College football: Dayton moves on after worst loss in 100 years

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Rick Chamberlin interview (Sept. 22, 2021)

Flyers play home game at 1 p.m. Saturday

The Dayton Flyers football program put a loss to Bethany College behind it in 1921 and didn’t suffer another loss of more than 50 points for 99 years and 11 months.

“The heavy Bethany eleven crushes Dayton 78-0,” a Dayton Daily News headline read on Oct. 23, 1921.

According to the story, Dayton “battled gamely” and “went down fighting yard.” The team didn’t win a game that season until the final week when it beat Ignatius 13-6.

One hundred years later, Dayton hopes to avoid a similar fate. The Flyers lost 55-3 to Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill., last weekend. It was the program’s most lopsided loss since that day in 1921.

“You always want to learn from bad experiences, so we watched the tape,” Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said Wednesday in an interview outside the Frericks Center on campus. “It just came down to they were a much better team than us — physically and speed wise and in execution. They beat us. But you move on. If we had beat them, I would have been saying the same thing to the players on Sunday. All right, we’ve got Presbyterian now. Let’s move on.”

Dayton (1-1) opens Pioneer Football League play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Welcome Stadium against one of the league’s two new members. Presbyterian College (2-1) and the University of St. Thomas, a former Division III program from Minnesota, joined the PFL this fall.

The game Saturday will be the first chance for Dayton to erase the sting of a game that saw it narrowly avoid its first shutout in 45 years.

A 28-yard field goal in the third quarter by Sam Webster extended Dayton’s scoring streak — the longest active streak in college football — to 489 games. Dayton trailed 48-0 when it kicked the field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 10-yard line.

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The scoring streak, which was also in jeopardy when Dayton didn’t score in the first half in a 17-10 season-opening victory against Eastern Illinois, didn’t cross Chamberlin’s mind when he decided to kick the field goal.

“I just thought we were too far away to go for it on fourth down,” he said. “It was getting late in the game. Sam had one blocked earlier. I said, ‘Hey, let’s get him back out there and shore up and make sure we do it better this time. And that’s what we did.”

With the victory, Southern Illinois (2-1) climbed from No. 8 to No. 7 in the Stats Perform Football Championship Subdivision top-25 poll. It has lost only to Kansas State, a Football Bowl Subdivision program which ranks 25th in the Associated Press top 25.

The Salukis outgained Dayton 406-78 on the ground and 252-140 in the air.

“It was a huge learning experience,” cornerback Sam Broom said. “It was a great team. We found some stuff we need to work on, but it’s definitely in the past and we’re looking forward to this week.”