UD finished on a winning note in a familiar fashion. They simply outscored the Butler Bulldogs Saturday to move their record to 8-3…and their focus to improving their defense in 2020.
On a cold, blustery, and rainy Saturday afternoon UD entertained the 1,500 that showed up to watch on senior day by amassing 38 points and 400 total yards by halftime – and 608 yards by game’s end. But they also kept the faithful on the edge of their wet seats for most of the second half as Butler came storming back to nip at the Flyers heels with 38 points and 519 yards of their own – outscoring the Flyers 21-13 in the second half.
The suspense was softened somewhat by a pair of records that were well appreciated. Senior tight end Adam Trautman caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown to become the all-time leader in pass receptions for a season, with 70.
And the Flyers’ 51 points established a new record for points scored in a season.
In addition, fellow senior Sean Prophit went out on a high note with 133 rushing yards on just six carries. And sophomore quarterback Jack Cook continued to sizzle with another 273 yards (19 of 28) and four touchdowns.
As per their norm they ran up yards and points at a dizzying pace.
After Butler had opened scoring with a 35 yard field goal, Ryan Skibinski (8 catches for 144 yards and 3 TDs) scored quickly on a pass from Jack Cook to give the Flyers a 7-3 lead.
Then Trautman gathered in a touchdown from Cook at the 4:10 mark of the quarter to make it 14-3.
Freshman kicker Sam Webster connected from 31 yards to extend the lead to 17-3.
Skibinski again, opened the second quarter on a 9-yard pass from Cook to make the score 24-3.
And three minutes later, Skibinski and Cook connected one more time at 8:39 on a 38-yard bomb to make it 31-3.
Sean Prophit would score on a 4-yard run to push the point total to 38 by the end of the half.
Then Cook would score to open the third quarter on a 4-yard run to push it to 45.
Webster would connect on his second field goal, and the total rose to 48.
And then the talented freshman hit another, his third, from 30 yards, to finally eclipse 50 (51).
But while all this was happening, Butler quarterback Nick Orlando would score five touchdowns of his own, all on the ground, making the Flyer defense flail in frustration trying to tackle him. Orlando, a former UD recruit, would gradually cut into the Dayton lead, scoring 6 points each time to Webster’s answering 3 (on second half field goals) as the Bulldogs crept closer and closer. The rains intensified as the clock continued to run, and to those capable of doing the math…the 51-38 final score amounted to what looked like Butler simply running out of time.
“I don’t want to see any more of Nick Orlando,” said Flyer coach Rick Chamberlin afterwards. “And the thing is, we recruited him. We wanted him here at Dayton, but it didn’t work out. He felt like Butler was the best situation for him, and he proved it here today. They kept running that counter play where he has a couple of blockers in front of him, and our guys did a good job of filling their gaps, but he was patient and simply made some good plays.”
As with their previous seven wins, and all those points, on Saturday the Flyers again needed each of the 51 they scored by game’s end to secure the win.
“Every one of them,” added Chamberlin. “And it’s been that way every week. And we knew coming in this year that our offense would be our strength. We had talent and experience, and an offensive line that had played together for three years. We knew we would have to score points because our defense this year simply did not live up to our expectations.”
But a win, they say, is a win. And their 8-3 record for 2019 is a significant improvement on last year’s 6-5 mark.
“Credit the seniors for coming together over the winter and deciding that they were going to make improvements,” credited Chamberlin.
And one of those, of course, was Adam Trautman, who left Welcome Stadium Saturday as the all-time touchdown reception leader, as well as leader for most catches in a season.
“We were helped by our offensive coaches,” said Trautman following the game. “They’ve done a great job of putting us in good situations – Coach Hoying – and they know how to create mismatches for me and Ryan Skibinski, and the other guys, so today definitely means a lot. Hopefully the record (70 catches) stands for a while.”
Sean Prophit spoke of his own day, his own career, and of how 8-3 and a second place finish in the Pioneer League standings will lead to bigger and better things.
“Today’s really special to me and our whole senior class,” said Prophit. “It’s crazy to think about four years already and how far we’ve come. Today it’s bitter-sweet for me, but it was great to come out and play well for one last time. Our defense has had some struggles this year, for sure, and it was great to be able to respond no matter what, and score on every possession if that’s what it takes to win. That mindset has helped get us to 8-3 this year.”
And the experience of playing alongside Adam Trautman, who’s attracted the attention of nearly every NFL scout during his senior year?
“It’s crazy to see him on the highlight films,” said Prophit. “But I remember seeing him in the first game of the year jumping over some big linebacker at Indiana State and he looked like a blue whale jumping out of the water to catch a pass. He’s crazy athletic for his size, and I’m just excited to see what he can do in the future.”
But as the rains came Saturday and the Flyers made the walk across the parking lot to their locker room in UD Arena for the final time in 2019, the immediate future was already on Rick Chamberlin’s mind – and what to do about the defense in 2020, one that gave up points this year almost as fast as the offense could score.
“What we need to do is work on technique throughout the winter,” said Chamberlin. “And when get into spring we’re going to put some guys out there to see what they can do. We want to see if they can execute, and if they can’t the next guy goes in because we just can’t let the same guy keep playing if he’s not doing the job. We’ll use somebody else, and I don’t care if it’s a freshman or sophomore and it’s a senior that’s not doing the job. We’re going to play the best people.”
Translation: There’s going to be some competition for playing time from day one, and you could almost see the wheels turning in the coach’s mind as he tactfully outlined the off-season agenda. But in the meantime…the Flyers concluded their season with a 33% improvement over 2018. And with a talented group of underclassmen coming back, including Jack Cook and Jake Chisholm, who had 171 yards rushing Saturday on 21 carries – and the promise of improvement in next year’s defense – just one more win for 2020 could change the picture entirely. They finished on a four-game winning streak and they were talking about extending it – and more – as they left the locker room Saturday.
That, and who might be the next Adam Trautman, or Sean Prophit. Rick Chamberlin, for one, would like to know.