By David Fong
VANDALIA — On a night in which the Butler football team sold out to stop the run against Troy, the Trojans cashed in through the air, on defense and on special teams in a 49-19 win over the Aviators Friday.
Senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica threw for more than 250 yards and four touchdowns, sophomore safety Sam Jackson picked off three passes and Troy’s special teams units blocked a pair of extra points to turn a lead that had dwindled to nine points in the second half into a running block blowout.
“Their going to keep 7-8 guys in the box? That does make it tough to run the ball,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “But we were able to spread them out, Hayden (Kotwica) made some good throws and our receivers ran good routes.”
With the win, the Trojans improved to 6-1 (2-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division), while Butler fell to 4-3 (1-1 in the GWOC American North). Unofficially, the win may also have been enough to clinch a playoff spot for the Trojans, their first since 2011. Official computer points standings will not be released for several days.
Troy took a 21-7 lead into halftime on a pair of short touchdown runs by Josh Browder — both of which were set up by the first two of Jackson’s three interceptions. Kotwica also threw a touchdown pass to sophomore Kobe Feltner.
“This was crazy,” Jackson said of his night. “I didn’t know this was going to happen. This was a crazy night. The defense stepped up. The defensive line and linebackers stepped up and put pressure on the quarterback, which helped me get the interceptions. The entire defense stepped up. It was a great feeling.”
Troy would take a 28-7 lead to start the second half after a long pass from Kotwica to Hayden Jackson set up Kotwica’s 6-yard TD run, but from there, Butler came roaring back with a pair of touchdowns to cut Troy’s lead to 28-19. Troy’s special teams did block a pair of extra points, however, keeping it a two-score game.
After Troy extended its lead to 35-19 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kotwica to Spencer Klopfenstein, Jackson’s third interception of the night essentially iced the game when he picked off Butler sophomore quarterback Mason Motter at the Aviator 37 on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Seven plays later, Kotwica hooked up with sophomore Kobe Feltner for their second touchdown connection of the night, giving the Trojans an insurmountable 42-19 lead. Kotwica would add a touchdown pass to Zion Taylor — his fourth of the night — late in the game.
“I saw the field a lot better,”Kotwica said. “They spread them out for us, which is what I wanted. We knew coming into this week we were going to throw the ball a little more.”
After Butler took the game’s opening drive 61 yards for a touchdown to go up 7-0, Troy’s offense answered on the ensuing drive. Kotwia picked up 15 yards on a quarterback keeper, then hit Taylor on a 20-yard pass. Three plays later, on third down, Kotwica zipped a pass 14 yards to Feltner in the end zone. Jake Anderson booted the extra point, tying the game at 7-7.
Troy’s defense would force a punt on Butler’s next drive, then drive deep into Aviator territory before Kotwica coughed up the ball battling for extra yards after a long run to the Butler 16. Six players later, Jackson picked off his first pass at the Butler 43, returning it to the Aviator 17. Three players later, Browder scored from 3 yards out, giving the Trojans their first lead of the game, 14-7.
Butler got the ball back and, two players later, Jackson picked off his second pass of the night at midfield, returning it to the Butler 3 — and nearly returning it all the way for a touchdown. On the next play, Browder bulled his way in from 3 yards out for the score, extending Troy’s lead to 21-7.
“This feels great, but like the kids said, we’re not done yet,” Burgbacher said. “We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, but we’re going to get back to work tomorrow because we’ve got to be better come next week, because we’ve got Sidney coming to town.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong