The Butler football team overcame a slow start to eventually annihilate Independence by a 57-16 score on Thursday night at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
The Grizzlies, ranked sixth in the NJCAA preseason poll, fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter and needed a blocked PAT in the third quarter to keep Independence from tying the game at that point.
From that point, Butler scored 40 straight points over the final 21 minutes of the contest. The Grizzlies are now 1-0 on the season and are in first place in the Jayhawk Conference standings at 1-0. Independence is 0-1.
The Pirates scored first, taking advantage of a Butler turnover when a shotgun snap went over the head of Butler quarterback Damarcus Smith and rolled into the end zone. Independence's Cody Smith fell on the ball for the touchdown that put the Pirates up 7-0 with 11:57 left in the first quarter.
Butler would not score in the first period, punting five times with two turnovers in the first seven possessions of the game and the season.
Finally in the second quarter, the Grizzlies got on the scoreboard as Chris Carson took a handoff, outran a defender to the corner and sprinted 11 yards up the right sideline and into the end zone. That tied the game 7-7 with 10:19 left in the first half.
Independence would be forced to punt on its next possession and Butler's offense took advantage, scoring quickly on a three-play, 76-yard drive that too just a minute off the game clock. The final play was a 39-yard pass that quarterback Demarcus Smith zipped into the hands of receiver Anthony Johnson with 6:47 left in the half, putting Butler up 14-7.
Independence put together a prolonged drive near the end of the half and kicked a 28-yard field goal with 1:45 to play that made the score 14-10 at the half.
Butler answered with a field goal of its own early in the third quarter, as Travis Steenson's 22-yard field goal with 10:59 left in the period put the Grizzlies up 17-10.
Independence was in position to tie the game, capping a 10-play, 69-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run by Courtney Allen with 7:17 left in the third quarter. An extra point would have tied the score, but defensive back Bakari Triggs broke through the middle of the line and blocked the kick.
Julian Burris picked up the loose ball and returned it all the way to the end zone, which would have been worth two points for the Grizzlies. The play was called back due to a block in the back, but the Grizzlies were still in the lead at 17-16.
That play seemed to be the spark Butler was looking for. The Grizzlies scored moments later on a 39-yard bomb from Demarcus Smith to Van Williams. Smith was past midfield and threw the ball to the back of the end zone for the touchdown to a wide open receiver.
With 8:52 to play, Chris Carson scored his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run that made the score 44-16. Butler would get two more rushing touchdowns – one a 22-yard sprint up the middle of the field by quarterback Joel Blumenthal and the other a 3-yard run by fullback Derek Lee, who took a direct snap on the play.
Butler rolled up 437 yards of offense – 239 passing and 189 rushing. Meanwhile, Independence had 317 yards against the Butler defense, but found the end zone offensively just once in the game.
Quarterback Demarcus Smith was 18-29 passing for 207 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Carson rushed 17 times for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Joel Blumenthal was Butler's second-leading rusher with three rushes for 52 yards, an average of 17.3 yards per carry. Receiver Marquel Wade caught five passes for 70 yards. Van Powell had three catches for 63 yards.
The Grizzlies now turn their attention to No. 2 Iowa Western in a rematch of last year's Graphic Edge Bowl. The game will kick off at 6 p.m. in Council Bluffs, Iowa.