The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 11

Thursday, November 9, 2023
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Marist at Dayton, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: Facebook Live
Location: Dayton, Ohio    Stadium: Welcome Stadium
Series: Dayton leads, 10-3    Streak: Dayton, one win
Last Meeting: Dayton def. Marist, 24-7 (2022)

Davidson at Morehead State, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Morehead, Kentucky    Stadium: Jayne Stadium
Series: Morehead State leads, 14-10    Streak: Davidson, four wins
Last Meeting: Davidson def. Morehead State, 28-26 (2022)

Stetson at Valparaiso, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Valparaiso, Indiana    Stadium: Brown Field
Series: Valparaiso leads, 3-2    Streak: Valparaiso, one win
Last Meeting: Valparaiso def. Stetson, 19-10 (2019)

Presbyterian at Drake, 2 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Des Moines, Iowa    Stadium: Drake Stadium
Series: Presbyterian leads, 1-0    Streak: Presbyterian, one win
Last Meeting: Presbyterian def. Drake, 28-24 (Spring 2021)

St. Thomas at San Diego, 4 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: San Diego, California    Stadium: Torero Stadium
Series: Tied, 1-1    Streak: St. Thomas, one win
Last Meeting: St. Thomas def. San Diego, 49-42 (2022)


No outright clinching scenarios exist for the PFL regular-season title or the league’s automatic qualifier spot in the FCS Playoffs during Week 11. Even with a loss by Davidson or Drake this week, neither the championship of the AQ would be determined outright until the conclusion of Week 12’s play.


Davidson at Morehead State: Davidson takes its unblemished conference mark across the Appalachian Mountains this week to face Morehead State. The Wildcats’ offense leads all FCS teams in scoring with an impressive 45.4 points per game, thanks mainly to a ground game that ranks No. 1 in rushing yards (321.2 yards per game). The Eagles counter with the league’s No. 3 passing offense (234.3 ypg) but are averaging just 18.8 points per game. Davidson running backs Mari Adams (90.8 ypg) and Mason Sheron (87.1 ypg) are among the FCS Top 25 in rushing yards per game entering the week. Morehead State quarterback Carter Cravens slipped to No. 2 in the PFL with 2,073 passing yards and is No. 2 in the league with 10.9 points responsible for per game.

Presbyterian at Drake: Drake returns home for a matchup against Presbyterian in the first meeting between the teams since the Spring 2021 campaign. The Bulldogs put their nine-game win streak  – the fourth longest in the FCS – on the line against the Blue Hose. Drake’s has been particularly stingy in league action, allowing just 12.3 points per game and only 259.2 yards per game. Presbyterian nearly notched its second league victory last week, going into the fourth quarter with a 13-7 lead, but surrendered 16 fourth-quarter points in a loss to San Diego. While Drake’s defense catches the limelight, quarterback Luke Bailey has quietly amassed a league-best 2,173 passing yards this season, and his 241.4 passing yards per game ranks 21st among FCS signal callers. Presbyterian quarterback Tyler Wesley enters the weekend as No. 3 in the PFL with 1,690 passing yards but leads the league with 14.4 yards per completion. 

St. Thomas at San Diego: A one-loss St. Thomas squad looks to keep the pressure on the league’s front runners when it heads to the West Coast for a meeting with San Diego. The Tommies return to action after their off week, still boasting the league’s No. 2 defense, allowing just 24.3 points per game, and the league’s No. 3 offense, scoring 25.4 points per game. The Toreros return home with a two-game win streak after scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter to rally past Presbyterian last week. Shawn Shipman has been St. Thomas’ consistent workhorse this season, rushing for 739 yards and ranking fifth among the league’s running backs. San Diego’s defense has come up big the past two weeks, with twin brothers Amir and Zamir Wallace helping secure the past two week’s wins while Nick Murray joins them to form a trio with seven interceptions this season.

Marist at Dayton: Two teams looking to bounce back from narrow Week 10 losses meet when Marist heads to the Ohio Valley to face Dayton. Marist has leaned on its defense this season, and that unit has responded by forcing a league-best 19 turnovers (seventh in the FCS) and scoring three defensive touchdowns, second only to San Diego in the PFL. It’s been a tough go for Dayton’s offense in PFL play, with just 1,630 offensive yards to its credit – 813 rushing and 817 passing yards. Red Foxes quarterback Brock Bagozzi is fifth among PFL passers with 1,511 passing yards this season, but 1,219 yards of that total have come in seven PFL games. Dayton running back Michael Neel has amassed 602 rushing yards in league play, ranking seventh among the league’s backs.

Stetson at Valparaiso: Stetson returns to the Midwest for the second time in three weeks when it travels to Valparaiso. The Beacons picked up their first PFL win with a home victory against Dayton last week, and both their wins have come at Brown Field. The Hatters return to action after posting a season-best 41 points in a loss to league-leading Davidson last week. Valparaiso Rowan Keefe, who was making his third appearance at quarterback, threw for two touchdowns in the win against Dayton and has five touchdowns while completing 67.3 percent of his passes in his three games. Stetson has employed Matt O’Conner and Brady Meitz as quarterbacks in recent weeks. Meitz had the hot hand against Davidson with three touchdowns while completing 10-of-13 passes. 


Butler running back Jyran Mitchell became the first PFL running back to surpass 1,000 yards this season, finishing Week 9 with 1,088 rushing yards. With 1,213 rushing yards entering the Bulldogs’ off week this week, he trails Monmouth’s Jaden Shirden by 131 for the FCS lead. He leads the PFL rushing yard race by 396 yards, with Davidson’s Mari Adams ranking second in the league with 817 rushing yards.  

Mitchell is one of four league running backs entering Week 11 ranked among the FCS Top 25 in rushing yards per game. Mitchell is ranked fifth in the FCS with 121.3 yards per game. San Diego’s Isaiah Williams moved to 18th with 94.2 yards per game, while Davidson’s Mari Adams (90.8 ypg) and Mason Sheron (87.1 ypg) are ranked 20th and 24th, respectively. 

Davidson is the FCS’ toughest team to get the ball away from, with the Wildcats committing just five turnovers this season – two fumbles lost and three passes intercepted. Drake is second in the league and 26th nationally with just 10 turnovers this season – four fumbles lost and six passes intercepted. 

Marist and San Diego are the league’s best at forcing turnovers, with both teams forcing 19 turnovers from their opponents. Marist has done the job with 12 fumbles recovered and seven interceptions, while San Diego has 11 interceptions and eight fumbles recovered. The two teams are tied for seventh in the FCS’ Turnovers Gained list.

For most of the season, the PFL field goal race was a two-kicker battle, with Butler’s Luka Zurak and Presbyterian’s Mack Mikko battling for the league lead. While those two maintain their spots atop the league, Drake’s Shane Dunning and San Diego’s Aidan Lehman, who crossed into double-digit field goals-made territory, have joined them. Entering Week 11, Mikko leads the group with 1.67 field goals made per game (15-of-20), followed by Zurak’s 1.40 per game (14-of-17). Dunning is next with 1.33 per game (12-of-14), followed by Lehman’s 1.11 per game (10-of-16).

Marist’s Tristan Shannon and Valparaiso’s Jashon Butler are among the FCS kick-return corps leaders in 2023. Shannon is No. 5 in the nation with 585 combined kick return yards this season, while Butler is No. 6 nationally at 575 combined kick return yards. Butler’s 575 return yards are all on kickoff returns, and he ranks third among all FCS returners in kickoff return yardage and is third in kickoff return average (31.9).

PFL members have been involved in five of the FCS’ 28 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 the lone home team to win an overtime game in the PFL this season, defeating St. Thomas on Sept. 2.