By JD PELEGRINO
The Drake football team is officially ruled out of conference championship contention with the home loss to Dayton on Saturday. Freshman quarterback Ian Corwin and the rest of the Bulldogs came out ready to play in the first quarter and into the second quarter, but then things went wrong. Fifth-year running back Drew Lauer lapsed 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season, but it wasn’t enough.
The Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders to begin the game. The same four names that have been mentioned week-in-week-out initiated the Drake’s offensive prowess: Corwin, Lauer, Cates and Feller. Lauer took the game’s first play for a loss of one. He tallied 6 yards rushing on the inaugural drive. Corwin found wide receiver Shane Feller for a 51-yard gain to the Dayton 25-yard line, but because of an illegal block, the ball was moved back to the 40. Corwin hit Cates twice on the drive, first for a 25-yard gain and second for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead after the game’s first possession.
Drake kicked the ball off to Dayton, where running back Jake Chisholm broke out a 20-yard run on his first carry of the game. Next, quarterback Jack Cook completed a 12-yard pass to Ryan Skibinski for 12 yds to the Drake 40 for the Flyers’ second consecutive first down. From there, the Drake defense did its thing. The defense wouldn’t give up, allowing only 5 yards on 3 plays. Field goal kicker Sam Webster trotted out onto the field to attempt a 52-yard field goal, but no good. The Bulldogs retained their 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs got the ball back on their own 35 and Lauer made something of it, rushing for 5 yards on the first play. He rushed for 22 more on the series, including a 13-yard touchdown to cap the drive. The Bulldogs dominant start found them leading the Flyers 14-0 with 4 minutes to play in the first quarter.
Jack Cook and his Dayton offense put together a successful drive completing all 3-of-4 passes for 10-plus yards each time. Chisholm finished off the drive with a 9-yard rushing touchdown for the Flyers’ first score of the game. The Bulldogs held the lead 14-0.
Before the success and good luck ran out for Drake, they were able to get away with one more touchdown. RB Cross Robinson handled second and third downs, accumulating 8 and 12 yards on the ground, respectively. On first down at the Drake 46-yard line, Corwin found WR Mitch McFarlane for a 37-yard gain to the Dayton 17. After a run for no gain by RB Caden Meis, Lauer pounded two runs for 8 and 9 yards each, scoring on the latter. The Bulldogs increased their lead for the last time in the game, 22-7.
Where things went wrong
The Flyers munched out just over 4 minutes on their 8-play, 75-yard drive that saw five Cook carries for 28 yards. Chisholm had one rushing attempt on the drive that resulted in a 23-yard gain. Cook took the ball into the end zone on a 4-yard run. The Flyers began chipping away at the Bulldog lead, 22-14
Corwin came back out onto the field looking to do the same as the offense did the previous drive, score a touchdown. The Bulldogs moved the ball 28 yards downfield and just into Dayton territory to the Dayton 48. Corwin dropping back to pass, threw his first of four interceptions of the game to Dayton’s Brandon Easterling.
On the succeeding drive, resulting from the interception, Dayton put together an 11-play, 65-yard drive that made its way to the Drake 6-yard line. The Drake defense proved resilient forcing a Webster 23-yard field goal. The Bulldogs held the lead 22-17 with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.
Drake Grant Gossling returned a poor kick off by Dayton 19 yards to the Drake 40. With 26 seconds left in the half, the Bulldogs elected to march down the field to put together a scoring drive. Corwin completed a 7-yard pass to Cates to the Drake 47-yard line. On the next play, Corwin completed a 39-yard pass to Feller down to the Dayton 14-yard line. Following a timeout by Drake, the Bulldogs had 15 seconds to travel 14 yards into the end zone. This is just enough time for one or two plays. Corwin on first-and-10 dropped back looking to the goal line, he rifled a pass, but intercepted again by Easterling. The Dayton defensive back returned the pick 100 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half. Cook completed a pass to Adam Trautman for the two-point conversion to give the Flyers a 25-22 lead at the end of the first half.
In the second half, the Bulldogs played defense first. Of their four possessions, they punted, scored a touchdown, and then threw two interceptions. On the other side, a Dayton team that already had a game-lead scored three touchdowns. Dayton’s offense proved to be too much for the Drake defense in the second half and Ian Corwin was his own worst enemy throughout the game.
The only Bulldogs score of the second half came via a 22-yard pass from Corwin to Feller. The Feller TD decreased the Dayton lead to 10 points, 39-29. Things fell apart for Drake at the end of the second quarter and they were never able to regain the momentum in the game that led to a 46-29 Dayton victory.
Corwin completed 20-of-30 passing attempts for 306 yards, averaging 10.2 yards-per-pass. This alone is a great stat line, proving that the QB is capable of leading an offense to a championship season, what comes next is not. To all of Corwin’s success, he only threw 2 TD passes to his 4 interceptions, one of them getting returned for a Dayton touchdown.
Lauer managed 21 carries for 106 yards a 2 touchdowns. Lauer has been one of the only consistent pieces of this offense all season-long. This was Lauer’s fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season and eighth game with 80-plus total yards. Lauer’s 106 yards rushing put him at 1,000 yards on the dot. He now has 11 rushing touchdowns and 13 total.
Drake wide receiver Shane Feller had himself a day, compiling 120 yards on 4 receptions. He averaged 30 yards-per-reception, while adding 1 touchdown on the day. Cates led the team in receptions with 7, also with 1 touchdown. McFarlane was the third and final receiver over 50 yards against Dayton. McFarlane caught 3 passes for 55 yards.
The Drake defense, usually dominant, came out fighting in the first quarter and most of the second, but laid down in the second half. The defensive unit allowed 434 total offensive yards. Dayton earned 212 passing yards and 222 rushing yards throughout the game. Drake’s defense did not force a single turnover, which it has done in almost every game this season.
With Drake’s loss against Dayton, they are eliminated from Pioneer Football League championship contention. They were the only team that stood in the way of dethroning a dynamic San Diego team. San Diego’s 52-20 win over Morehead State clinched their sixth-straight conference title.
Drake is currently in a three-way tie for second place with Davidson and Dayton (both 5-2 in conference).
The Bulldogs head to Davidson, N.C. for their season finale against Davidson. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. The winner of the game will clinch either a tie for seconds place in the PFL or an outright ownership if Dayton loses at home against Butler.