BY JD PELEGRINO
The saying goes: all good things come to an end. Prior to Saturday’s game at home, the Bulldogs were undefeated in the Pioneer Football League and had only lost to the non-conference Montana Grizzlies. The Bulldogs (3-2, 2-1) welcomed the Stetson Hatters (4-1, 2-1) for their third conference matchup of the season. Prior to the Drake-Stetson 2018 matchup, the Bulldogs were undefeated against the Hatters, winning all three games.
The Hatters received the opening kickoff and went to work at the 25-yard line after a Hunter White touchback. After two Stetson punts and one Drake punt, the Bulldogs were the first on the board with a Danny Donley 32-yard field goal. Donley executed two field goals throughout the game and was a crucial part in keeping the Bulldogs in the game.
The Bulldogs held the lead in the game for over 10 minutes, where after two more Drake punts and two Stetson punts, Stetson quarterback Colin McGovern completed a 12-yard pass to the 6-foot-8-inch senior tight end Donald Parham. Followed by the PAT, the Hatters went up on the Bulldogs 7-3.
At this point in the game, there were four more drives to take place in the first half: three resulted in interceptions and one took the game to halftime.
The first interception came from Drake quarterback Grant Kraemer. Kraemer and company put together a 4-play, 40-yard drive, starting on their own 24-yard line. Kraemer pushed the ball to the Stetson 36-yard line with assistance from wide receivers Mitch McFarlane, Steven Doran and running back Braeden Hartwig. On the last play of the drive, redshirt-junior linebacker Jamieson Craske intercepted Kraemer’s pass. The Hatters resumed play on the Drake 31-yard line.
The second interception of the day comes courtesy of McGovern. Stetson RB Matt Taft ran the ball twice on the Hatter drive for 3 total yards before McGovern completed a 5-yard pass to Parham. On fourth-and-2 on the Drake 23-yard line, McGovern dropped back and threw his first pick of the game to none other than the Drake safety Will Warner. Warner was tackled right away on his teams’ own 22. This interception marks Warner’s third of the season. Warner leads the defense with 2 touchdowns in 2018.
The very next drive, Kraemer threw his second pick of the day. This marks the third drive in a row with interceptions in the game. Stetson’s freshman defensive back Dwight Lawrence returned Kraemer’s second pick of the game 45 yards to the Drake 9-yard line, however, another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on the Stetson team resulting in a 20-yard penalty. Stetson’s offense began at the 29-yard line. After three plays and 24 yards, the half was over. Stetson led the Bulldogs 7-3.
Through the second half, both teams slowly put up points on the board in one form or another. On the first two Bulldog drives of the half, Danny Donley kicked a 34-yard field goal to bring the Bulldogs within one point. It was the next drive that Stetson scored a touchdown.
Kraemer and his offense responded with a 7 play, 75-yard drive finishing with an 18-yard McFarlane touchdown reception. At this point, the Bulldogs had only kicked field goals and were down by two. With the help of McFarlane, Kraemer completed a pass for the two-point conversion to tie the Bulldogs with the Hatters 14-14.
Stetson kicker Jonny Messina connected on a 31-yard field goal a few drives later to give the Hatters the lead 17-14. Seven drives later, in the Bulldogs possession, Kraemer set up shop on the Drake 24. Bulldogs wide receiver Devin Cates put the Bulldogs back on top with a 76-yard touchdown reception from Kraemer. The score was 21-17, Drake.
The game had looked sealed up at that point. With 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter, it would seem nearly impossible for Stetson to march down the field and score a touchdown for the win. McGovern completed 4 passes to three different receivers and as time expired, threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Steven Burdette to win the game. The seemingly impossible story, but a reality.
Kraemer finished the game 19 of 36 for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. The 2 interceptions he threw proved crucial in the Bulldog loss on Saturday. Sophomore RB Cross Robinson led the Bulldogs in rushing with 7 carries for 69 yards and WR McFarlane led Drake with 8 receptions for 1 touchdown.
This week Drake looks to bounce back away against PFL conference rival Dayton (3-4, 2-2). The game will begin at 12 p.m. Drake is currently second place behind San Diego (4-2, 3-0) in the PFL according to the Pioneer Football League website. Drake will face San Diego on Nov. 2.