After what was a low scoring affair in the Bulldogs’ 6-3 win over Butler a week ago, optimism found its way into the mind of every Bulldogs football fan. Those optimistic thoughts were quickly forgotten as the Drake football team took a tough loss to Dayton this past weekend, trailing 28-10 when the game clock struck zero.
The loss brings the Bulldogs to a 1-2 record in conference play, with an overall record of 2-4 on the season. That record sets the Bulldogs up in eighth place within the Pioneer Football League.
While many are quick to assume that defensive issues have led to the Bulldogs’ low overall ranking, this is far from the case. The Bulldogs hold a point total of 37, the third least in conference play above Stetson’s 31 and Butler’s 24. Dayton leads this category with 129 points scored over just three conference games.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs are currently allowing roughly 18 points per game in total through three conference games. When defensive and special team scores are taken out, the total is even lower. This ranks just above average within the Pioneer Football League.
Clearly, the Bulldogs are not losing games due primarily to their defensive ability, but instead due to their lack of offensive production. A portion of the Bulldogs’ offensive struggles can be pinned on their injury struggles as the team is currently rallying behind third–string freshman quarterback Blake Ellingson following injuries to both Ian Corwin and Luke Bailey.
The issue does not solely sprout from the Bulldogs’ quarterback situation, as Ellingson put on a statistically impressive performance with 292 scrimmage yards and a touchdown with no turnovers on gameday.
Following the Bulldogs tight win over Butler a week ago, quarterback Blake Ellingson identified improved offensive production as a must for the team moving forward.
“Offensively, we will have to string together better possessions and eliminate mistakes in order to put up more points and take down Dayton,” Ellingson said.
While Ellingson continued to focus on ball security against Dayton by not turning the ball over, the Bulldogs’ special teams made an early mistake that triggered an avalanche of offensive prowess from Dayton.
Just over two minutes into the second quarter, the Bulldogs center snapped the ball high over punter Shane Dunning’s head, quickly resulting in a fumble recovery by Dayton in the Bulldogs’ endzone. Dayton was able to capitalize on this mistake and this costly touchdown shifted the game’s momentum early in the second quarter.
Sitting at 1-2 in conference play with just five games remaining, climbing back into contention is a tall task. In order to do so, freshman defensive lineman Ben Kujawa believes that prioritizing fundamentally sound football is the key moving forward.
“I think as a team we need to all just own our jobs. Our staff preaches a lot that no job is too big or too small, we all need to give an all-American effort in what we do,” Kujawa said. “Whether some guy is starting or a scout team player, they just need to own their job; nothing more, nothing less.”
This focus on the fundamentals of football may be just what the Bulldogs need as they continue to struggle with simple mistakes. If the Bulldogs can refrain from taking themselves out of games early through turnovers and miscommunication, they may just have a chance to turn their season around before it becomes too late.