Des Moines, Iowa — The Drake University football team fell to Presbyterian, 28-24, in a close season finale in which the Bulldogs led for 82 percent of the game. This final regular-season game was also Senior Day for Brady Bjorkman, Braeden Hartwig, Conner Furu, Harrison Murray and Ben Nienhuis as they were all honored prior to kickoff in Drake Stadium.
Presbyterian bobbled the handoff on the second play of the game as the Blue Hose committed an early turnover. Will Kulick was the Bulldog that managed to come up with the loose ball. Nathan De Bruin capitalized on this turnover by making a 30-yard field goal.
Presbyterian answered back with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown by Jarius Jeter after the Bulldogs held strong at the goal line, holding the Blue Hose to no gain on the 1-yard line on back-to-back plays. Jacob Richard would then go on to block the extra point to leave Drake down 3-6.
Hunter Wendling responded with absolute perfection. In just three plays, he drove the Bulldogs 67 yards. He began the drive with a 46-yard strike that was hauled in by Colin Howard and then capped it off with a beautiful 19-yard connection to Brandon Langdok in the back of the end zone. This possession gave Drake a 10-6 advantage that they would take into the second quarter.
Declan Carr knocked the ball out of the hands of Presbyterian quarterback, Tyler Huff, on the next drive. Ryan Erickson recovered the ball for the Bulldogs, but they failed to score off this turnover.
The score stalled at the start of the second quarter as each defense began to dominate, forcing three combined punts in a row. This trend would continue until just over five minutes remaining in the first half when Jeter, the Blue Hose’s running back, scored his second touchdown of the day. This score was the result of a grueling drive that lasted 6:22.
Drake was looking at a 13-10 deficit following that score. However, Wendling continued his efficiency following Presbyterian touchdowns. This time he answered with another deep ball that sailed straight into the hands of Colin Howard for a 42-yard touchdown of their own, giving the Bulldogs a 17-13 lead that they would take into halftime.
With half of action yet to be played, Hunter Wendling had already thrown for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Colin Howard led all receivers with 101 yards and he reached the end zone once. Senior Alex Rogers led the Bulldogs with five tackles.
The second half began with a punt from each side. Drake managed to return its punt to Presbyterian’s 40-yard line. The following play, Cross Robinson produced an electrifying 19-yard run. Two plays later, the Bulldogs called in a beautifully executed trick play for six more points.
Wendling handed the ball off to Harrison Murray on a reverse and instead of running, Murray tossed the ball up to Michael Markett who came down with it for the only score of the quarter. The scoreboard displayed 24-13 in Drake’s favor going into the last quarter of the season.
Presbyterian was the first to strike in the fourth quarter on a drive that was sparked by an acrobatic catch from Lawson Bachelder for 35 yards. The Blue Hose were ultimately able to make it to Drake’s 2-yard line after converting a fourth down play and drawing a pass interference call. The Bulldogs would hold them there until fourth down before Brandon Thomas pushed his way into the end zone. Presbyterian went for the two-point conversion and succeeded to narrow Drake’s lead to three points, 24-21.
The Bulldogs prioritized field position as they mainly ran the ball at this point to shave time off of the clock. De Bruin was an excellent tool in this strategy as he pinned the Blue Hose inside their own 1-yard line with 6:14 remaining in the game. This was his third punt of the game to land inside the Presbyterian 3-yard line. Jake Hoper then forced the Blue Hose to punt after a tackle for loss on third and one.
Drake unfortunately had to give the ball back once more with 3:10 left, and Presbyterian began its drive from its own 13-yard line. They saw some hope with a completed 31-yard pass to Keith Pearson. The Bulldogs then held the Blue Hose to a tough fourth down and five. However, Huff managed to scramble for a first down, having to earn every yard. This drive would turn into a 46-yard passing touchdown to Bachelder who crossed the goal line to make the score 28-24 in favor of Presbyterian with just one minute remaining. This was the first Presbyterian lead since the 4:58 mark of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs tried to put together a game-winning drive as best they could, but Hunter Wendling ended up throwing an interception to Keegan Halloran and the Blue Hose ran out the clock for the victory.
Hunter Wendling ended the day completing 15-of-24 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Colin Howard finished with 110 receiving yards while Cross Robinson owned the ground game with 78 yards on 17 rushes. Danny Morales and Will Kulick led all Bulldogs with eight tackles each. Jake Hoper was constantly in the back field, earning himself 3.5 sacks. Drake managed to get 8 sacks total, the most of the season.
Presbyterian totaled 443 yards by the end of the game. Tyler Huff completed 28 of his 49 passes for 365 yards and a touchdown. The Blue Hose had two players with over 100 receiving yards as Keith Pearson and Lawson Bachelder had 173 and 145 yards, respectively. Persbyterian’s leading rusher, Jarius Jeter, was held to only 38 yards rushing.
This was the final game of the spring season in the Pioneer Football League as Drake finished with a 2-3 record. The Bulldogs will continue their hard work in preparation for the start of next season which will begin in the fall.