Not much has come easy for the Dayton Flyers this season, and that pattern held Saturday on Senior Day against Marist.
But the result, a 28-21 victory at Welcome Stadium, was familiar enough as the Flyers ran their record to 10-0, clinched a share of the Pioneer Football League championship and qualified for the FCS championship playoffs.
Down 21-20 with 3:38 left in the game, the Flyers embarked on a 66-yard drive capped by quarterback Alex Jeske’s seven-yard TD run. After Jeske passed to Jared Ruffing for a two-point conversion, UD led by seven with less than a minute to play.
Marist then drove to the Dayton 31-yard-line, but one final pass toward the end zone fell incomplete s and the Flyers had overcome their seventh second-half deficit of the season.
“That’s been our character all year,” UD coach Rick Chamberlin said in the postgame celebration. “They keep their poise and stay within the plan and execute.”
Tucker Yinger certainly did his part. The redshirt freshman ripped off a 48-yard run on the winning drive and finished with 237 yards on 23 carries.
With a PFL title on the line, UD started fast. Three plays into the game Christian Searles stepped in front of a deflected pass at midfield and raced the other way untouched for a 7-0 lead.
Dayton tacked on a first-quarter field goal and then, early in the second quarter, faced 4th-and-2 at the Marist 16 when Jack Adams found a hole off the left side and ran it in for a 17-0 halftime lead.
Marist responded quickly in the third quarter, taking advantage of a 41-yard punt return, which led to the first of Marcellus Calhoun’s three touchdowns.
Penalties pinned the Flyers deep in their own territory on the ensuing possession. After a punt, Marist started in Dayton territory and eventually faced 4th-and-goal at the 3 when Calhoun’s second score sliced the lead to 17-14.
The Flyers got some breathing room in the final minute of the third quarter when William Will’s 30-yard field goal expanded the lead to 20-14 heading to the fourth.
Calhoun’s third TD on a 1-yard run gave Marist its first and only lead, 21-20, before Dayton mounted the game-winning push.
The Flyers claimed their 12th PFL title despite being outgained 504-368. A win at Drake next week would cap their first unbeaten regular season since 1996.
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