DODGE CITY, Kan. — In a matchup of Top 15 ranked squads, No. 14 Butler proved to be the better squad with a 24-10 road win over 15th-ranked Dodge City on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
With both teams struggling offensively for most of the first half, Butler (3-1 overall, 2-1 conference) grabbed a 10-7 lead just before halftime on a Brady Rust 6-yard touchdown and never looked back.
The Grizzlies scored first after a fumbled snap on a Dodge City punt allowed Butler to take possession at the Conquistadors' 27-yard line. After three incomplete passes, Luke Winter drilled a 44-yard field goal with the wind at his back to put Butler up 3-0 with 6:56 left in the first quarter.
Dodge City managed just 59 total yards on its first five possessions, but finally broke through on a Tyler Minor 36-yard rushing touchdown with 10:52 left in the second quarter to jump out in front 7-3.
Butler appeared to go into halftime trailing, but a Dodge City fumble on fourth down with 2:25 left before the break swung the momentum to the Grizzlies. Dodge quarterback Caden Walters fumbled an option pitch near the Conqs' sideline and Grizzly defensive lineman Cole Morris jumped on the loose ball at the Butler 34-yard line.
The turnover seemed to motivate the Grizzlies' offense, who after three consecutive three-and-outs pieced together a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive into the wind. A Chris Helbig 14-yard pass to Larry Jones near the sideline at the Conqs' 48-yard line moved Butler into Dodge territory for the first time in the quarter.
Helbig would then connect with Myron Mitchell on three separate passes totaling 28 yards to move to the Dodge 6-yard line. Butler capped the drive on a Rust quarterback keeper off right tackle with 11.9 seconds left in the half.
Butler extended its lead to 17-7 midway through the third quarter on a 14-play, 67-yard drive that ate six minutes off the clock. The key play of the drive came when Helbig completed a 4th-and-10 pass towards the sideline to Gerrit Prince at the Dodge 20. Four plays later, Helbig would find Prince in the end zone for an 8-yard scoring touchdown with 5:18 remaining in the quarter.
Later in the third, Dodge cut the deficit to seven points on a Devonta Guillory 27-yard field goal. The try was set up shortly after the Conquistadors recovered a Brady Rust fumble at the Butler 24.
Dodge had only two offensive possessions in the fourth quarter against the wind, but only advanced the ball as far as the Grizzly 38-yard line on the opening drive. After Butler was stopped on a 4th-and-1 at the Dodge City 15 with 3:27 to play, the Conquistadors managed just one first down before turning the ball over on downs with two minutes left.
Butler running back Vinnie Shabazz scored the final touchdown, cutting up the middle of the Dodge City defense for a 17-yard rushing score.
Butler's pass defense turned out to be the difference maker in the contest, as Dodge City managed just 51 passing yards and completed 6-of-23 attempts. The Conqs were even more ineffective on third down, completing just one pass in 13 attempts. Meanwhile, Butler was 8-of-19 on third-down efficiency.
Grizzly defensive back Troy Dipre had a game-high 13 tackles and eight solos with a pass breakup, while linebacker Charlie Benton made 10 tackles, two tackles for losses and a forced fumble. Butler made a season-high 12 tackles for losses, which resulted in minus-29 yards.
Helbig completed 17-of-35 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown, while Mitchell led Butler in receiving with six catches for 52 yards. Prince hauled in five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. Butler's offense racked up 334 total yards, while Dodge City was limited to just 184 offensive yards.
Butler returns home next Saturday for a Jayhawk Conference matchup against defending NJCAA national champion Garden City. The Broncbusters opened the season ranked third in the nation, but fell out of the Top 20 poll this week with a 2-2 overall record. Kickoff from BG Products Veterans Sports Complex is at 7:00 p.m.
NOTES: Butler improved to 53-33-1 all-time vs. the Conquistadors and have now won 10 straight games in Dodge City... The Grizzlies held Dodge City to a season-low in points (10) and total offensive yards (184)... Butler is now 7-2 overall against NJCAA-ranked opponents under head coach Tim Schaffner... With the win, Schaffner picked up his 19th overall win as Butler head coach, matching Bob Larson for seventh all-time at Butler.