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Drake football loses back-to-back games to open their season

The Drake football team fell to the Northwestern Iowa Red Raiders after an overtime visit. Photo courtesy of Sarah Fey Media

On Sept. 2, the Drake football team traveled to North Dakota University for the kickoff of its season, a matchup that had Drake fans hopeful for a win.  

Going into this game, the Bulldogs knew they would have a challenge on their hands. The North Dakota Fighting Hawks were not only ranked No. 17 in the nation, but the game would also be played on North Dakota’s home turf. 

Spirits were high heading in as this game would be both teams’ first game of the year, and although this game would take many twists and turns, it was a game to watch from both sides.  

After a scoreless first quarter for both teams, the Fighting Hawks came out ready to rumble with two touchdowns in the second quarter, creating  momentum for them that would snowball throughout the game. The third quarter would see another four touchdowns for North Dakota, leading to a 41-0 Fighting Hawks lead going into the fourth and final quarter. 

The fourth quarter would see a touchdown for the Bulldogs by a clean pass from quarterback Luke Bailey to former quarterback-turned-receiver Ian Corwin with only 12 minutes left in the game. With a scoring shift and another few plays to go, the game ended in a loss for the Bulldogs with a final score of 55-7 that was anything but easy to stomach for the team. 

“The outcome was not what we wanted, and we felt like the score didn’t depict what our team is capable of doing. Offensively, we had some good drives but kept shooting ourselves in the foot. There were many missed opportunities, and a lot of points to be had, but we will learn from those mistakes,” Bailey said. “This week we’ll continue to make corrections and maintain a positive mindset while we prepare for a good Northwestern team.”  

Although this game didn’t go the way the team had hoped to kick off its season, the takeaways from this game were evident to the players and coaches and were taken as learning curves and focus points for the season to come. Despite what has been said about the team after this loss, the Bulldogs are keeping their heads up and focusing on what is most important.  

“We obviously know that preparing for a ranked team in [the] FCS and losing in the way we did leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. In saying that, we have to be able to turn the page and continue to push and do everything in our power to ensure that we come out with a win this week,” first-year running back Javon Murry said. “We’re focused and although we hear all of the negative things about our team, we remain true to each other and stay committed to the goals we set way before this season started.”  

Looking away from the overarching negatives connected to the game, it is notable that quarterback Luke Bailey threw 194 yards against the Fighting Hawks along with a touchdown while graduate student wide receiver Colin Howard saw five receptions for 100 yards during the season opener.  

The following weekend, the Drake Bulldogs looked to reverse the script at the Drake Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. against the Northwestern College Red Raiders. 

The Bulldogs had their hands full with the Red Raiders as they were the defending NAIA champions going into the game, and this game proved to be quite the rollercoaster. 

The game started off slow with minimal ball movement in the first half of the game with two Drake touchdowns and a few spare points picked up by the Raiders. For the first time this season, the Bulldogs went into the second half in the lead with a 14-10 score. This was a huge boost going into the locker room at the half, but this wouldn’t be the end of the Bulldog’s fight. 

The second half was one for the books. Drake and the Red Raiders both battled it out in the second half with grit and pure determination to come out with the win in any way they could. At the end of the game, the score was 21-21 and the overtime performance was one to remember. With a strong field goal by the Bulldogs with only a few seconds remaining, it seemed like the game would end clean, but that was far from the truth. In the last seconds, the Red Raiders delivered the ball right to the end zone for a jaw-dropping 27-24 win over the Drake Bulldogs. 

“It was a game that we thought that we had in the end, and unfortunately, we have to give them a lot of credit there. There is a reason why they are the defending champs. They know how to win,” Drake head coach Todd Stepsis said. 

This loss was a crushing force for the Bulldogs, but with every loss comes a lesson learned and a new skill to master before the next week’s matchup. 

“It is the same message whether a win or a loss. It is all about how you come back and how you get up when you are knocked down and how you continue to move forward when things aren’t going well,” Stepsis said. “Our team has a tough opponent next week and another defending champion, so we have to have a great day tomorrow in the weight room and a great day in the classroom to learn from the mistakes we had because at the end of the day, it is going to be hard.” 

On Sept. 16 at 2:30 p.m., the Drake Bulldogs will be leaving the Dog Pound to compete against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Target Field in Minneapolis. 

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1 Comment

  1. Jame Smith September 15, 2023

    This was an interesting and well written article.

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