected with Larry Thompson two plays later for a 16-yard score to tie the game at 17 with 3:33 left in the third.
The Dolphins grabbed the lead on a 48-yard touchdown pass from McGregor to Josh Philpart with 10:46 left in the contest.
Drake closes the season this Saturday against Dayton. If the Bulldogs win, they clinch a share of the PFL title. The team’s lone loss came to San Diego, who also has one loss in PFL play. San Diego hosts Jacksonville on Nov. 19. If Jacksonville wins that contest, and the Bulldogs win Saturday, then Drake will win the tiebreaker for the conference title.
Kick off for Saturday’s game is at 1 p.m.