Dayton nearing undefeated regular season
(STATS) – Dayton owns the longest winning streak in the FCS, has secured its first trip to the playoffs and is one of two undefeated teams in the subdivision.
As the Flyers head into their regular-season finale, they want to add one more accomplishment to that list: outright champions of the Pioneer Football League.
That can be achieved Saturday in a road game against Drake, which is the last team to hand Dayton a loss.
The Flyers (10-0, 7-0) clinched a tie for their record 12th PFL title with a 28-21 win over visiting Marist last week. San Diego is one game back but lost 13-12 at Dayton on Oct. 10, meaning a win over the Bulldogs (4-6, 3-4) would give the Flyers the outright championship.
The Toreros (8-2, 6-1) go for a 23rd straight home win in league play Saturday against Butler (6-4, 4-3).
“Our season is not over,” said Rick Chamberlin, in his eighth season as Dayton coach and 41st with the football program. “We've had 10 great wins, have the championship, but the thing is with this one game it could change from being PFL champ to being PFL co-champions. … I know listening to the players they don't want to be co-champs. They want to be champs.”
Dayton's 12-game win streak is now the longest in the FCS after Harvard's 22-game run ended last weekend. The only other unbeaten team, McNeese State (9-0), is ranked No. 3 in the STATS FCS Top 25. The Flyers received 201 votes in Monday's poll, putting them 28th.
Two teams in Dayton history have finished 11-0 in the regular season – the 1980 squad which won the Division III national championship and the 1996 team that won the PFL title.
“These guys could be a part of something special in UD history,” Chamberlin said.
That 1996 group didn't receive an at-large bid to the playoffs, but this Flyers team will be part of the field after the NCAA gave the PFL winner an automatic bid while expanding the tournament to 24 teams in 2013.
Standing in the way of a perfect regular season is a Drake team that scored a touchdown with 18 seconds remaining to pull out a 34-30 win at Dayton on Nov. 8, 2014. The Flyers haven't lost since, holding opponents to an average of 17.2 points for the seventh-best mark in the FCS over that 12-game stretch.
The Bulldogs have won two straight and three of four in the series and enter this meeting with a 4-0 record at home. Dayton has been outscored 73-24 in losing its last two visits to Drake Stadium.
“The best way to send the seniors off is beating Dayton,” coach Rick Fox said. ” … I wish we could play them at the end of the year every year. It's kind of the PFL parallel to the Michigan-Ohio State series. Both those schools respect each other a lot, but a huge rivalry.”
Drake is led by senior linebacker John Hugunin, who was added to the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List this week. Hugunin's nine forced fumbles are four more than any other player in the FCS, and he's tied for second in the PFL with 14 tackles for loss while ranking third with 10.3 tackles per game.
“Sunday night we just made the point that our total focus is on Drake because we have a lot to play for this week,” Chamberlin said. “This week is a lot. A perfect season, one that not many teams have had at UD in football.
“That's been our focus. Accomplish something that not many teams have done in our history of our program. Our motto has been consistent to the end, and we're not at the end yet.”