A 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Mettenberger to receiver Marcus Kennard proved to be the difference as No. 6 Butler defeated No. 4 Navarro College (Texas) in the Kickoff Classic at Cessna Stadium.
The Grizzlies’ defense held following a turnover deep in their own territory and then intercepted two Navarro passes in the fourth quarter to seal the victory in front of 6,458 fans.
Butler fell behind early 3-0, but was lucky to hold Navarro to a field goal after the Bulldogs had first-and-goal following a 67-yard run by DePauldrick Green.
The Grizzlies took advantage of a Navarro miscue when a punt return was fumbled and recovered by Butler at the 14-yard line. Four plays later, Butler scored on a 1-yard run when Cody Mills dove over the top of the pile for a touchdown that put the Grizzlies up 7-3.
Navarro answered with a touchdown with a 66-yard scoring drive capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Roddy Green to Jordan Jolly to make it a 10-7 game in the second quarter.
The Grizzlies were then faced with a long field after Navarro downed a punt inside the 5-yard line late in the second quarter. Butler responded by driving 94 yards and appeared to have a touchdown, but an open receiver dropped a pass in the end zone. The Grizzlies settled for a field goal and tied the game 10-10 going into halftime.
In the third quarter, the two teams traded punts before Butler embarked on an 80-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. The drive ended with Kennard’s touchdown reception. Although the extra point was missed, the score would hold up as the game-winner.
That was partially due to the Navarro offense imploding. After recovering a Butler fumble at the 13-yard line, Navarro seemed primed to take the lead. But three straight snaps went over the quarterback’s head. Although Navarro recovered all three snaps, they lost 25 yards in the process and were forced to punt.
Later in the game, Butler intercepted two passes to end Navarro’s drives – one by Teyon Reese that would have been returned for a touchdown if not for a blocking penalty and one by Dyllon Knox that allowed the Grizzlies to go into victory formation to end the game.
“We are so young right now and made so many mistakes and gave them so many opportunities,” head coach Troy Morrell said. “We made silly mistakes, but our character put us over the top. When you face adversity, that’s when you find out who you are. The kids trusted each other and hung in there. They found a way to get it done. That’s what makes me most proud.”
Individually, Ben Axon led Butler by rushing 31 times for 101 yards. Darrell Freeman and Brett Soft had three receptions apiece. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was 11-of-18 with 119 yards and a touchdown, while also throwing one interception.
Defensively, Butler held Navarro to 227 yards, but only 70 of those yards came in the second half. Sophomore defensive end Cornelius Carradine had eight tackles and three sacks.
Butler is now 1-0 on the season. The Grizzlies open Jayhawk Conference play on Saturday, Sept. 4 at Fort Scott, which is ranked third nationally.