Behind a season-high 309 rushing yards and a JaQuez Durham 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, No. 9 Butler got back on the winning side with a 27-0 home victory over Air Force Prep in non-conference action Saturday at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
Butler (6-2 overall, 3-2 conference) recorded its first shutout of the season and held an opponent scoreless since a 21-0 shutout of Coffeyville on Sept. 15 last year. The Grizzlies forced four turnovers and limited the Huskies to 165 yards of offense – including 38 rushing yards on 38 attempts.
The Grizzlies had two 100-yard rushers for the second straight game as freshman running back Adarius Thomas rushed for a game-high 123 yards on 11 carries, while sophomore Ivan Webb had all of his 104 yards in the fourth quarter on 14 attempts. Thomas, who gained a season-high 148 yards last week at Independence, had his second consecutive 100-yard game.
Grizzly freshman Brock Sturges, who leads the NJCAA in rushing yards, carried the ball 17 times for 86 yards to put Butler over the 300-yard rushing mark for the first time this year. The Grizzlies last accomplished the feat against Air Force Prep on Oct. 13 last season with 324 yards rushing.
Sturges got the Grizzlies rolling with a two-yard touchdown run on Butler's opening drive, which was keyed by a 19-yard Sturges reception from Jack Samsel.
The Grizzlies would end the first half with a 13-0 lead behind two Jacob Abel field goals from 33 and 23 yards out.
Butler would not reach the end zone again until Durham's return at the 2:44 mark of the third quarter, giving him two touchdown punt returns on the season. Durham caught the ball near the left hashmark, ran to his right while receiving a block, then cut upfield and a team escort down the sideline for the score.
The 94-yard touchdown tied LeRoy Barrier for the second-longest punt return in Butler history. Barrier accomplished the feat back on Oct. 4, 1946 against Chanute, while Charley Lively holds the record with a 96-yard touchdown at Pratt on Nov. 15, 1958.
Butler capped the scoring on a Webb 36-yard run with 1:51 remaining in the contest. Webb, who had just two carries for no yards on the season coming into the game, ran outside the left end and into the end zone untouched.
Air Force Prep's best chance to score came following Webb's score, as returner Victor Nelson returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to the Butler 12-yard line. On Prep's first play of the drive, quarterback Jenson Jones fumbled the ball after getting hit and Grizzly defensive lineman Jadden Knott recovered the turnover.
Butler's defensive unit was led in tackles by lineman Pereon Allen, who finished with nine tackles and four tackles for losses. The Grizzlies had five sacks on the night, as Charlie Gray led the defense with two.
Butler returns to Jayhawk Conference play on Saturday with a home game against Fort Scott (4-2 overall, 3-2 conference). The Greyhounds shut out Ellsworth, Iowa in a 36-0 home win on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. from BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
NOTES: Butler improved to 26-2-0 overall against Air Force Prep and remains undefeated in games played in El Dorado (17-0-0). The Grizzlies have now won 13 straight over the Huskies, which matches the longest win streak (1980-94) in the series… Butler now has five shutouts over Air Force Prep and has shut out the Huskies in three of the last six meetings… With the win, Butler head coach Tim Schaffner is now tied for third place all-time on the Grizzly win leaderboard with 38 victories – tying former Grizzly head coach Tom Saia (1989-93).