Dayton defensive back Christian Searles. MIKE HARTSOCK/FILE PHOTO

College Football: Searles a bright spot for Dayton Flyers

It’s certainly not the way Christian Searles saw his senior season at the University of Dayton playing out.

The Flyers preseason All-America cornerback and kick returner was hoping to add another Pioneer Football League championship to his resume, but now the final month of his college career is more about finding a way to avoid a rare losing season.

The Flyers (2-5 overall, 1-3 PFL) travel to Davidson (2-4, 0-3) on Saturday.

»RELATED: Flyers fall to 2-5 with loss to Camels

“It’s definitely not the season you plan and work for,” Searles said. “You’ve got to roll with the punches. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and we have a lot to learn from, which is encouraging because we can still get a lot better.”

Searles stepped into a starting role quickly as a true freshman — unusual because 90 percent of incoming UD freshmen use a redshirt season to adapt to college football.

The last two seasons Searles teamed with Cameron Stubbs to form an All-PFL tandem at cornerback. With Stubbs gone to graduation, opponents have been more willing to test the Dayton defense away from where Searles lines up.

“In certain games I haven’t gotten as many opportunities,” he said. “Last week Campbell came at me more than other teams so I have to stay ready. I can’t think a team is not going to go at me, because that’s when you get beat.”

Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said when he was recruiting Searles he only needed to watch about 10 plays on tape to realize the Chicago native could contribute quickly on defense and special teams.

“We haven’t had many guys who can play the corner position like he can and return kicks,” Chamberlin said. “I really think he might be one of the best punt returners we’ve ever had here at Dayton.”

Searles ranks third in the PFL in punt returns this season, including his first-ever return for a touchdown at any level last month against Duquesne. He has added kick returns to his role, and although he leads the league in that category, it’s something he hasn’t done much the last two seasons.

“Punt returning there’s no set route, you just kind of make things happen on your own,” Searles said. “With kickoff returns there’s going to be a hole. … You’ve got to be patient, but when it’s there you have to hit it or it’s going to be closed.”

• Dayton leads Davidson 11-1 in the all-time series. The last time the Flyers played at Davidson, in 2014, they pulled out a 56-48, five-overtime win in a game that remains the longest in UD football history.

• The Flyers need to win their final four games to avoid a rare losing season. The 2006 team finished 4-6, and before that you have to go back to 1976 for the last time the Flyers lost more games than they won.

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