DAYTON — Three plays into Friday night’s Division I-A football game, Dayton was in business after Julio Meza recovered a fumble at the Lowry 20 yard line.
Three plays later, John Aguilar scored from six yards out and Dayton had a 6-0 lead with 9:34 to play in the first quarter.
The rest of the first half is one Dayton coach Rob Turner would like to have back.
Lowry scored on its next four possessions as the Buckaroos took a 29-6 lead with 2:45 to play in the half. Lowry dominated the line of scrimmage using an aerial attack to supplement its run game as Dayton’s defense was unable to come up with a stop. On the offensive side, Dayton fumbled, had a turnover on downs and punted twice as the offense was unable to sustain a drive as Lowry outgained Dayton 262 to 43 in total offense in the first half.
“Lowry has always been a big play team,” Turner said. “I don’t think they are 19 points better than us, but they were tonight.”
“It is disappointing, this isn’t just a bump in the road,” Turner said about the 4-2 Dust Devils who have lost two in a row after winning four straight to open the season.
After Dayton’s initial score, Lowry marched down the field going 80 yards on 13 plays. Donovan Brumm racked up 36 yards on the ground on six carries and Beau Billingsley gained 26 yards on five carries including a two-yard scoring run. Lowry made the point after and that’s when disaster struck for Dayton.
On the ensuing kickoff Dallon Mendoza fumbled and Lowry recovered at the 23 yard line. On the next play, Lowry quarterback Christian Gray connected with Garrett Naveran on a 23-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave Lowry a 14-6 lead.
Dayton had a 15-play drive stall on its next possession as the Dust Devils took the ball down to the Lowry 26 before turning the ball over on downs. Lowry would march 74 yards on six plays as Gray went to the air for 43 yards on two pass plays. The Buckaroos converted the two-point conversion and had a 22-6 lead with 6:33 to play in the half.
Dayton was forced to punt on its next possession and Lowry took over at the 30. Lowry would need just five plays to go 70 yards as Billingsley scored from 15 yards out giving Lowry a 29-6 lead. Gray hit Sterling Dennis for a 38-yard gain to set up the score.
Dayton’s next drive was a three-and-out, but Benji Ply’s punt pinned Lowry at its own 6-yard line. That’s when Dayton’s defense made the play it had failed to make earlier in the game. In what appeared to be a miscommunication between Lowry players, Gray pitched the ball directly into Meza’s arms at the 13-yard-line and Meza cashed in the gift cutting the Lowry lead to 29-12.
Dayton appeared to have life as the half was nearing the end, but it was short lived.
On the ensuing kickoff, Omar Guerrero fielded the kick at about the 15 and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown with less than a second remaining in the half.
“We weren’t getting to our blocks,” Turner said. “We made some adjustments and got a lot better in the second half.”
When asked what Lowry was doing to shut down the Dayton offense, he said the fault was on the Dust Devils. “Honestly, that’s on us. We were not getting to our blocks, and it wasn’t just our line.”
Dayton’s offense started to show life, but it didn’t show on the scoreboard. The Dust Devils attempted a fake punt on fourth and two, but were stopped. Seven plays later Brumm scored to give Lowry a 43-12 lead. The score would remain until the fourth quarter. Lowry was driving but Dayton forced a fumble. That’s when the Dayton offense showed some signs it can use to build on for next week’s game at South Tahoe.
Dayton’s offense started blocking better and the run game got going as Quinn Santana scored from eight yards out after an eight-play drive cutting the lead to 43-18 after the two-point conversion was no good.
Lowry recovered the on-side kick, but would fumble two plays later as Ply came out of the pile and gave Dayton the ball at its own 42.
The Dust Devils would score 11 plays later when Santana fumbled at the 1, but Keegan Engle fell on it in the end zone. The two-point attempt was no good as Dayton cut the margin to the final 43-24 score.
Dayton quarterback Davis Winebarger, who hit his hand on a helmet in the first half and injured his throwing hand gutted it out and threw some nice passes in the second half despite the injury. Santana led the team in rushing with 56 yards on 14 carries. Sklyer Berntson, returning after sitting out the second half against Truckee and last week’s game at Fallon with an ankle injury, ran 15 times for 53 yards.
“We may have put too much on him,” Turner said, adding he possibly should have sat Berntson on defense.