Dayton Flyers safety Brandon Easterling had one thought when he saw Presbyterian’s lead grow to 23-0 last weekend at Welcome Stadium.
“Yikes,” he said.
Easterling had a diving interception erased by a penalty on the first drive by the Blue Hose and then grew frustrated as everything about Presbyterian coach Kevin Kelley’s unorthodox strategies worked out in the opening quarter.
“In my opinion, going into the game, I thought we were the better team,” Easterling said. “But they came out and hit us right in the mouth. We were sitting on the bench., and we talked and we were like, ‘Listen, we’ve got a lot of football left. This isn’t over.’ We adjusted. We picked up the speed, and obviously the rest is kind of history.”
Dayton (2-1) scored the next 49 points and coasted to a 63-43 victory in its Pioneer Football League opener. This week, it plays its first PFL road game, facing Morehead State (1-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Kentucky. The game will air on ESPN+.
This will be the first PFL game of the season for Morehead. The Eagles opened the season with a 68-10 loss to James Madison, which ranks third in the Football Championship Subdivision poll. They then routed Point University, a NAIA program, 62-9. Last week, they played another ranked team, losing 59-35 at No. 19 Austin Peay.
Dayton leads the series against Morehead State 19-6 and has won the last two matchups, including a 49-35 victory at Morehead in 2019. The Eagles were picked to finish seventh, three spots behind Dayton, in the PFL preseason poll.
One of the players to watch from Morehead is quarterback Mark Pappas, who ranks ninth in program history in career passing yards (4,300). Two years ago, he completed 23 of 42 passes for 354 yards and threw three touchdown passes and two interceptions against Dayton.
“They’re an athletic team,” Easterling said. “They don’t necessarily do the crazy things we saw last week. They kind of stick to their guns, but what they do they do really well. In my five years, in my opinion, this is probably the best Morehead State team I’ve seen. We’ll definitely have our hands full.”
Dayton counters with an offense that scored 20 points in its first two games, failing to score in the first half of either game, and then exploded with 35 points in the last 16 minutes of the first half against Presbyterian.
“We’ve taken steps both offensively and defensively and in our special teams,” Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said, “but we’re not there yet. Our players will tell you we haven’t played our best complete game yet, whether you’re talking about for four quarters or on one side of the ball or the other. We have to keep growing and we are getting closer. Hopefully, this Saturday will be that game.”
Time change: Dayton’s home game against Marist on Oct. 16 will start at noon instead of 1 p.m. to accommodate a change in Marist’s flight time later that day.
This will be the annual Alumni Game as all alums of the Dayton program will be invited back. Members of the 1980 Division III national championship team and the 1991 Division III runner-up team will be the guests of honor.
Award news: Easterling was one of 176 players from across the nation named as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy this week. The award, known as the Academic Heisman, recognizes a student-athlete who ‘best exemplifies academic success alongside football performance and community leadership.”
Dayton has had a Campbell Trophy semifinalist for 16 straight years, and Easterling was also on the list last year. He’s the program’s first two-time semifinalist.
Dayton at Morehead State, 2 p.m., ESPN+, 1290, 95.7