FORT DODGE, Iowa – Five second-half turnovers doomed No. 13 Butler football in a 26-16 season-opening loss at Iowa Central on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
The Grizzlies (0-1 overall) led 10-9 at halftime, but had just 33 yards of total offense and three turnovers in a disastrous third quarter.
Butler outgained Iowa Central 335-256 in total yardage, but had 14 penalties for 125 yards mixed in with the five turnovers.
Iowa Central took a 12-10 lead with 7:36 remaining in the third quarter on a Luke Noonan 27-yard field goal.
The Tritons added a defensive touchdown just 61 seconds later when Butler punter Tyler Zentner picked up a fumbled snap, then threw a pass while trying to avoid a sack. Zentner's pass went directly into the hands of Central's Zion Smith, who ran eight yards into the end zone untouched.
Iowa Central increased its lead to 26-10 early in the fourth quarter on a 46-yard screen pass to Emmanuel Logan-Greene, who avoided a missed tackle and ran up the middle of the field for the score.
Butler closed within 10 points on a 8-yard scoring run by Ja'Kevious Vickers with 6:49 to play. During the scoring drive, the Grizzlies converted a key 4th-and-13 as Trae Self hit Kaden Davis on a 28-yard pass.
Butler's defense forced a punt on the Tritons' next drive, but Iowa Central recovered the ball when Davis attempted to field a bouncing punt.
After another stalled Iowa Central drive, a Self interception sealed the victory for the Tritons.
The Tritons opened the game with a nine-play, 91-yard scoring drive capped by a quarterback sneak by Blake Dever 1-yard run. A two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, giving Iowa Central a 6-0 lead.
Butler had a turnover on downs on its first drive, but put together a 10-play, 62-yard drive that resulted in a Zentner 27-yard field goal.
Iowa Central answered immediately with a field goal at the 2:15 mark of the opening quarter for a 9-3 lead.
Butler's only lead of the game came when Self hit a leaping Rhett Weidenbacher for a 28-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-8. Self scrambled to his left and directed Weidenbacher to run downfield, then threw a pass to the back of the end zone, where Weidenbacher fought off a defender in the air for the catch.
Iowa Central had a 76-yard passing touchdown called back with 6.2 seconds remaining in the half due to a unsportsmanlike conduct call on Dever.
Offensively, Butler was led by freshman running back Grahm Roberts, who gained 144 total yards – 85 rushing yards on 19 attempts along with six receptions for 59 yards. Self completed 18-of-41 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown.
The Grizzlies will have a bye week, then return to action with a 3:00 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Highland.