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Bulldogs look to rebound in home opener

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Photo: File photo

Last Thursday, the Drake football team opened its 2011 campaign with a 16-0 loss at North Dakota. Now the Bulldogs turn their attention to Grand View for the squad’s home opener this Saturday at Drake Stadium. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m.

“It’s going to be great,” senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski said about the two Des Moines teams clashing for the second time in three seasons. “Last time it was the best atmosphere we had in a while. It’s good to have the people of Des Moines come out.”

In the team’s opener, North Dakota capitalized off a few Drake miscues to emerge victorious. The Bulldogs fumbled away a snap on the North Dakota 4-yard-line, had a field goal blocked and had a costly roughing the punter penalty.

Piatkowski tossed 30 passes and completed 21 for 201 yards. He also threw one interception, but made a touchdown-saving tackle after committing the turnover. The Drake defense held North Dakota to just a field goal after the pick.

The Bulldog offense had some success moving the ball, but could not scratch the scoreboard. Head coach Chris Creighton said his team’s mistakes were the difference in the game.

“I don’t think the best team won last Thursday night,” he said. “But you’ve got to go out and play.”

Senior Nathan Paddock had six receptions for 70 yards. Sophomore Travis Merritt led the defense with seven total tackles. Junior defensive end Brandon Coleman registered 3.0 sacks and earned an honorable mention consideration for Defensive Lineman Performer of the Week from the College Football Performance Awards.

Creighton said even though he was disappointed with the team’s errors, he feels they are fixable mistakes.

“They didn’t make us fumble the ball on the snap,” he said. “They didn’t make us rough their punter. Those were key plays we had total control over. It’s back to basics and fundamentals. The biggest improvement usually comes between week one and week two.”

Despite the loss, Drake has to be satisfied with its overall performance against one of the better teams in Division I-AA. Now the Bulldogs have to deal with a previously nationally ranked team in NAIA, which is lower than Division-I standing. Creighton, however, believes the level attached to the team is “overrated.”

“I’ve coached at three different levels,” Creighton said. “If you’re a college athlete, you’re good. (Grand View) is very well coached. They play so hard.”

In 2009, Drake ousted Grand View 22-0 when the Vikings were just getting started as a football program. Both Creighton and Piatkowski agree that the team they will see this Saturday will be much different than the squad they faced two years ago.

“They’re older. They were young guys two years ago,” Creighton said. “Now they are better football players.”

Grand View is 1-1 this season, with a 48-14 victory over Black Hills State and a 19-14 loss versus Marian, the sixth-ranked squad in NAIA.

One of the team’s top weapons is dual-threat quarterback Greg Charles. Charles was named the Mid-States Football Association Offensive Player of the Week in the team’s lone victory. The Vikings also feature a stingy defense that has drawn the attention of the Drake coaching staff.

“We’re not taking them lightly,” Piatkowski said. “They’re a great team…We’re not thinking about who is the underdog or who is expected to win.”

The Bulldogs struggled to maintain a running attack against North Dakota, but Creighton said after the first two offensive plays the ground game started rolling. He said that some weeks the team will have to pass to set up the run, rather than the traditional run to set up the pass.

Creighton said he is excited to return to Drake’s home turf. He said he is satisfied with having two early home games on the schedule, then one on the road before coming back for homecoming. He said the schedule for the early part of the season is “ideal” for his squad.

“(Saturday) should be very competitive,” Creighton said. “There should be a great crowd. Under the lights, it feels like a stage.”

Upcoming Games

Saturday, Sept. 10

vs. Grand View

Drake Stadium, 6 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 17

vs. Missouri S&T

Drake Stadium, 6 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 24

@ Butler, 11 a.m.

SATURDAY, OCT. 1

vs. Campbell

Drake Stadium, 1 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCT. 8

@ Morehead State, 12 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCT. 15

@ San Diego, 3 p.m.

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