The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 12

Thursday, November 16, 2023
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Drake clinched a share of the 2023 PFL title last week with its 16-14 victory against Presbyterian and Davidson’s loss at Morehead State. Drake can clinch the PFL Championship outright and claim the league’s AQ spot in the FCS Playoffs with a win this weekend at Butler and would make its first postseason appearance since winning the 2004 PFL Championship Game against Morehead State. Davidson remains in the hunt for its fourth straight postseason appearance but must defeat Dayton and see Butler defeat Drake. St. Thomas would win a share of its second-straight PFL Championship with a win against Valparaiso and a Drake loss at Butler.


Drake at Butler, Noon
Broadcast: FloSports
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana    Stadium: Sellick Bowl
Series: Drake leads, 22-8-1    Streak: Drake, seven wins
Last Meeting: Drake def. Butler, 27-24 (2022)

Bucknell at Marist, Noon
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Poughkeepsie, New York    Stadium: Tenney Stadium
Series: Bucknell leads, 13-1    Streak: Bucknell, eight wins
Last Meeting: Bucknell def. Marist, 24-13 (2022)

San Diego at Stetson, Noon
Broadcast: Not Available
Location: DeLand, Florida    Stadium: Spec Martin Memorial Stadium
Series: San Diego leads, 9-0    Streak: San Diego, nine wins
Last Meeting: San Diego def. Stetson, 41-16 (2022)

Morehead State at Presbyterian, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Clinton, South Carolina    Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium
Series: Morehead State leads, 2-1    Streak: Morehead State, two wins
Last Meeting: Morehead State def. Presbyterian, 14-10 (2022)

Valparaiso at St. Thomas, 2 p.m.
Broadcast: MidCo Sports+
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota    Stadium: O’Shaughnessy Stadium
Series: St. Thomas leads, 2-0    Streak: St. Thomas, two wins
Last Meeting: St. Thomas def. Valparaiso, 34-7 (2022)

Dayton at Davidson, 7 p.m.
Location: Davidson, North Carolina    Stadium: Richardson Stadium
Series: Dayton leads, 14-2    Streak: Davidson, one win
Last Meeting: Davidson def. Dayton, 24-23 (2022)


Drake at Butler: In control of its destiny, Drake travels to Butler for the annual meeting of the Bulldogs. Drake has won the last seven meetings in the series but narrowly escaped with a win last season, 24-23, in Des Moines. Drake’s defense has been up to the task throughout PFL play this season, allowing just 88 points (12.6 ppg). Sophomore defensive lineman Finn Claypool, the reigning Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, is pacing that defensive effort with 14.5 tackles for loss (2.07 per game) and 9.5 sacks (1.36 per game) in seven PFL games. Butler returns to action following its off week and seeks to build on a 482-yard offensive effort at Morehead State the week prior. Senior quarterback Bret Bushka threw for five touchdowns on 16-of-17 passing against the Eagles, while graduate running back Jyran Mitchell posted his fourth straight 100-yard rushing performance.

Bucknell at Marist: Marist concludes its 2023 campaign with a nonconference tilt against Bucknell. The Red Foxes turned the ball over to Logan Brabham for his first career start against Dayton last week, and he completed 18 of his first 19 passes on the way to a 26-of-38, 259-yard passing performance. Bucknell makes the trip to Poughkeepsie after dropping an offensive shootout, 50-47 in overtime, to Georgetown last week. Marist dropped a 49-7 decision to the Hoyas to open the 2023 season.

San Diego at Stetson: Two teams that dropped overtime decisions in Week 11 meet in a Week 12 meeting. Stetson returns home after falling to an overtime field goal at Valparaiso last week. Meanwhile, San Diego makes its fourth trip across the country after losing to a walk-off touchdown at home against St. Thomas. San Diego running back Isaiah Williams looks to join the 1,000-rushing club this season in North Carolina, entering the weekend needing 67 yards. He is 16th among FCS running backs with 933 yards – third among PFL backs. Meanwhile,

Morehead State at Presbyterian: After an impressive all-round effort to down Davidson in Week 11, Morehead State heads south to face the other half of the PFL’s Carolina-base duo when it meets Presbyterian. The Eagles set a program record with six interceptions against the Wildcats last week, including defensive back Kaleb Lyons’s PFL record-tying three-pick performance. Their third-straight multi-interception effort catapulted the MSU defense to No. 3 among FCS teams with 15 interceptions this season. Presbyterian quarterback Tyler Wesley looks to claim the lesser-known PFL quarterback rushing title this week. He enters the weekend second among PFL QBs with 439 rushing yards and trails Butler’s Bret Bushka’s 444 yards this season. Meanwhile, the Blue Hose defense has held four of their last five opponents to 23 points or less but is 1-3 when doing so.

Valparaiso at St. Thomas: St. Thomas puts a 31-game home winning streak on the line and seeks a share of its second-straight PFL title when it hosts a surging Valparaiso squad. The Tommies have responded to their Oct. 14 loss at Drake by winning three straight, with the defense leading that push, allowing only 34 points in those three wins after allowing 52 points to Drake. The Tommies offense has turned to its run game since an Oct. 14 injury to quarterback Tak Takeoka, amassing 756 yards and 10 touchdowns in the three wins. Valparaiso has wins against Dayton and Stetson to open the month, and a victory this week would give the Beacons their longest win streak since 2003. Valparaiso’s defense proved the difference last week with two blocked kicks and nine pass breakups against the Hatters.

Dayton at Davidson: Davidson will have the opportunity to watch the action unfold before taking the field for the PFL’s regular-season finale against Dayton. The Wildcats look to rebound after an uncharacteristically turnover-prone game at Morehead State. Davidson entered last week ranked No. 1 in the FCS with only five turnovers lost but saw six passes intercepted by the Eagles. Running back Mari Adams enters the weekend seeking a 1,000-yard season, needing only 61 yards to reach the milestone. Dayton makes the trip to North Carolina seeking to end its season positively after picking up a win against Marist last weekend. Luke Hansen ran for two touchdowns and 111 yards against the Red Foxes; he has a rushing touchdown in each of the Flyers’ previous three games.


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 final weekend, he is third in the FCS rushing race, five yards behind UT Martin’s Sam Franklin. He leads the PFL rushing yard race by 274 yards, with Davidson’s Mari Adams ranking second in the league with 939 rushing yards.  

Mitchell is one of four league running backs entering the final weekend ranked among the FCS Top 25 in rushing yards per game. Mitchell is ranked fourth in the FCS with 121.3 yards per game. San Diego’s Isaiah Williams moved to 11th, averaging 103.7 yards per game, while Davidson’s Mari Adams (93.9 ypg) and Mason Sheron (84.4 ypg) are ranked 19th and 21st, respectively. 

It’s been a year of uncertainty at quarterback across the PFL this season, with the league’s 11 members using 22 quarterbacks who have thrown for both 20 pass attempts and a touchdown during the season. Butler and Drake, who meet in a pivotal season-ending meeting, have had steady hands at quarterback, with Bret Bushka and Luke Bailey, respectively, leading the way for nearly the entire season. Meanwhile, Dayton and Valparaiso have used three quarterbacks to muster their way through the season.

The race for the league’s top field goal kicker will enter the final weekend seeking a decisive answer. Drake’s Shane Dunning used a three field-goal day against Presbyterian to join Presbyterian’s Mack Mikko atop the field goal leaderboard with 15 made this season. Butler’s Luka Zurak, who was off last week, sits third in the race with 14 field goals made. San Diego’s Aidan Lehman sits fourth in the race with 10 made this season. All four rank among the FCS top 40 in field goals made per game, while Dunning (83.3 percent) and Zurak (82.4 percent) rank 11th and 13th nationally in field goal percentage.

Marist’s Tristan Shannon and Valparaiso’s Jashon Butler are among the FCS kick-return corps leaders in 2023. Shannon is No. 4 in the nation with 624 combined kick return yards this season. Butler is No. 7 nationally at 615 combined kick return yards, all in kickoff returns, where he ranks No. 4 nationally with 30.8 yards per return.

Butler, Davidson, Drake, and Morehead State enter their 11th game having lost just 11 turnovers this season. Davidson has lost just two fumbles this season (third in the FCS) and Morehead State has just three lost fumbles (sixth in the FCS).

Marist, San Diego, and Stetson have each forced 20 or more turnovers in 2023. Marist leads the PFL and is eighth in the FCS with 21 turnovers forced, including 13 fumbles recovered which is tied with Drake for most in the FCS. San Diego and Stetson each have 20 turnovers gained, including 12 interceptions. Morehead State leads the PFL with 15 interceptions this season, third most among FCS teams.

PFL members have been involved in seven of the FCS’ 34 overtime games in 2023. Week 11 saw two PFL outings take extra time with Valparaiso hitting a walk-off field goal to down Stetson while St. Thomas prevailed at San Diego courtesy a walk-off touchdown. Road teams are 5-2 in the PFL’s overtime games this season, including Valparaiso’s win last week. Stetson and Valparaiso are lone home teams to win an overtime game in the PFL this season.