COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Offensive woes compounded by five turnovers doomed No. 6 Butler in a 23-13 road loss at No. 11 Iowa Western on Saturday at Titan Stadium.
Butler (8-3 overall), who trailed 9-6 at halftime after getting a pair of Jacob Abel field goals, was held to a season-low 90 offensive yards. Two Grizzly turnovers led to a pair of Iowa Western touchdowns in each half, while Butler scored its only touchdown of the game on a school-record 105-yard interception return by Eric Scott in the final quarter.
The loss damaged Butler's hopes for an outside shot at a national championship appearance, but the Grizzlies can still force a four-way tie for the Jayhawk Conference title. Butler will host No. 3 Garden City in Saturday's regular-season finale at 7:00 p.m. Garden edged No. 4 Hutchinson 20-19 to prevent the Dragons from winning the conference title.
Butler took an early 3-0 lead after the Grizzly defense forced a fumble on the Reivers' opening possession, which was recovered by Derick Newton. The Grizzlies managed just 22 yards on 10 plays before settling for an Abel 25-yard field goal.
On Iowa Western's ensuing drive, the Reivers received excellent field position with a 59-yard kickoff return by Zion Williams down to the Butler 32-yard line. The Reivers would turn the ball over on downs, but Butler fumbled the ball back to Iowa Western at the Grizzly 17.
Iowa Western appeared to settle for a 33-yard field goal, but a Butler personal foul by running into the kicker extended the drive. On the next play, Reivers quarterback Cam Thomas hit Sheldon Cage on a short pass, with Cage running into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.
Both Butler and Iowa Western exchanged turnovers on its next possession, with Jack Samsel throwing an interception to Reivers' Zion Williams, who returned the ball to the Butler 2. Grizzly defensive back Kway'Chon Chisom recovered an Iowa Western fumble to gain possession back.
Unable to move the ball and facing a strong wind at its own 6-yard line, Butler elected to take a safety out of the end zone rather than give Iowa Western solid field possession. The move paid off, as the Reivers went three-and-out and punted back to Butler at the Grizzly 41-yard line near the end of the opening quarter.
The Grizzlies would piece together an 11-play, 52-yard drive to set up another Abel field goal from 24 yards out, putting Butler down just 9-6 with 11:35 remaining before halftime.
Butler received the second-half kickoff, but the drive lasted just two plays as Iowa Western forced a fumble on a quarterback sack. The ball was returned to the Grizzly 3-yard line, setting up a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Chandler Cotton.
Two Jacob Abel punts pinned Iowa Western back at the 4 and 1 yard lines, but the Reivers' offense went 99 yards after the second punt for its final touchdown. The drive was capped by Cotton's second touchdown of the game – a 1-yard rushing score with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Butler's lone touchdown of the day came with 11:10 left in fourth quarter on a 105-yard interception return by Scott. With Butler trailing 23-9, Scott made the interception in the left corner of the end zone and was nearly brought down there, but stayed upright and went down the Iowa Western sideline untouched.
Samsel completed just 7-of-14 passes for a season-low 26 yards, while Adarius Thomas gained 59 yards on 20 carries to lead Butler.
Defensively, Butler held Iowa Western to 183 yards of total offense, recorded two sacks and forced four turnovers. Newton led the Grizzlies with seven tackles and two forced fumbles.
NOTES: Iowa Western leads the all-time series 6-2-0 over the Grizzlies, who have yet to win a game in Council Bluffs... Prior to Scott's interception, Butler's longest return for an interception was James Cody, who returned a ball 97 yards at Hutchinson back on Sept. 23, 2000.