INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The first foray outside of NCAA Division III in seven years didn't go as planned for the Wittenberg Tigers, who dropped a 49-24 decision at NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Butler.
The Tigers got off to a terrible start, falling behind 14-3 after one quarter before giving up a whopping 28 points in the second. Two of Butler's touchdowns were scored by the Bulldogs' defense as Wittenberg committed four costly first-half turnovers.
Wittenberg recovered over the final 30 minutes, outscoring Butler 21-7. It wasn't enough, however, as the Tigers lost their season opener, while the Bulldogs evened their record at 1-1 after starting with a 55-14 loss at South Dakota State a week earlier.
Senior quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern) had a tough day, as he was charged with two fumbles and two interceptions. But he showed leadership and resiliency in the second half, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and running for another score. For the game, Florence finished 26-of-40 for 298 yards through the air, in addition to 15 carries for 38 yards.
Only four Wittenberg players caught a pass in the game, but all were extremely productive. Senior Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont) led with eight catches for 95 yards, followed by junior Zac Wilson (Eaton, Ohio/Eaton) with seven receptions for 86 yards, senior Jonathan Stoner (Bowling Green, Ohio/Bowling Green) with eight catches for 72 yards and a score, and sophomore running back Jimmy Dehnke (Canton, Ohio/Massillon Jackson) with four receptions for 54 yards and a TD.
On the other side, Butler quarterback Matt Lancaster was efficient with 13-of-17 passing for 205 yards and four touchdowns in just one half of work. The Bulldogs did most of their damage in the second half on the ground, pushing their game total to 213 rushing yards on 39 attempts.
Defensively, senior linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) led with nine tackles. Junior linebacker Nick Gibson (Marysville, Ohio/Marysville) added seven tackles, an interception and a pass broken up.
The trip to Indiana was the first of three to the Hoosier state for Wittenberg in the 2013 season. After a week off, the Tigers return to action at North Coast Athletic Conference rival DePauw on Saturday, Sept. 21.