CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — The matchup between two high powered offenses turned into a defensive affair, as No. 3 Iowa Western held off No. 5 Butler Community College, 6-0, on Sunday in the Graphics Edge Bowl.
It was a repeat of last year’s bowl matchup, which the Reivers won 27-7 for the NJCAA title.
Iowa Western entered Sunday averaging 53 points per game. Butler came in putting up 40 points per game.
So in this defensive showdown, it was a pair of field goals from Iowa Western’s Danny Hamilton — from 27 and 38 yards — that made the difference. Both field goals came in the first half.
"We actually knew it would be a great game between two very good defenses," Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. "They are both phenomenal (defenses) by two extremely well-coached teams.”
Both teams were able to move the well, to a point, but struggled in the red zone.
The Reivers converted two of their five opportunities inside the 20-yard line into points from Hamilton. The Grizzlies came up empty in the red zone after missing a field goal and turning the ball over twice.
The Grizzlies came out hot in the second half, however, and moved the ball more consistently down the field.
Their initial drive began from their own 6-yard line six yard line after the Grizzlies’ defense forced a fumble on the Reivers’ opening drive of the second half.
Despite not turning that opportunity into points, the Grizzlies were successful as they drove the ball near midfield before surrendering the drive on a punt.
"This game was somewhat expected, yet very frustrating," Butler coach Troy Morrell said. "We just could not get the ball across the goal line. We played very well up and down, but we just were not very consistent.
“It was a great defensive battle by two very good teams, but not getting in for a score, that was just frustrating.”
The Grizzlies continued to push, stopping the Reivers on 4th-and-1 at the Butler 31-yard line and blocking a 23-yard field-goal attempt by Hamilton that Dalton Buehler picked up the blocked offering and returned the ball to the Reivers‘ 42 with 7:16 remaining in the game.
An errant pass by Hunter Vaughn was picked off by Iowa Western’s Ryan Langford at the 32-yard line, leaving the Grizzlies with yet another scoring opportunity falling to the wayside.
"We had 30 days off before this game and I think our execution was a little off," Morrell said. "I am not taking anything away from these guys, though. We accomplished a lot this season, and I just wish it could have ended with a bowl win."
The Reivers put the exclamation point on the win after forcing the Grizzlies to punt, then running off the clock to 13 seconds, leaving the Grizzlies 90 yards away.
Iowa Western finished the season 11-1 while Butler finished 9-2, the Grizzlies’ first season with two losses since 2009.
IW — Hamilton 27 FG
IW — Hamilton 38 FG
Rushing—Butler, Ty Suggs 15-50, Chris Carson 6-17, Hunter Vaughn 9-minus 12. Iowa Western, Akise Teague 33-156, Connor Bravard 15-33.
Passing—Butler, Vaughn 15-27-1, 228 yards, Phillip Williamson 1-2-0, 4 yards. Iowa Western, Connor Bravard 23-30-0, 207 yards.
Receiving—Butler, Trey Hallman 3-51, Chris Carson 2-44, Michael Glatczak 1-40, Dawson Elliot 3-36, Brady Moore 2-27, Ty Suggs 2-19, Steven Walker 2-15, Van Powell 1-0. Iowa Western, Alex Reed 6-59, George Sehl 6-40, Teague 3-30, Antwan Gilbert 3-30, Brock Hinkel 1-22, Andrew Davis 1-12, Bryant Johnson 2-11, Bravard 1-3.