Butler football will make its first bowl appearance since 2013 when the Grizzlies face Eastern Arizona at the 2016 Salt City Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 3 in Hutchinson.
The meeting will be the first between Butler (7-4), ranked 14th in the final NJCAA regular season poll, and Eastern Arizona (7-4).
Eastern Arizona comes into the contest with the top rushing attack in the nation, averaging 333.2 yards on the ground. The Gila Monsters have relied heavily on the run, throwing only 85 pass attempts on the season.
Quarterback Jonathan Thomas has completed 20-of-71 passing attempts this season for 28.2 percent, throwing for 290 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions. Thomas is also the team's leading rusher with 900 yards on the season, averaging 81.8 yards per carry with eight touchdowns on 150 carries.
Sophomore running back Clifford Low has 670 yards rushing, an average of 74.4 per game with five touhdowns. He also is the team's leading receiver with nine catches for 92 yards and a receiving touchdown. Andrew Hardrick and DeOndre Cooksy have six rushing touchdowns apiece.
On defense, Eastern Arizona is led by sophomore linebacker Leon McQuaker leads the team in tackles with 85 on the season. Sophomore defensive end Sione Talakai has 6.5 sacks.
Butler (7-4, 4-3 KJCCC) makes its first bowl appearance since 2013, having lost to Iowa Western 6-0 in the Graphic Edge Bowl. The Grizzlies will be making their 27th bowl appearance - with 11 national championship appearances and six titles in their history.
Butler has two offensive weapons in running back Kevon Abrams (1,044 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and wide receiver C.J. Sims (50 receptions, 803 yards, 4 TDs). On defense, the Grizzlies are led by linebackers Sean Bernard (92 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Tony Jones (85 tackles, 5 sacks).
The Grizzlies have won four of their last five games under Tim Schaffner, who also will be on the sidelines in his first bowl game as head coach. Serving as Butler's defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2014, Schaffner (16-6 overall) helped the Grizzlies to eight bowl games - including consecutive national championship wins in 2007 and 2008.
Other Butler bowl game notes:
- This is the 16th time in the past 19 years Butler has played in a postseason bowl game. Overall, this will be the 27th bowl game in school history. Butler is 14-12 all time in bowl games.
- This will be the seventh time Butler has played a bowl game in Kansas. The Grizzlies played in Pittsburg in 2010 and 2011 in the Citizens Bank Bowl, with the 2010 contest against Navarro for the national title game.
- This is the fourth bowl appearance for Eastern Arizona, who last played in the 2011 Top of the Mountains Bowl and lost 36-9 to Snow (Utah). The Gila Monsters also played in the 2010 Salt City Bowl, losing 42-21 to Hutchinson.
Butler's bowl appearances:
1951 Coffey Bowl (Coffeyville) Butler 12, Coffeyville 9
1981 Rodeo Bowl (Arkansas City) Butler 21, NE Oklahoma A&M 14*
1983 Roaring Ranger Bowl (Ranger, Texas) Butler 21, Ranger (TX) 11
1984 Garland Shrine Bowl (Garland, Texas) Butler 27, Tyler (TX) 14
1985 Valley of the Sun Bowl (Phoenix, Ariz.) Phoenix (AZ) 43, Butler 13
1986 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Dixie State (UT) 36, Butler 33
1987 Texas Classic (Tyler, Texas) Blinn (TX) 35, Butler 14
1989 R.C. Cola Bowl (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Butler 24, Iowa Central 0
1990 East Bowl (Johnson City, Tenn.) Butler 23, Lee's McRae (TN) 8
1993 Mineral Water Bowl (Excelsior Springs, Mo.) NE Oklahoma A&M 52, Butler 50
1996 Valley of the Sun Bowl (Phoenix, Ariz.) Glendale (AZ) 45, Butler 26
1998 Real Dairy Bowl (Pocatello, Idaho)Butler 22, Ricks (ID) 18 *
1999 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Butler 49, Dixie State (UT) 35 *
2000 Cannon Empire Bowl (Garden City, NY) Butler 30, Nassau (NY) 20
2001 Golden Isles Bowl (New Brunswick, Ga.)Georgia Military 31, Butler 19 *
2002 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Dixie State 31 (UT), Butler 18
2003 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Butler 14, Dixie State (UT) 10 *
2004 Dalton Defender's Bowl (Coffeyville) Pearl River (MS) 35, Butler 14 *
2005 Top of the Mountains Bowl (Salt Lake City) Snow (UT) 17, Butler 14
2006 Dalton Defender's Bowl (Coffeyville) Butler 57, Vermilion (MN) 0
2007 Top of the Mountains Bowl (Salt Lake City) Butler 56, Snow (UT) 27 *
2008 Top of the Mountains Bowl (Salt Lake City) Butler 37, Snow (UT) 30, 2OT *
2010 Citizen's Bank Bowl (Pittsburg) Navarro (TX) 13, Butler 12 *
2011 Citizen's Bank Bowl (Pittsburg) Butler 21, Trinity Valley (TX) 17
2012 Graphic Edge Bowl (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Iowa Western 27, Butler 7 *
2013 Graphic Edge Bowl (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Iowa Western 6, Butler 0
*indicates NJCAA National Championship Game