The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 9
Courtesy Marist Athletics Media Relations
Courtesy Marist Athletics Media Relations

Thursday, October 26, 2023
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Valparaiso at Butler, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: FloSports
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana    Stadium: Sellick Bowl
Series: BUT leads, 52-30    Streak: BUT, one win
Last Meeting: Butler def. Valparaiso, 26-25 (2022)

Stetson at Drake, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Des Moines, Iowa    Stadium: Drake Stadium
Series: DRA leads, 4-1    Streak: DRA, one win
Last Meeting: Drake def. Morehead State, 24-17 (2022)

Marist at St. Thomas, 2 p.m.
Broadcast: MidCoSports+
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota    Stadium: O’Shaughnessy Stadium
Series: STT leads, 2-0    Streak: STT, two wins
Last Meeting: St. Thomas def. Marist, 38-24 (2022)

Morehead State at San Diego, 5 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: San Diego, California    Stadium: Torero Stadium
Series: SAN leads, 15-0    Streak: SAN, 15 wins
Last Meeting: San Diego def. Morehead State, 14-9 (2022)

Presbyterian at Davidson, 7 p.m.
Location: Davidson, North Carolina    Stadium: Richardson Stadium
Series: DAV leads, 17-14-2    Streak: DAV, two wins
Last Meeting: Davidson def. Presbyterian, 56-24 (2022)


VALPARAISO AT BUTLER: The Hoosier Helmet is up for grabs as Butler hosts in-state PFL foe Valparaiso on Saturday. Valparaiso heads to the Circle City seeking its first PFL win this season, but its 1-6 overall record could easily be turned around as four of its losses this season have come by six points or less, including three of its PFL losses. Still, the Beacons have some recent success against the Bulldogs, winning five of the last seven meetings, including the previous two in Indianapolis. Butler bounced back from back-to-back PFL losses by defeating Dayton last week to end a 10-game losing streak to the Flyers. The Bulldogs boast the FCS’ No. 13 rushing offense with 209.6 yards per game, one of only 17 teams averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game this season.

STETSON AT DRAKE: Drake puts its seven-game PFL win streak on the line when it hosts Stetson in a game forecast to have a high of 39 degrees at kickoff. During its league win streak, Drake has outscored opponents 188-105, with five of its wins coming by a touchdown or less. That includes its five-point win at San Diego last week that required Luke Bailey to engineer a game-winning 75-yard touchdown drive with 42 seconds left. Meanwhile, the Hatters look to bounce back after scoring a season-low six points against St. Thomas last week. With its Week 9 meeting against Drake, Stetson will have faced each of the PFL’s Top 4 teams, falling to Butler and Marist by 10 points each before its loss to St. Thomas.

MARIST AT ST. THOMAS: The lone battle between teams at the top of the standings sees Marist head west to face St. Thomas with snow in the forecast at St. Paul. The Red Foxes escaped a Week 8 trip to Presbyterian thanks to its defense and special teams units, which accounted for all 19 points with two defensive touchdowns, a safety, and a field goal. Marist finished the game with 185 offensive yards, winning for the second straight week while gaining fewer than 200 yards. St. Thomas rebounded from a Week 7 loss at Drake by picking up a 32-point win at Stetson. The Tommies turned to their ground game in that win, amassing a season-best 378 rushing yards, the most by a PFL team not called Davidson.

MOREHEAD STATE AT SAN DIEGO: Morehead State makes its second straight trip west to face San Diego. The Eagles have not had much success on the road, going 1-3, with its lone win coming at Valparaiso in Week 6. But the Toreros have not defended their home turf well this season, going 1-3 at Torero Stadium with only a Week 4 victory against Dayton to its credit. Morehead State brings a two-game PFL win streak into the meeting but has not defeated San Diego in 15 previous meetings, though the 2021 and 2022 meetings were decided by five and three points, respectively, with neither team scoring more than 14 points..

PRESBYTERIAN AT DAVIDSON: The warmest place to be in the PFL during Week 9 is in the Carolinas, with Davidson hosting Presbyterian in a balmy 78 degrees at Richardson Stadium. The “Carolina Border Clash” has decidedly been in the Wildcats’ favor over the last two meetings, with Davidson scoring 126 points against Presbyterian and winning the two games by 33.5 points. The Blue Hose have scored at least 24 points in the four meetings since the series was revived in 2020.



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 116.1 yards per game ranks eighth among FCS rushers. Davidson’s Mari Adams (95.6 ypg) slipped to 14th among FCS rushers this week. They are joined by San Diego’s Isaiah Williams (28th, 82.0 ypg), Marist’s Amin Woods (30th, 80.4 ypg), and Dayton’s Michael Neel (35, 80.4 ypg).


Davidson remains one of the FCS’ toughest teams to get the ball away from, the Wildcats committing just four turnovers this season to rank fourth in the FCS. Drake is ranked eighth in the subdivision with just five turnovers this season. Butler, Morehead State, and San Diego each have eight turnovers this season and are tied for 28th nationally.


Marist remains the league’s best at forcing turnovers, getting two more takeaways in Week 8 to enter this week’s action with 16 turnovers gained – fifth in the FCS. San Diego has 14 takeaways while Butler, Dayton, and Stetson each have 11 turnovers gained.


Butler’s Luka Zurak has picked up right where he left off last season, making 13 of his 15 field goals this season – leading the FCS with those 13 makes. He is being challenged for that crown by Presbyterian freshman kicker Mack Mikko who has converted 11 of his 16 attempts. Zurak’s 1.62 field goals made per game ranks fourth in the FCS with Mikko right behind him at 1.57 field goals made per game, ranking fifth.


Marist’s Tristan Shannon and Valparaiso’s Jashon Butler are among the FCS kick return corps’ leaders in 2003. Shannon is No. 3 in the nation with 533 combined kick return yards this season while Butler is No. 4 nationally at 517 combined kick return yards. Butler is helping Valparaiso rank No. 12 nationally with 24.47 yards per kick return this season.


PFL members have been involved in five of the FCS’ 21 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.