FOOTBALL FRIDAY: The new Butler, same as the old

Friday, September 18, 2015

When Troy Morell decided to resign from his position as one of the greatest coaches in college football history, it was presumed that Butler's dynasty -- 14 Jayhawk Conference championships and five national titles in 16 years -- was at an end.

However, the then-No. 8-ranked Grizzlies' 52-28 domination of then-No. 3 Hutchinson, the defending conference champion, at Hutchinson last Saturday showed that the Jayhawk Conference's most-dominant program of this millennium is ready to take back the torch many has assumed would be passed.

Looking at a box score without any of the scoring plays in it doesn't show Butler's dominance last week. Butler had only one more first down (26-25), 22 more yards in total offense (487-465), just one sack and both teams punted almost the same number of times.

The profound difference for Butler (2-0 Jayhawk, 3-0 overall, which moved up to No. 5 in the new NJCAA poll this week, was turnovers. Butler committed only one. Hutchinson committed four.

The Blue Dragons (1-1, 2-1) scored first but could only look on as the Grizzlies scored 45 without a response. The last score was Octavious Morgan's 66-yard return of a blocked field goal midway through the third quarter.

Butler quarterback Justice Hansen (6' 4", 220, Soph., Edmond, Kan.), an in-state player who went to Norton, completed 19 of 31 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate start. His TD passes went for 41 yards to Julian Burris (5' 11", 182, Soph., Marietta, Ga,), 34 yards to McKinley Johnson (5' 10", 168, Soph., Kansas City, Kan.), 23 to Burris and 38 to Byron Pringle (6' 2", 200, Soph., Tampa, Fla.). All four scores came in the first half with an addition touchdown run by KicKobe McCrary (6' 2", 234, Soph., Chipley, Fla.).

McCrary rushed for 98 yards on 24 carries for Butler. Johnson caught 6 passes for 79 yards while Burris hauled in 3 for 82.

Defensively, linebacker DeMarcus Lloyd (5' 11", 215, Fr., Vienna, Ga.) and defensive end Patrick Dugan (6' 2", 227, Soph., Wichita) each had 14 tackles. Lloyd had four 4 tackles for a loss and an interception.

Butler comes into Saturday's game No. 2 in the conference in rushing offense, averaging 186 yards per game. The Grizzlies are fourth in total offense (358.3 YPG) and second in scoring (46.3 PPG) behind Coffeyville (48.3). Butler has outscored its opposition, 88-7 in the first half.

Even though Hansen has only had the one start and two appearances, he's still seventh in the Jayhawk Conference in passing. He has completed 26 of 47 passes for 353 yards (117.7 YPG, which is how colleges measure their leaders). He has not thrown an interception.

McCrary is second in the conference in rushing, averaging 96.3 YPG (289 total on 60 carries) with 7 touchdowns. He is only one of three running backs in the conference averaging more than 85 yards per game. Leader Mark Thompson of Dodge City (139.3 YPG) and Fort Scott's Devin Taylor (88.3 YPG) are the others.

Johnson is tied for ninth in the conference in receptions (11, 3.7 per game) and yards (158, 52.7 YPG).

Fort Scott's defense will be challenged for the third consecutive week against a ranked team's offense. The Greyhounds are the third-best defense against the pass (154.7 YPG) in the conference. But they're fifth in points allowed (31.7 PPG) and rank last against the run (244.3 YPG) and in total defense (399.0 YPG).

Fort Scott linebacker Gabe Loyd is third in the conference in tackles per game (12.3) and has 6 1/2 tackles for a loss. Koron Crump and James Grizzle are tied for 15th with 8 tackles per game. Crump has 5 sacks -- tied for the conference lead -- for 20 yards in losses and 5 other tackles for a loss.

Butler's defense is No. 1 in the conference in points allowed (15.7) and tackles per game (99.0). The Grizzlies have forced 10 turnovers (4 on interceptions) and have 7 sacks. Butler is third in total defense (333.3 YPG), fourth against the pass (200.7) and fourth against the run (132.7).

Butler has three of the top 10 tacklers in the conference (only Dodge City, whose top three are No. 1 and tied for fourth, can say the same). Lloyd is tied for seventh with 10.0 tackles per game. He also has 2 1/2 sacks. Dugan is tied for ninth with teammate Sean Rodriguez (6' 0", 212, Soph., Nickerson) for ninth with 9.3 tackles per game each. Dugan has 5 tackles for a loss.

Morgan (6' 0", 194, Soph., greenwood, S.C.), who had that blocked field-goal return for a score against Hutchinson, is also second in the conference in interceptions with three.

While Butler's defense has held opponents to a grand total of one second-half touchdown, Fort Scott's offense has struggled in the second half of each of its first three games. The Greyhounds have just three second-half touchdowns this season -- one in each game -- and have been outscored in the second half, 67-21.

The Greyhounds have scored just 17.3 PPG overall this season, although there's a lot of that which can be attributed to playing top-five ranked teams in consecutive weeks. Fort Scott is sixth in rushing offense (144.7 YPG), last in passing (84.3 YPG, the only team averaging fewer than 165 YPG) and last in total offense (229.0).

Taylor, the leading rusher in the nation last season, has had just one 100-yard game so far this season, 128 yards in the opener at Iowa Central. Quarterback Danarious Graham, who played the entire game last week as Mike Glass was out with a concussion, is seventh in rushing with 55.5 YPG.

Jermaine Lang is Fort Scott's leading receiver with 8 catches for 43 yards, which is an average of only 5.4 per catch. But most of his receptions are on short passes. Taylor is the second-leading receiver with 6 catches for 34 yards. The Greyhounds have no one in the top 15 for yards per catch.

Kickoff at Frary Field will be at 7 p.m. Saturday night.