Like many football coaches, Butler Community College’s Tim Schaffner gives players 24 hours to savor a victory or deal with the disappointment of a loss.
The latter was painfully front and center for the Grizzlies this week.
The tightrope that Butler successfully walked in Jayhawk Conference victories over Fort Scott and Coffeyville gave way last Saturday in a 49-7 road loss to Iowa Western. It was Butler’s worst loss since Garden City defeated the Grizzlies 58-7 in 1995.
Butler (2-1, 2-0 Jayhawk), which dropped 10 spots to No. 12 in the NJCAA poll, will try to thwart any lingering effects against No. 18 Dodge City (3-1, 0-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday in El Dorado.
“It was important that we give our players and coaches a little time to get over that,” Schaffner said of Butler’s fourth loss in five series matchups against the Reivers. “They actually had about five hours to do some of it together on the ride home.”
Turnovers increased Butler’s degree of difficulty in a 41-35 season-opening victory at Fort Scott and a 36-34 thriller the following week against Coffeyville. They contributed to the Grizzlies’ doom at Iowa Western, as Butler quarterbacks threw four interceptions – two that were returned for touchdowns. A fumble produced a fifth turnover.
After committing 14 turnovers in 2015, Butler has 12 in its first three games this season. Opponents have scored five touchdowns on the miscues.
“Our opponents have scored non-offensive touchdowns in every game and that’s huge,” Schaffner said. “It’s difficult to win a game if you allow those things to happen.
“Against elite competition like Iowa Western, they’re going to make you pay for those turnovers and not being opportunistic.”
Butler’s inexperienced quarterback trio of freshman David Isreal, sophomore Easton Bruere and Brady Rust have each thrown interceptions. Isreal, a Blythewood, S.C., product who has received the majority of snaps, has passed for 423 yards, but also has three interceptions and lost three fumbles.
“That’s been one of our trademarks offensively through the years,” Schaffner said. “We may not always be the flashiest offense, but we have done pretty well taking care of the ball.
“This is more of a sign of our immaturity and being a young team. … The game is going a lot faster than what they’re used to. Some of the throws they’re used to making that worked against a different level of competition a year ago are not there. Then they’re getting some adversity and getting caught up in a few things going against them, and it can be tough to turn that around.”
The avalanche that consumed Butler last week wasn’t limited to turnovers. The Grizzlies missed a 20-yard field goal on their opening possession and had a punt blocked, which led to Iowa Western’s first touchdown.
It was also a tough day for Kevon Abrams, Butler’s sophomore running back. He entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher, but was held to 67 yards on 18 carries.
Schaffner said it’s imperative the Grizzlies get past their struggles in Council Bluffs. Butler’s next three games are against Dodge, which shared the Jayhawk title with the Grizzlies last season, unbeaten Garden City and Highland, which defeated Dodge in the season opener.
“We’ll be OK,” Schaffner said. “We have guys who experience far worse in their lives than what we did Saturday. In the end, it’s still a game and they play it for fun. It’s important, you want to win and you take it seriously, but you keep it in perspective.
“There were some things last week that were controllable. But when you’re playing young guys, you’re going to have to live with a certain amount of mistakes. Our coaches have been working with them to limit those and you just hope they don’t occur at crucial times.”