Dayton faces unconventional no-punt team on Saturday

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Dayton Flyers football interviews: Sept. 22, 2021

Presbyterian, a first-year PFL member, is 2-1 under new coach Kevin Kelley

The Dayton Flyers football team has never seen an opponent like Presbyterian College.

Long before Presbyterian hired coach Kevin Kelley in May, he had gained fame at the high school level with an unorthodox strategy that involved rarely punting and often trying onside kicks and two-point conversions instead of kicking deep and attempting extra points.

Kelley has veered a little from his beliefs in his first three games at Presbyterian, which has punted one time but has kicked 13 extra points and attempted only one onside kick. The Blue Hose (2-1) play the Flyers (1-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Welcome Stadium.

“You just prepare like you normally would,” Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said, “but now there’s a little extra that you’ve got to concentrate on.”

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Kelley won nine state championships in 18 years at Pulaski Academy, a private high school in Little Rock, Ark. He developed his unique strategy after analyzing the numbers and deciding giving away possessions by punting didn’t make sense. He earned national headlines over the years and twice appeared on HBO’s “Real Sports.”

“I’m a contrarian,” Kelley said earlier this year. “I think that if everybody thinks it’s one way, oftentimes it is something else. I’m willing to try new things. I’m not risk-averse. Most people are naturally risk-averse. If there’s a decision that can be made, they look at all the things that could go wrong instead of looking at all the things that can go right.”

Chamberlin has prepared Dayton by practicing onside kicks more this week and focusing less on punt returns.

“He’s been very successful with (the strategy),” Chamberlin said. “It wouldn’t fit Rick Chamberlain’s philosophy, but I’m not him. He likes it. His players like it. You go with what works best for your program.”

The early results of Kelley’s thinking at the college level are mixed. Presbyterian routed St. Andrews University, a NAIA program, 84-43 in its opener and then beat another lower division team, the University of Fort Lauderdale, 68-3. Last week, it lost 72-0 at Campbell, a fellow FCS program.

This is Presbyterian’s first season in the Pioneer Football League. It has never played Dayton. This is the first of eight PFL games for both teams. Dayton will try to bounce back from a 55-3 loss at Southern Illinois.

“Our mental preparation is going to be the same,” wide receiver Tyler Mintz said. “We’re going to go into every week preparing to win. But obviously the stakes are a little bit higher now because we are entering into conference play.”

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Rick Chamberlin interview (Sept. 22, 2021)