On senior day, The Marist Red Foxes (5-5, 5-3) were looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, however the Butler Bulldogs (3-8, 1-7) had other ideas.
In a close one throughout, Marist fell to Butler 28-21 in one of the most lively games of the season, where almost every conceivable event that could happen, did happen.
There is always risk when a team elects to defer, as the entire momentum of the game could swing towards the opposition if they get off to a hot start. This appeared to be the case early on, with Butler marching down the field with ease during their first drive.
However, following a 15-yard reception by redshirt freshman Yogi Flager, redshirt senior safety Teddy Wright knocked the ball out of Flager’s hands for a fumble, but the officials already ruled him down.
Just three plays later, with Butler in the red zone, junior quarterback Brett Bushka threw a ball in the endzone that was picked off by… you guessed it, Teddy Wright. The phrase “ball don’t lie” epitomizes this moment.
The first half consisted of constant back and forth scoring, with neither team able to take firm control early.
A bad snap to the Butler punter led to Marist recovering a fumble at the one yard line to set up their first score. Even after a penalty sent them back, redshirt senior Austin Day was able to find graduate student Wyatt McMahon for the 4-yard touchdown reception.
Butler would respond the very next drive with redshirt freshman Joey Suchy rushing for a 5-yard touchdown to tie the game. This back and forth play continued for the next two drives as well, with both quarterbacks finishing their respective drives with rushing touchdowns of their own.
Day has become notorious throughout his collegiate career for his ability to use his legs. He saved a couple drives by finding the gap and taking advantage, finishing with 31 rushing yards and a touchdown, but this aggressive play would cost the quarterback later on.
Marist could not have started the second half any stronger, with them eventually being in prime position to score, having the ball on Butler’s one-yard line. However, a fumble by redshirt junior Hunter Cobb negated any scoring opportunity.
This critical play would be the turning point of the game.
For the next 12 minutes and 58 seconds, Butler commanded the pace of the game. On this long drive, Butler went a staggering 99 yards on 23 plays to take the lead. Suchy would finish off the impressive drive by rushing for his second touchdown of the game. This mentally demoralizing drive completely swung the game in Butler’s favor.
“With them being able to stay on the field that long, they definitely gained momentum with that drive,” head coach Jim Parady said.
After a failed fourth down conversion left Day shaken up pretty badly, the Red Foxes still had one more opportunity to try and get back into the game. Unfortunately, the offensive line could not contain Butler’s defense. This constant pressure had the already injury-ridden Day struggling to find space and on 3rd and 2, Day threw a pick six to junior Trey Mason at the Marist 16 to put the icing on the cake for Butler.
“It’s a very hard locker room at this point and it was a disappointing end, but I think as we go forward and time passes, we’ll see some of the good things that happened [this season],” Parady said.
Redshirt junior Clayborne Fields III had a phenomenal season, leading the team in interceptions, including one to end the first half. He gave his all this year and was very distraught following the difficult loss.
“It was definitely heartbreaking. We probably all thought we could have done a little more, but now we’re just working on the next steps which is getting ready for the next season,” Fields said.
Their season was a rollercoaster ride, from the delayed start to recovering from the year long sabbatical, this year was one of the more challenging seasons in the program’s history because of circumstances, yet they persevered.
In the season finale, Marist came up short thanks to an upset win by Butler. It was not the way the Red Foxes envisioned their season ending, but despite the loss, it was still an impressive year, unfortunate that it had to end in defeat.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Jonathan Kinane