Alec Keathley caught the perfectly-placed pass from Dante Casciola in stride near the 20-yard line in front of the Dayton Flyers bench and sprinted for a 45-yard touchdown at Welcome Stadium. He slapped hands with Gavin Lochlow, the first teammate to reach him, and then jumped to bump chests with Sam Bubonics.
“It’s been a while since I had scored,” Keathley said Wednesday, “so it felt great to open my eyes and just see the blue end zone there.”
Keathley, a redshirt junior tight end from Knoxville, Tenn., was one of five players to score their first career college touchdowns Saturday in a 62-24 victory against Central State. Lochlow, a freshman wide receiver who caught one touchdown pass in high school while throwing for 62 scores and running for 49, scored the first touchdown of the game on a 26-yard pass from Casciola.
In the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman defensive end Chase Brown returned a fumble 32 yards for a score. Then Dow, a redshirt senior, ran 1 yard for his first touchdown. Redshirt junior safety Jacob Schachte finished the scoring with a 76-yard interception return.
Those touchdowns and three others by Michael Neel, Joey Swanson and Sam Bubonics, plus two field goals by Sam Webster, added up to quite the reversal of fortune for Dayton, which suffered a 41-0 loss at Indiana State in Week 1.
“The first week, it was a little rough,” Keathley said. “We were moving the ball, but we just couldn’t capitalize and get some points. Coming out this week and scoring a lot of points, it just felt good to boost the confidence really of everyone on the team.”
In Week 3, Dayton (1-1) plays Taylor University (1-2), a NAIA program from Upland, Ind., at 1 p.m. Saturday at Welcome Stadium. It’s the second meeting between the programs and first since Nov. 10, 1984, when Dayton set a school record with 567 rushing yards in a 62-3 victory at Welcome Stadium. The Flyers completed a 10-0 regular season that day.
Taylor finished 5-6 last season and has suffered seven straight losing seasons. It was picked to finish sixth out of eight teams in the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League Preseason Poll.
Taylor beat St. Ambrose University (Iowa) 37-34 on a 24-yard touchdown run Damon Hockett with nine seconds left in its opener. It lost 54-14 at Concordia University (Mich.) in its second game and fell 41-13 at Butler last week.
Taylor coach Aaron Mingo, in his third season, runs an option offense that could present challenges for Dayton.
“It’s going to be assignment football for us, defensively,” Dayton coach Trevor Andrews said. “They’ve got a very experienced group coming back. You look at the depth chart, and it’s returning starter after returning starter.”
Seven players have carried the ball 10 or more times for Taylor in three games.
“It’s always a challenge when you go against that offense because you don’t see it very often anymore,” Andrews said.
To prepare, Andrews planned to take the football out of practice for the defense this week, reminding everyone to not “get lazy with their eyes.”
“You’ve got to get your eyes where they’re supposed to be and do your job,” Andrews said, “and it’s got to be all 11 doing their job because if somebody takes a play off, that’s when they get you.”