HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The Butler Grizzlies are undefeated Jayhawk Conference champions for the third consecutive season and the 13th time in the past 15 seasons after a 40-7 win over No. 13 Hutchinson at Gowans Stadium on Saturday night.
Butler, ranked No. 2 nationally, is now 9-0 overall and finishes the conference season with a perfect 7-0 record. Butler will now be the top seed in the Region VI playoffs, which will begin with a semifinal matchup next Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex against fourth-seeded Garden City. Hutchinson will be the second seed and host third seed Coffeyville in the other semifinal.
"It was a great performance overall," Butler head coach Troy Morrell said. "Our guys were making plays all over the field. We have some guys hurt and are missing several starters, so I was proud of the guys who stepped up and filled those roles.
Butler fell behind 7-0 early. The Grizzlies punted on their first possession and Hutchinson went 92 yards in 10 plays to take the lead on a 2-yard run by Terrell Lane.
"We knew we had a long game ahead of us; it wasn't time to panic," Morrell said. "We had to keep our composure and get in a rhythm of our own and eventually we did that."
Butler tied the game less than three minutes later when quarterback Billy Cosh threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Fields.
On its next possession, Butler drove all the way to the Hutchinson 1-yard line. The Grizzlies tried a quarterback sneak on fourth down, but were stopped short, turning the ball over to Hutchinson on downs. One play later, Rahman Swain tackled Lane in the end zone for a Butler safety, making it 9-7
Later in the first quarter, Butler took advantage of a 43-yard punt return by Michael Glatczak. On the next play, Cosh threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Javess Blue and the Grizzlies led 16-7.
Butler would score on each of its next two possessions – an 18-yard touchdown run by Derrick Thomas and a 38-yard field goal by Robert Rawlings – and would lead 26-7 at halftime.
The half ended with an interception by Torrel Saffold deep in Butler territory. It was one of four Hutchinson turnovers in the first half including a fumble in the end zone that kept the Blue Dragons from scoring a touchdown and two other interceptions by Marcus Dillard. Dillard also had two interceptions last week against Coffeyville, giving him four in the last two weeks and five on the season. In addition to his interceptions, Dillard led Butler with 11 total tackles and deflected another pass.
Butler scored one touchdown in the third quarter on a 15-yard pass from Billy Cosh to Javess Blue that made the score 33-7.
Page 2 of 2 - The Grizzlies added their final touchdown in the closing moments of the game when tailback Terrence Allen crashed into the end zone from two yards out with 51 seconds to go in the game.
Butler had a balanced offensive attack that racked up 519 yards on 86 total plays. Billy Cosh completed 21 of 36 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Javess Blue caught nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Over the past two weeks, Blue has 25 catches for 337 yards and five touchdowns.
On the ground, Derrick Thomas carried the ball 30 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. He saw an increase in carries with the absence of Dreamius Smith, who leads the nation in rushing touchdowns but sat out the game as a precaution after an injury last week.
"DT is a guy who has been with us a couple years and he was really thrust into carrying the load when Dreamius went down," Morell said. "He was excited for the opportunity and really took advantage of it. He's a grinder, a big physical guy, and he had a pretty good day."
Defensively, Butler shut down Hutchinson in the second half, holding the Blue Dragons to just 74 yards in the third and fourth quarters.
"Their offense is the number two offense in the country in total offense and they've scored a lot of points this season," Morrell said. "To hold them to seven points, you have to tip your hat to our defense. I thought that we were fast and physical tonight on defense."