SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The USD football team claimed a share of the PFL championship with a thrilling 28-27 win over Butler Saturday afternoon at Torero Stadium. The Toreros close out the 2015 season with a 9-2 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the PFL. USD has now won 23 consecutive home PFL games.
Down by seven points, the Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 16 seconds left after recovering their quarterback's fumble in the end zone. Butler elected to go for the two point conversion, but Matt Shiltz's pass was intercepted by Yogi Hale in the end zone. After Justin Priest recovered the ensuing onside kick, the game was sealed and a co-championship was secured.
The USD offense got off to a fast start, needing just five plays to score on their opening possession. Tight end Zack Holland rumbled for a 47 yard touchdown on a play action pass from Anthony Lawrence.
The Torero defense forced consecutive three and outs and added to their lead in the final minutes of the first quarter on a 24 yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Brian Riley to put USD up 14-0.
Butler responded with a nine play 85-yard drive that was capped off by a Shiltz pass to Guy DiBalsamo from seven yards out.
The Toreros next drive was stalled when Lawrence left the game with a leg injury. He did not return and was replaced with USC-transfer Chris Willson as USD went in to halftime clinging to a 14-7 lead.
The Bulldogs marched down the field on the first drive of the second half and scored on a trick play from nine yards out where DiBalsamo threw to Shiltz in the end zone on a reverse to tie the game at 14-14.
The tie didn't last long however. Jacob Arnell returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to put USD back in the lead, 21-14.
Aided by a 47 yard hook-up to DiBalsamo, Shiltz and the Bulldog offense tied it up at 21-21 on a 16 yard touchdown pass to Zack Wolfe.
Willson found his rhythm in the next drive. Shortly after connecting with Riley for a 38 yard pass, they connected again for a 25 yard touchdown pass.
The Toreros had a chance to seal the victory late in the fourth quarter. USD had driven deep inside Butler's territory with less than four minutes to go, but Willson was sacked and lost the ball on a third and two and the Bulldogs recovered.
After converting a fourth and three from the 23, the Bulldogs were on the one yard line with 20 seconds left. Out of the shotgun, Shiltz ran up the middle, but lost the ball as he tried to stretch it over the goal line. An offensive lineman for Butler pounced on the loose ball in the end zone to bring the score to 28-27.
On the two point conversion, the Toreros got pressure on Shiltz and forced him to throw it up high. Yogi Hale out jumped the Butler defender to grab the interception.
Since Dayton lost earlier in the day to Drake, the Flyers and the Toreros are PFL co-champions. However, Dayton will advance to the FCS Playoffs due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Before leaving the game, Lawrence was 8-13 for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Willson finished 10-21 for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Brian Riley was the leading receiver for USD, finishing with six catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
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