The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 8
Photo courtesy Davidson Athletics Media Relations
Photo courtesy Davidson Athletics Media Relations

Wednesday, October 18, 2023
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Valparaiso at Davidson, 1 p.m.
Location: Davidson, North Carolina    Stadium: Richardson Stadium
Series: DAV leads, 9-4    Streak: DAV, two wins
Last Meeting: Davidson def. Valparaiso, 27-21 (2019)

Butler at Dayton, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: Facebook Live
Location: Dayton, Ohio    Stadium: Welcome Stadium
Series: DAY leads, 33-13-1    Streak: DAY, one win
Last Meeting: Dayton def. Butler, 31-0 (2022)

Marist at Presbyterian, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Clinton, South Carolina    Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium
Series: MAR leads, 2-0    Streak: MAR, two wins
Last Meeting: Marist def. Presbyterian, 37-7 (2022)

St. Thomas at Stetson, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: DeLand. Florida    Stadium: Spec Martin Memorial Stadium
Series: STE leads, 2-0    Streak: STE, two wins
Last Meeting: St. Thomas def. Stetson, 21-0

Drake at San Diego, 5 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: San Diego, California    Stadium: Torero Stadium
Series: SAN leads, 20-10    Streak: SAN, 10 wins
Last Meeting: San Diego def. Drake, 22-10 (2022)
Morehead State at Tarleton State, 7 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Stephenville, Texas    Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Series: First Meeting


Valparaiso at Davidson: PFL co-leader Davidson begins a two-game homestand when it hosts a Valparaiso team seeking its first PFL win of 2023. The difference between the Beacons’ being 5-1 instead of 1-5 has been razor thin, with their last four losses coming by 17 total points, including last week’s three-point loss to Morehead State. The Wildcats are riding a four-game win streak, averaging 55.7 points per game and a winning margin of 32.5 points per game.

Butler at Dayton: After opening PFL play with back-to-back wins, Butler has dropped its last two, heading into an I-70 battle at Dayton, which seeks its first PFL win. The Bulldogs’ two losses have come against St. Thomas and Davidson, two of the league’s four three-win teams, by just nine total points. The Flyers dropped the first game of their two-game homestand in overtime to Presbyterian last week, with its offense continuing to struggle in league play – averaging 15.8 points per game. 

Marist at Presbyterian: Two teams that picked up program-milestone wins last week meet each other in Week 8 when Marist begins a two-game road trip at Presbyterian. The Red Foxes hit the road with a three-game PFL win streak in hand after picking up their first-ever victory against San Diego last week. Meanwhile, the Blue Hose return home after snapping an 18-game PFL losing streak with their first-ever PFL win in an overtime walk-off win at Dayton.

St. Thomas at Stetson: After seeing its 13-game PFL win streak halted in Des Moines, St. Thomas stays on the road this week to face a Stetson team fresh off its bye week. The Tommies’ loss to Drake in the I-35 series came as they surrendered their most points as a Division I program to the Bulldogs. Stetson plays at home for the first time since Sept. 23, and they are 2-1 at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium this season, though they suffered their first home loss to Butler in that Sept. 23 affair.

Drake at San Diego: Drake puts its six-game PFL win streak on the line when it travels to San Diego, which plays at Torero Stadium for the first time Since Sept. 23. The Bulldogs hit the road sitting tied atop the PFL standings with Davidson thanks to their three-game win streak this season, its latest win thanks to a 52-point outburst against St. Thomas that was its largest point total in a PFL game since 2017. The last time the Toreros played on friendly soil, they opened PFL play with a victory against Dayton. Since then, they have sandwiched their off week between back-to-back East Coast trips, falling at Davidson on Sept. 30 and at Marist last weekend. 

Morehead State at Tarleton State: Morehead State steps out of conference play this week for the first of two long road trips when it travels to Tarleton State for the first-ever meeting between the teams. After the trip to Central Texas this week, the Eagles will fly again for a PFL outing at San Diego – a total of 4,592 miles (one-way and as the crow flies) for the two road trips.  


St. Thomas quarterback Tak Tateoka and Presbyterian kicker Mack Mikko were two of 22 FCS freshman student-athletes named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List Wednesday. The Jerry Rice Award, presented by FedEx Ground, is presented to the national freshman of the year in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision. Tateoka is the first St. Thomas student-athlete named to one of the FCS STATS / FedEx Ground national watch lists since the Tommies joined Division I. Mikko was the lone special teams representative on the 22-freshman list.

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.

Five of the league’s running backs enter Week 8 ranked among the FCS Top 35 in rushing yards per game, led by Butler’s Jyran Mitchell whose 116.0 yards per game ranks seventh among FCS rushers. Davidson’s Mari Adams (104.3 ypg) moved into eighth among FCS rushers this week. They are joined by San Diego’s Isaiah Williams (85.4 ypg), Dayton’s Michael Neel (78.3 ypg) and Marist’s Amin Woods (65.8 ypg) who are ranked 22nd, 31st, and 36th respectively.

There was a shakeup in the league’s good hands teams this week after Marist picked up six takeaways from a San Diego team that had just two turnovers entering the game. That change puts league co-leaders Davidson and Drake at the top of the league for fewest turnovers lost. Davidson in ranked fourth in the FCS with only three giveaways while Drake is eighth with four turnovers lost. Butler is next with seven turnovers to rank 29th among FCS squads.

With its defense picking up six turnovers against San Diego, Marist moved to the top of the league with 14 turnovers gained this season, moving up to fifth among FCS teams. San Diego is No. 2 in the PFL and No. 14 in the FCS with 13 turnovers gained in 2023.

Reigning PFL Special Teams Player of the Year Luka Zurak has picked up right where he left off last season, making 10 of his 12 field goals this season. He is being challenged for that crown by Presbyterian freshman kicker Mack Mikko who also has 10 field goals made this season, in one fewer game played but with four more attempts. Mikko’s 1.67 field goals made per game ranks third in the FCS while Zurak’s 1.43 per game rate is 12th in the FCS.

PFL members have been involved in five of the FCS’ 18 overtime games in 2023. Presbyterian and Dayton became the latest to need extra time to determine a victor in Week 7. Drake, San Diego, Stetson, Marist, and Valparaiso also have played overtime outings in 2023. Road teams are 4-1 in the PFL’s five overtime games this season, including Presbyterian’s win at Dayton in the most recent outing. Stetson is lone home team to win an overtime game in the PFL this season, defeating St. Thomas on Sept. 2.