The Butler football team overcame an early deficit to lead at halftime, but couldn't keep pace in the second half of a 35-26 loss to Hutchinson on Saturday at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex that ended a 23-game winning streak over the Blue Dragons.
Butler, ranked ninth nationally, fell behind 13-0 early on but would lead 20-13 at the half over No. 6 Hutchinson. The Blue Dragons, however, controlled the second half on the way to the win, their first over Butler since September 1997.
"I saw our guys battle and fight back," coach Troy Morrell said. "They played hard to the bitter end, we just didn't have enough to overcome Hutch tonight."
Hutchinson started the game by scoring on its first possession on a 7-yard pass from Dalton Demos to Juwan Dickey. After a Butler punt, Hutchinson again drove for a touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Demos to Travis Curtis. The Blue Dragons missed the extra point but led 13-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Hutchinson would fumble on its next three possessions and Butler would eventually take advantage, capping a short 18-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Derek Lee, who took a direct snap and pushed the ball just over the line into the end zone. That made the score 13-7.
Butler would put together its best drive of the contest late in the second quarter, going 79 yards in five plays, capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass from Damarcus Smith to Bryce Chavis. The extra point attempt was missed, but the Grizzlies had tied the game 13-13 with 2:13 left in the half.
Hutchinson's fourth turnover of the game came a minute later when Bakari Triggs intercepted a pass and returned the ball 41 yards to the end zone, giving Butler a 20-13 lead with 1:21 left in the half. That would be the score through the intermission.
Butler would receive the second half kickoff and got the ball past midfield before the drive stalled. A punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback and Hutchinson went to work offensively, going 80 yards in 12 plays capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass from Demos to Alvin Kamara. The extra point attempt was no good and Butler clung to a 20-19 lead.
Hutchinson would take the lead for good later in the third quarter on a 26-yard field goal that made the score 22-20 with 2:47 left in the period. The Blue Dragons were also the first to score in the fourth quarter on a 72-yard pass from Demos to Juwan Dickey, making the score 29-20.
Butler would answer with a quick-hitting drive that went 66 yards in five plays, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Damarcus Smith to Anthony Johnson. That put Butler within a field goal at 29-26 with 11:54 to go.
Hutchinson responded with a 9-play, 58-yard drive of its own as Juwan Dickey scored his third touchdown of the game on a 6-yard pass with 8:39 to play.
Butler drove deep into Hutchinson territory twice more before the game was over but was stopped on fourth down both times. For the game, Butler scored on just two of the six times it was inside Hutchinson's 20-yard line.
"We struggled to score in the red zone; that didn't help us," Morrell said. "We had opportunities and didn't convert. You have to give credit to Hutch. I felt they dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides and that is ultimately what won them the game."
Butler falls to 1-2 on the season and is 1-1 in Jayhawk Conference play. This is the first time Butler has started a season 1-2 since 1997 when Butler lost to Kemper Military, beat Independence and lost to Coffeyville in the first three weeks.
The Grizzlies will continue their three-game homestand next Saturday when they take on Fort Scott in a conference game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.