DAYTON, Ohio—Morehead State’s halftime adjustments just about overcame 24-point halftime deficit, but Dayton was able to hold on and defeat Morehead State 34-28 Saturday afternoon in a Pioneer Football League game at Welcome Stadium.
MSU outscored Dayton 28-10 in the second half and needed just one more touchdown to complete the rally, but the Eagles ran out of time.
“We got back in it, had our shot, had our chances,” MSU coach Matt Ballard said. “If we execute just a bit better, specifically there in the fourth quarter, we probably pull this thing out.”
The Eagles had 41 total yards of offense at the end of the first half, but added 310 yards in the second half to finish with 351. Quarterback Zach Lewis, who had just 35 yards passing in the first half, surged to finish with 349 yards on 20-31 passing with one interception. All four of Lewis’ touchdown passes were 35 yards or longer. Andre Williams totaled 101 yards and two touchdowns on two receptions.
“We settled in, relaxed and started playing football,” Ballard said. We really didn’t make any major changes. We had so many mental mistakes and busts in the first half it was ridiculous. We didn’t do anything right.
“Second half I don’t know if pressure was off, but we just went out there and played football. You just cannot spot a Dayton. You cannot turn ball over, you can’t make mental mistakes or you’ll get your tail whipped.”
Dayton struck on its first drive, spurred by a fourth down, 24-yard scramble by Valentino that took the ball to the one yard line. Valentino punched it in the end zone on the next play on a qb keeper. A Nick Glavine field goal made it 10-0 just after the start of the second quarter
A fumble by Zach Lewis on the MSU 11 gave Dayton a short field, which the Flyers converted into six points on a one-yard rush by Brian Mack for a 17-0 lead. UD extended the lead right before halftime on a seven-yard, 2:25 drive that Dan Jacob finished off with a 12-yard scoring run.
MSU moved the ball well to open the second quarter, but Matt Pfleger stepped under a Lewis pass into the end zone, intended for Donte Sawyer and ended the drive with an interception.
After stopping the Flyers on the next drive Morehead State cut into the Dayton lead on a 66-yard pass from Lewis to Williams. Williams came back on the ball to make the catch, spun out of a tackle at the 30 yard-line and raced in for the end zone.
Lewis and Williams hooked up again early in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard passing play. Lewis found a wide open Williams on the 10-yard line and Williams scampered into for the Eagles’ second passing score.
Dayton tried to kill the MSU rally with a 50-yard pass from Valentino to Luke Bellman, who came open after Kameron Scott got tripped up in coverage. The Eagles kept the rally alive by immediately responding when Lewis dumped a short screen pass to Desmond Cox on the following drive, which Cox turned into a 69-yard touchdown run, slipping into the secondary and then outrunning the Flyer defense.
Another Morehead State touchdown brought the Eagles within six points with a little over four minutes to play. Lewis found Sawyer, his favorite target last weekend, open down the sidelines for a 41-yard touchdown pass. That was MSU’s final score in the rally attempt.
Dayton took a final drive and ground out the clock to endure for the win.
Tony Bachman finished with 13 tackles to lead the Eagles.
Valentino finished 18-for-37 with 243 yards and one passing touchdown. He also had 20 carries for 81 yards.
Morehead State travels to PFL foe Marist next week. It will be the Eagles’ first-ever trip to Poughkeepsie, N.Y.