Dayton’s last push to score just short
For the Appeal
DAYTON — It was déjà vu for a Dayton offense seeking its first points on the season.
Down 49-0 against Elko at home Friday, the Dust Devils (0-9, 0-8 in Division 1A) frantically drove down the field for a chance to end the team’s season-long scoring drought on the last drive of the game, similarly to their attempt down 33-0 against Wooster last week.
With less than a minute left in the game, quarterback Dylan Torgerson connected on a 29-yard pass to C.J. Wilhite who barely kept one foot in play before falling out of bounds at Elko’s 21-yard line.
After two incompletions toward the end zone, Elko defenders forced a Torgerson fumble as the clock expired.
“It’s tough,” Torgerson said. “We just can’t finish in those last couple seconds of the game.”
The score certainly didn’t dampen Dayton’s efforts. The Dust Devils called all three of their second half timeouts during the final drive as the “mercy rule” running clock continued.
“That was a good football team we played,” first-year Dayton head coach Tom Eck said. “We’re still making mistakes, but we’re also making adjustments and getting better.”
Elko scored 35 points in the first half. The Indians relieved their starters after junior Trevor Basaraba returned the second half’s opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, which gave Elko a 42-0 lead.
“When we came out (at the start of the game), they (Dayton) loaded the box and were going to take away our sweep so we threw the ball early a couple times,” Elko head coach Luke Sellers said. “We accomplished that.”
Elko doesn’t throw the ball often, but three pass completions for more than 20 yards opened up the field for quarterback Alex Puentes and running back Tyler Vera. Puentes rushed for 54 yards on six carries.
Elko (6-2, 6-2) also benefited from turnovers in the first half, including Dustin Baum’s 25-yard interception return for a touchdown. Baum had two interceptions in the first half.
In regards to Dayton’s scoring drought Eck said: “That’s not our main focus. We just got to keep getting better.”
For Eck, getting better means finding the right personnel. While Torgerson struggled at quarterback, Eck feels he’s the player for the job going into next season. Injuries forced Eck to put Torgerson at quarterback last week.
“It’s a different dynamic back there with (Torgerson’s) running ability,” Eck said.
It was Torgerson’s first-ever start at quarterback, including several years in youth football, he said.
“It was nerve-racking,” Torgerson said. “It was a lot of pressure. It was scary. I was so nervous I couldn’t even describe it.”
Torgerson completed 9-of-15 passes for 93 yards, the best numbers all year for a Dayton quarterback. But he threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball multiple times. He led the team in rushing with 50 yards on 13 carries.
Eck also prefers Blake Fletcher at the slot — Dayton’s starting quarterback last week and most of the season — along with Jesse Schmidt. All three players — Torgerson, Fletcher and Schmidt — are juniors.
Of course, as most Dayton players, they also played defense, Torgerson mostly at corner back.
Dayton suited 20 players for the game.