Butler Football loses nailbiter at Garden City in season opener

Butler Football loses nailbiter at Garden City in season opener

GARDEN CITY, Kan. – No. 12 ranked Butler football nearly completed a miraculous comeback on the road at No. 9 Garden City, but came up just short as they dropped the season opener 27-22 at Broncbuster Stadium on Thursday evening.

A three-yard touchdown pass from Butler (0-1 overall, 0-1 KJCCC) sophomore quarterback Tanner Murray to sophomore tight end Dante Daniels with 1:25 left in the game made it 27-22 in favor of the Broncbusters (1-0 overall, 1-0 KJCCC). The Grizzlies proceeded to miss the two-point conversion.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game and the Grizzlies having only two timeouts, there was only one option, and that was to try an onside kick. Freshman punter Isaac Saye proceeded to kick a dribbler that bounced off a Broncbuster and Butler freshman defensive lineman Seth LeClaire jumped on it. Just like that the Grizzlies had new life on their own 46-yard line.

Murray completed a 16-yard pass to freshman receiver Nick Brown and an 11-yard pass to sophomore receiver Jack Meylan in the drive, but ultimately Garden City picked off a Murray pass on fourth and nine at the Garden City 26-yard line that ended the game as GCCC took over with 21 seconds left.

As season openers often are, the game was sloppy throughout. Garden City was called for 16 penalties totaling 129 yards while Butler was hit with eight for 54 yards. The first half was a struggle for Butler offensively, but they managed to tie the game at seven with 3:37 left in the second quarter as sophomore running back Seth McGowan scampered in for a 30-yard touchdown. Prior to McGowan's touchdown late in the second quarter, Butler had three drives with each resulting in punts.

Garden City broke through first in the third quarter as running back James Jones ran in a 14-yard touchdown to cap off a 10 play, 87-yard drive to make it 13-7. Butler sophomore defensive back Ashton Levells blocked the extra point and sophomore linebacker Demarcious Robinson scooped it up and ran it all the way back to make it 13-9.

Both teams offenses came into their own in the fourth quarter as they combined for 27 points. Garden City scored first in the quarter on a two-yard rushing touchdown from Fred Davis. Butler answered when Murray found a streaking Dominick Foster for a 23-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone, making it 19-16 in favor of GCCC with 9:47 left in the game.

The backbreaker for Butler was a 31-yard touchdown run from Broncbuster running back James Jones with 4:51 left in the game. Garden City converted the two-point conversion to take the 27-16 lead.

Garden City's time of possession was 37:54 compared to Butler's 22:06. Butler finished with 62 total rushing yards while Garden City had 203. The Grizzlies finished with more passing yards, 195 to 142. Butler struggled sustaining drives and that was mainly due to their 3-11 (27%) success rate on third downs.

Sophomore linebacker Eunique Valentine led Butler with 15 combined tackles as well as 1.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Udoka Ezeani added six combined tackles and a sack. Sophomore linebacker Armahn Hale had two pass breakups.

In his first game and start as Butler's quarterback, Murray was 14-of-32 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. McGowan led the rushing efforts with 10 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown while freshman receiver Justin Stephens led the Grizzly wide outs with three receptions for 54 yards.

Garden City quarterback Jalen Daniels was 14-of-21 for 142 yards to go with 29 rushing yards. Jones led with 17 rushes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Butler returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 2, for their home opener as Highland comes to town with a 7 p.m. kickoff set from BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.