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Close calls overshadow Drake’s third-place finish in PFL

Last Saturday, the Drake Bulldogs’ football season came to a close with a 10-7 victory over Butler. Drake had a successful season, ending with an overall record of 7-4 and a Pioneer Football League record of 6-2. This season was filled with close games, significant plays, an exploding defense, which in turn helped propel a strong offense, and an overall team effort that pushed the Bulldogs to end the season third in the PFL.

There were several nail-biters this season, due to numerous games in which the outcome depended on unexpected, game-changing plays.
“There are some plays you wish you could have back and then plays that propel you to really win,” Head Coach Chris Creighton said.

After a loss in the home opener against Lehigh, Drake spent three consecutive weeks on the road. The Bulldogs returned to Drake Stadium for the homecoming game against Marist. In the first quarter, senior Michael Lahart got momentum going with a 49-yard punt return for a touchdown. Lahart’s return was the first Drake punt return for a touchdown since 2005. The Bulldogs ended up maintaining that driving force throughout the game and shut the Red Foxes out by a score of 42-0.

Throughout the season, junior quarterback Mike Piatkowski showed off his skills by completing 161 passes for 1,854 yards and 15 touchdowns. In a win against Davidson, Piatkowski contributed with his arm and his legs. On the team’s last possession, fifth-year senior kicker Mitch Rasmussen’s field goal attempt was blocked and recovered by Piatkowski, who ran the ball in for a touchdown to win 42-10.

Drake’s defense was a driving force this season with a total of 33 sacks, nine fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions. Fifth-year senior Dain Taylor led the charge with 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown. Taylor will arguably go down as one of the best defensive ends in Drake history.

In the game against San Diego, which Creighton said was one of the most important wins of the season, an early burst of energy, which potentially prevented San Diego from a scoring drive, started off the action for the Bulldogs.

On San Diego’s first possession, fifth-year senior middle linebacker Ben Morrison intercepted a pass and ran 95 yards down the field for a touchdown. Drake’s 38-17 triumph over San Diego was its third win in a row, preceded by wins over Campbell and Davidson.

“San Diego has been so good in the last decade and to beat them was good for our program,” Creighton said.

One of the most significant games of the season, against PFL co-champion Dayton, ended in a surprising play by the Flyers at literally the last second. Drake scored with a 27-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the game to go up 25-24, which appeared to be the play that would win the game. Unfortunately for Drake, Dayton came back in the final possession of the game to score the game-winning touchdown on a 37-yard pass with one second on the clock, bringing the final score to 31-25.

The Bulldogs will lose eight seniors: co-captains Andrew Asbell, Ben Morrison, Steve Platek and Taylor, along with Matt Hancock, Lucas Mosier, Josh Walkup and Rasmussen.

“[We had a] really strong group of fifth-year seniors that we’ll miss for sure, but one of the things they’ve done is left a better foundation for continued success, and when they addressed the team on Monday, they said they thought the team would win a championship.

“We plan on trying to continue to get better on the field and off; grow the program, get more people excited about football and win championships,” Creighton said.

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