Dayton looks to move closer to PFL title
(STATS) - Dayton is one of three remaining unbeaten teams in the FCS and owns the second-longest winning streak among those 125 squads.
Another victory Saturday will move the Flyers closer to adding to their record total of Pioneer Football League championships.
Dayton can take control of its destiny in the PFL race when it visits surprising Morehead State, which is one of two one-loss teams in the league.
The Flyers (8-0, 5-0) are trying to hold off the Eagles (5-3, 4-1), defending PFL champion San Diego (6-2, 4-1) and Marist (4-4, 3-2) as they look to capture their 12th league title and first since 2010.
Dayton built a 31-0 lead last weekend before coming away with a 31-14 win over visiting Jacksonville, which entered with one loss in PFL play but is ineligible for the championship due to violations against the league's need-based financial aid guidelines.
The Flyers are the only remaining unbeaten team that isn't ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25. McNeese State (8-0) is No. 9 and Harvard (7-0), on an FCS-best 21-game win streak, is 13th. Dayton received 43 votes in this week's poll.
"Not many teams can say (they're unbeaten) right now, and in FCS there's only three of us that can say that," coach Rick Chamberlin said. "So to get through the schedule that we've had so far and to be 8-0 ... now, it's not over. We still got three tough opponents starting ... down at Morehead."
The Eagles were picked to finish eighth in the PFL by the league's coaches in the preseason, but they've equaled their most overall and PFL wins since 2010.
Morehead State won its third straight overall and sixth in a row at home with a 38-35 triple-overtime victory over Drake last week. The Eagles, however, have lost six straight to Dayton as they try to post four consecutive wins for the first time since 2005.
"I told our team we wanted to get to the final three weeks of the regular season still with a chance to win a PFL championship, and here we are," coach Rob Tenyer said.
Morehead State, though, lost star quarterback Austin Gahafer to injury in the fourth quarter last week. The status of Gahafer, sixth in the FCS with a PFL-best 2,319 passing yards and tied for ninth with 19 touchdowns, is unknown.
Sophomore Jack Sherry replaced Gahafer and went 6 for 9 for 95 yards and two TDs in his fourth appearance this season.
"Give Jack credit," Tenyer said. "It's the hardest job in the world to be No. 2 and a backup quarterback, but he has come in numerous times and performed very well."
Senior Justin Cornwall was named the league's co-offensive player of the week after catching 10 passes for 134 yards and a career high-tying three TDs against Drake. He's tied for third in the FCS with 11 touchdown receptions.
"They are not the same Morehead team that people have watched for the last couple of years that have come into Dayton," Chamberlin said. " ... You can just see it on the film. Their players on offense, on defense, they feel very good about what they're doing. They feel confident in their game plans and how they're executing."
A win this week for the Eagles and a San Diego victory against Campbell (5-4, 3-3) would create a three-way tie for first place in the league. Dayton, though, owns the tiebreaker with the Toreros because of a 13-12 win Oct. 10.
San Diego won 47-16 at Stetson last weekend behind a career-high 453 passing yards and three touchdowns from redshirt freshman Anthony Lawrence. The Toreros now return home where they've won 21 straight in league play, while the Camels beat Davidson 39-9 last week for their second straight road victory.
Campbell junior De'Shawn Jones was the PFL co-offensive player of the week after rushing for a school-best 201 yards that pushed his season total to a program-record 946, which is tied for sixth most in the FCS.
"Every game's a must win, come see me when I can tell you there isn't a must win or one that we want to win," San Diego coach Dale Lindsey said. "For us to try to chase the title and catch up with Dayton, yeah, it is a must win."
Marist has done its best to stay in the race with three straight league wins, beating Butler 35-14 last Saturday. The Red Foxes get a visit from Stetson (2-6, 1-5) this week before playing at Dayton and hosting Morehead State to end the season.
"We knew we had a pretty good football team but we hadn't put it all together," coach Jim Parady said. "You look at our two losses in the league, there's a three-point loss (at San Diego) and a four-point loss (to Jacksonville). ... So we knew we were close."