Second Half Comeback Falls Just Short as Grizzlies Drop Top-10 Contest at Home to 2nd-Ranked Iowa Western

Second Half Comeback Falls Just Short as Grizzlies Drop Top-10 Contest at Home to 2nd-Ranked Iowa Western


EL DORADO, Kan. – Butler fought valiantly after trailing by 21 points at halftime, but ultimately a late turnover cost them a shot at a win over the second-ranked Iowa Western Reivers on Saturday evening at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.

Seventh-ranked Butler (4-3, 2-2 KJCCC) faced a 28-7 deficit at halftime before shutting out the second-ranked Reivers (8-0, 1-0 ICCAC) in the second half, outscoring them 14-0.

Butler trailed 28-21 with 2:26 remaining in the fourth quarter and took over possession following an Iowa Western punt to the Grizzly 39-yard line, needing a touchdown and an extra point to tie the game. Iowa Western proceeded to have two penalties called against them in the first three plays of the Butler drive, a 15-yard pass interference and a 10-yard defensive holding call, to push the ball to the Iowa Western 36-yard line.

Following the penalties, quarterback Tanner Murray completed passes to wide receivers Justin Stephens (four yards) and Jamarion McDougle (seven yards) and the Grizzlies had a five-yard rush from running back KJ Shankle to get the ball to the Reiver 20-yard line with about 1:40 remaining. On 2nd-and-10, Murray fired a pass to the right sideline to receiver PJ Caldwell who seemingly caught it before it fell out of his grasp and into Reiver defensive back Clem McCullough's hands for an interception at the eight-yard line. Iowa Western kneeled it down on two consecutive plays and escaped El Dorado with the seven-point win.

"They're a good football team and I was proud of our guys that they came back and had a chance to win it at the end," said head coach Brice Vignery. "The way it was going, I would have gone for two had we scored and tried to win the game and just ended it right there."

After allowing 28 first half points to Iowa Western, the Butler defense did some looking in the mirror. They did not allow one third down conversion in the second half while holding the Reivers off the scoreboard.

"I don't know who that team was in the first half (in regard to Butler)," said Vignery. "The way we played in the first half was not indicative of who we have been all year."

A theme all season, the Butler special teams came ready to play again on Saturday. The Grizzlies first score to make it 14-7 in the second quarter, an 11-yard touchdown pass from Murray to McDougle, was set up by a recovered fumble as Iowa Western's punt returner muffed a punt that linebacker Teagan Orth scooped up at the Reiver seven-yard line. Down 28-7 in the third quarter, Grizzly linebacker Jonathan Jordan blocked a Reiver punt and linebacker Jaxon Bowles scooped it up and returned it five yards for a touchdown to make it 28-14.

Needing a score with time dwindling in the fourth quarter, the Grizzly offense came through with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 4:21 off the clock. It ended in Murray finding Shankle on a flat route on 4th-and-1 that Shankle corralled, slipping in past the pylon to make it 28-21 with 5:21 left in the game.

The stat sheet shows an evenly played game for the most part. Each team had 20 first downs in the game, third down conversion percentages were similar with Butler at 43% (6-14) and Iowa Western at 42% (5-12) and time of possession was fairly eclose with Butler at 27:22 and Iowa Western at 32:38. The Reivers handily outgained Butler with 399 total yards to the Grizzlies 225. With the big lead in tow at halftime, Iowa Western predominantly used its rushing attack to run the clock in the second half and it showed with them rolling up 209 rushing yards to the Grizzlies 58. Iowa Western had three takeaways to Butler's one.

Murray threw for 167 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 16-of-33 passing. Shankle led the Grizzly rushers with 54 yards on 10 attempts. Running back Seth McGowan paced the pass catchers with 76 yards on two receptions with a long of 41. Reiver quarterback Hunter Watson threw for 190 yards and a touchdown while leading the team with 107 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Naivyan Cargill (73 yards) and LJ Fitzpatrick (72 yards) led the way for the Iowa Western pass catchers.

In what proved to be the difference in the game, Butler allowed Iowa Western to take a 28-7 lead right before halftime as Reiver running back Bryant Williams carried in a 22-yard inside zone rush, bouncing off would be tacklers along the way to score with eight seconds left in the first half.

Defensively, Iowa Western had five sacks to Butler's two and 10 tackles for loss to Butler's four. Defensive back Kaden White led the Grizzlies with seven tackles while linebacker Wesley Bentley posted four tackles, a sack and a pass breakup.

The loss was the fourth straight to Iowa Western for Butler as the Reivers now lead the all-time series 8-2. While Butler's playoff hopes may be dashed with their third loss of the season, there is still a lot out there for the Grizzlies to achieve.

"We have to understand that the season isn't over," said Vignery. "We still have things to play for and things to do. It was number seven versus number two and it was a one score football game. We had chances. We need to be honest with ourselves from top to bottom and figure out what we are not doing and fix those things."

Butler hits the road next for a rivalry bout at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 28th at 7 p.m. vs. Coffeyville for the Red Ravens homecoming game.