The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 6
Courtesy Butler Athletics Communications
Courtesy Butler Athletics Communications

Tuesday, October 3, 2023
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Marist at Columbia, 12:30 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: New York City, New York    Stadium: Wien Stadium
Series: COL leads, 6-0    Streak: COL, six wins
Last Meeting: Columbia def. Marist, 38-3 (2022)

Dayton at Morehead State, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Morehead, Kentucky    Stadium: Jayne Stadium
Series: DAY leads, 20-7    Streak: DAY, one win
Last Meeting: Dayton def. Morehead State, 49-27 (2022)

Stetson at Presbyterian, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Clinton, South Carolina    Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium
Series: PRE leads, 8-2    Streak: STE, two wins
Last Meeting: Stetson def. Presbyterian, 42-21 (2022)

Butler at St. Thomas, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: MidcoSports+
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota    Stadium: O’Shaugnessy Stadium
Series: STT leads, 2-0    Streak: STT, two wins
Last Meeting: St. Thomas def. Butler, 27-13 (2022)

Valparaiso at Drake, 2 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Des Moines, Iowa    Stadium: Drake Stadium
Series: DRA leads, 26-5    Streak: DRA, one win
Last Meeting: Drake def. Valparaiso, 24-0 (2022)


BUTLER AT ST. THOMAS: St. Thomas has not lost a game at O’Shaughnessy Stadium since moving to the Division I ranks in 2021 and last lost a home game to end their 2016 season, winning 29 straight home games since that loss. Butler brings a four-game win streak into the matchup, tied for the second-longest win streak at the FCS level, behind only defending national champion South Dakota State’s 18-game win streak. The game is a meeting between two of the league’s top signal callers: Butler senior Bret Bushka and St. Thomas freshman Tak Tateoka. Bushka, the reigning PFL Offensive Player of the Year, has 848 passing yards and six touchdowns in five outings this season. Tateoka has passed for 444 yards and four touchdowns in his five outings. MARIST AT COLUMBIA: After posting back-to-back wins in PFL play, Marist steps out of league action to meet in-state foe Columbia while seeking their first win against an Ivy League member. The Red Foxes look to build on a rushing attack that saw Amin Woods earn national player of the week recognition after his 38-carry, 232-yard rushing performance. DAYTON AT MOREHEAD STATE: One of two games between teams seeking their first PFL victory this season, Dayton travels across the Ohio River to face Morehead State, which is home for the second straight week. The Flyers have battled the turnover bug so far this season, entering this week’s outing with a minus 1.60 turnover rate per game with 14 turnovers lost through five games. Meanwhile, the Eagles have committed five turnovers this season – 29th fewest at the FCS – but also have only gained one turnover this season. STETSON AT PRESBYTERIAN: The league’s other matchup of teams seeking their first PFL win pits Stetson against Presbyterian. Tyler Wesley leads the league with 979 passing yards this season, and his 16.9 passing yards per completion ranks second among FCS passers. He runs into the league’s top-rated passing defense, with the Hatters boasting a 119.54 pass efficiency defense rating entering the weekend. VALPARAISO AT DRAKE: Drake and Valparaiso, fresh off picking up their first wins of the season, each looks to maintain that momentum in Des Moines. Both teams won nail-biters for their first win, with Drake holding off Morehead State while Valparaiso rallied from a 15-point deficit to win by a point. Valparaiso brings the league’s top-ranked defense into the affair, holding opponents to 316.5 yards per game – 23rd among FCS teams. Drake is averaging 338 offensive yards per game, a number impacted by early season road games at North Dakota and against South Dakota State. DAVIDSON AND SAN DIEGO take Week 6 off after their combined 88-point outburst in Week 5. Davidson awaits its trip to Butler while San Diego prepares for another cross-country trip to meet Marist in Week 7.


The 2023 season marks the 31st year for the Pioneer Football League – the nation’s only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference. The league will feature 11 teams – tied for most in league history – each playing an eight-game schedule to determine the league champion and recipient of the automatic bid to the 2023 NCAA FCS Championship. Three Pioneer Football League student-athletes were among a record 201 semifinalists for the 2023 William V. Campbell Trophy, announced Wednesday by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. Butler offensive lineman Bryan Bystol, Dayton wide receiver Derek Willits, and Marist linebacker/long snapper Justin Iaccio were among the group of 39 NCAA FCS student-athletes named to the semifinalist group. Celebrating its 34th year, the Campbell Trophy® recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary leadership.

It’s been a rough start for quarterbacks across the league, with two 300-yard passing performances through five weeks. San Diego quarterback Grant Sergent put forth a 408-yard outing at Davidson in Week 5. That was the league’s first 400-yard passing outing since Stetson’s Brady Meitz passed for 44 yards against Louisiana Christian     in Week 2 of the 2022 season. Earlier this season, Davidson signal-caller Coulter Cleland became the first Wildcats quarterback with a 300-yard passing game since 2014. In addition, the league has seen plenty of players take snaps this season, with 14 student-athletes throwing for 100 yards so far this season. Six quarterbacks have averaged 20-plus pass attempts so far this season.

With their backfield mates battling to find consistency, the league’s running backs have found plenty of opportunity. Butler’s Jyran Mitchell (641 yards) leads the league’s back after five weeks. Davidson’s Mari Adams (455 yards), St. Thomas’ Shawn Shipman (453 yards), San Diego’s Isaiah Williams (427 yards), and Dayton’s Michael Neel (418 yards) have 400-plus rushing yards entering Week 6.

San Diego and Davidson remain among the FCS’ stingiest teams regarding turnovers. Both the Toreros and Wildcats have lost just two turnovers this season. San Diego has not had a pass intercepted, while Davidson has not lost a fumble in 2023. Drake (3), Presbyterian (4), Butler (5), and Morehead State (5) also rank among the FCS Top 30 in fewest turnovers lost. San Diego, Davidson, Butler, and Drake also enter the week with positive turnover margins – the Toreros ranking third in the FCS with a plus 2.0 margin.

PFL members have been involved in four of the FCS’ 12 overtime games in 2023. Marist and Valparaiso became the latest to need extra time to determine a victory in Week 4. It was the second straight time the two teams went to overtime in a game played on Brown Field in Valparaiso. Stetson, Drake, and San Diego played an overtime game in non-conference action.