Searles’ three picks leads Flyers over Jacksonville

University of Dayton football player Christian Searles intercepted three Jacksonville passes, and the Flyers scored two touchdowns in the final 42 seconds of the first half for in a 36-16 win on the road Saturday.

Dayton fell behind 3-0 early and had just 2 first downs at the end of the first quarter. The Flyers found a rhythm in the second. Alex Jeske threw a touchdown pass to Matt Tunnacliffe to give Dayton the lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Dayton’s Andrew McCormick made a hard hit on Jacksonville returner Torre Parker. Matt Rightnour recovered the fumble. Three plays later Tucker Yinger scored on a 17-yard run.

Now leading 14-3, the Flyer defense began to assert itself.

“We had to make some adjustments, “ coach Rick Chamberlin said. “It’s had to simulate the speed of the spread option in practice, but after a few series we tightened up our assignments and keys.”

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Dayton got the ball back with 2:24 to play in the half at their own 42-yard line, after stopping Jacksonville on 4th and 1. Alex Jeske completed a nine-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Adam Trautman. Willy Will’s extra point try was blocked, ending his school record streak of consecutive PAT’s at 68.

Special teams made another play when Ryan Skibinski recovered another Jacksonville fumble on the return. Jeske threw his third touchdown pass of the half, finding Jack Euritt in the corner and the Flyers led 27-3 at the half.

Will became the Pioneer League’s all-time career leader in field goals in the second half with his 50th from 23 yards. Jacksonville got back into the game thanks to some big plays. Ryan Wells connected with Pernell Rattray for a 79-yard touchdown pass. Prince Gray’s 65-yard punt return then set up Wells’ two-yard touchdown run.

With the lead cut to 14 to begin the fourth, Will kicked his second field goal from 47 yards. Searles caught his third interception of the game on the next drive, giving Dayton the ball at Jacksonville’s 25.

“Coach Foxhad teased me because I was the only secondary guy who didn’t have one yet,” Searles said.

Dayton is now 5-2 and 3-1 in the PFL and will play at Butler on Saturday.

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