The Valparaiso University football team faced its second straight scholarship opponent in Saturday’s home opener, a 42-13 defeat to Central Connecticut at Brown Field. Valpo led for the first 14 minutes, but the Blue Devils leaped ahead midway through the second quarter and never looked back.
How It Happened
- Valpo controlled the ball for 15 plays on the opening drive before CCSU took over after an interception.
- The defense forced a three-and-out on Central Connecticut’s first drive, then Jamari Booker (Kentwood, Mich. / East Kentwood) blocked a punt and picked it up himself before running 30 yards for a touchdown, putting Valpo ahead 6-0. The extra point was missed.
- The defense forced another three-and-out on the second Blue Devil drive. Valpo followed with a 14-play, 83-yard drive that stalled at the CCSU 9-yard line. A 26-yard field goal try hit the right upright, so the score remained 6-0.
- The ensuing Central Connecticut drive finished with QB Aaron Winchester finding Tyshaun James from seven yards out. The PAT put Central Connecticut in front for the first time in the game with 6:09 left in the first half.
- Valpo’s last two drives of the half resulted in an interception and a punt, sandwiched around an 18-yard TD rush by Winchester. The Blue Devils led 14-6 at halftime.
- Booker contributed to another big play by the defense on Central Connecticut’s first drive of the second half. He forced a fumble that was recovered by Michael Scarsella (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso), a turnover that set up a scoring drive for the Valpo offense.
- The aforementioned drive went for 75 yards on 14 plays, the last of which was a 1-yard TD rush by quarterback Chris Duncan (Woodland Hills, Calif. / Woodland Hills-Taft). The point after was good, cutting the lead to one at 14-13.
- The first play of the ensuing drive went for a 75-yard TD run, then a pick six for the Blue Devils extended their lead to 28-13.
- Central Connecticut tacked on two additional TD runs to account for the final margin. One late highlight came with 8:15 remaining when Valpo blocked another punt, this time by Laddie Skarecky (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville Central).
Inside the Game
- Booker led the defense with eight tackles while also forcing a fumble, blocking a punt and returning the blocked punt 30 yards for a touchdown.
- Valpo blocked two kicks on Saturday. For comparison, the last time Valpo had more than two in an entire season was 2015. Entering play on Saturday, The Citadel was the only team in the FCS nation with multiple blocked punts. Penn State, Houston and Memphis are the only teams who have blocked multiple punts this season in FBS, as of the start of play on Saturday.
- Valpo has actually blocked three punts in its last three games going back to last year’s season finale at Stetson. Two of the three have been picked up and returned for touchdowns.
- Duncan’s rushing TD was the fourth of his career, while Booker scored the second touchdown of his career and the first since Oct. 28, 2017, a pick six against Morehead State.
- Kyle Cartales (Loxhatchee, Fla. / Cardinal Newman) was the team’s leading receiver with eight catches for 62 yards. Deuce Larose (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Cardinal Gibbons) and JD Koehler (St. Charles, Mo. / Francis Howell) had four catches apiece while accumulating 60 and 43 receiving yards, respectively. Nine Valpo players had at least one reception.
- Valpo had 19 first downs to Central Connecticut’s 16, but the Blue Devils (3-0) outgained the Brown & Gold 462-291. Valpo held the edge in passing yards 224-147, but CCSU had a heavy advantage in yards on the ground, 315-67.
Thoughts from Head Coach Landon Fox
“It was a tough loss because we showed an ability to compete for a half, but then turned around in the second half and weren’t the same team. We didn’t execute the same way. We’ve got to continue to learn and grow to play 60 minutes of football. We took strides in the first half, but it has to be 60 minutes. That’s something we just got done talking to the players about – being able to execute for a long period of time. It’s hard, but that’s what good teams are able to do.”
“Their big plays were off simple zone run plays. It’s on us as coaches to make sure our guys understand what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it. You can give up 5-12-yard runs, but you can’t give up 60-70-yard runs.”
“In the first quarter, we did our job. We have very good players on this team and I’m excited about where we’re at now and where we can be. But having said that, playing well for one or two quarters isn’t good enough. We have to do it for four quarters. We’re good enough to do it, but our consistency has to improve.”
Valpo (0-2) will return to the field on Saturday, Sept. 21 for a 7 p.m. kickoff in Kirksville, Mo. against Truman State. The game will be broadcast on the GLVC Sports Network with links to live video, audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.