The 10th-ranked Wittenberg football team lost its first season opener since 2007, falling 49-24 at Butler on Saturday night.
This was Wittenberg’s first game against a higher division opponent since 2005 and 2006 when it played Dayton. Those games were closer than this one. Butler, a Division I Football Championship Subdivision program and one of the top teams in the Pioneer League, led 42-3 at halftime.
The Bulldogs (1-1) needed three plays to take a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game. A 52-yard run by Trae Heeter on the first play set up an 18-yard touchdown pass by Matt Lancaster to Quinn Murphy two plays later.
Wittenberg answered with a 29-yard field goal by Evan Grissom. It was the first career field goal for the sophomore from Piqua.
Wittenberg didn’t score again until the third quarter when senior quarterback Reed Florence scored on an 8-yard run. Florence got the Tigers on the board twice more in the fourth quarter with touchdown passes of five yards to Jonathan Stoner and 23 yards to Jimmy Dehnke.
Turnovers hurt the Tigers in the first half. Butler picked off two passes, returning one for a score. Florence lost two fumbles, one of which was recovered for Butler by a touchdown, and running back Jimmy Dehnke lost another.
Lancaster led Butler’s offense with four touchdown passes. He completed 13-of-17 passes for 205 yards. Butler played its second-string quarterback, Wade Markley, in the second half.
Florence completed 26 of 40 passes for 298 yards. Sean Gary led the rushing attack with 47 yards on 16 carries. Dehnke had 28 yards on seven rushes.
Brendon Cunningham, the leading returning receiver for the Tigers, caught eight passes for 95 yards. Zac Wilson had 86 yards on seven catches. Stoner had eight receptions and 72 yards.
Linebacker Spencer Leno led Wittenberg’s defense with eight tackles. Cornerbacks Victor Banjo and Ryan Myers each had seven.
Wittenberg returns to action in two weeks against DePauw in Greencastle, Ind. DePauw lost its opener Saturday, 10-7 at Sewanee.
The surprise result in the NCAC on Saturday was Kenyon routing Allegheny 37-7 in Meadville, Pa.