While the Butler Grizzles arrived back in Kansas today with an 0-1 record, the trip to top-ranked Navarro wasn’t all bad.
With almost an entire new starting lineup, Butler forced overtime against the defending national champion and No. 1 team on the road.
Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas and Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas have become the showcase game in all of junior college football.
Butler won the first game in August 2010 by a score of 16-10 in Wichita. Navarro won the much more significant game in Pittsburg 13-12 in December to win the national title.
On Thursday, Navarro won again 23-16 in overtime to open the 2011 season. While there is a lot of football to be played, it’s not out of the question that a fourth meeting could occur this winter.
Butler led 16-13 with 10:27 to go in the fourth quarter following a safety. Navarro’s Bradley Smith fumbled the ball but Navarro was able to recover the ball in the end zone to avoid allowing a Grizzly touchdown.
Navarro added a short field goal about two minutes later to tie the game. Both teams had two more chances to score. Navarro got as far as the Butler 35, but on third and 6, Bruce Campbell sacked Adrian Nelson for a six yard loss.
Navarro got the ball first in overtime and scored on a 1 yard Nelson touchdown run.
Butler gained two yards on its first two overtime plays and then got an automatic first down from a pass interference call. At the 10 yard line, Chandler Whitmer threw four straight incompletion’s to end the game.
Despite the outcome, there were signs of encouragement.
Whitmer, the Illinois transfer making his juco debut, completed 17 passes for 175 yard, including a 33 yard strike to Kendall Wren. Wren had five catches for 90 years.
Whitmer spread it around as eight Grizzles had a catch, a positive sign since Wren is likely to see a fair amount of double teams this season.
Besides the safety, the Butler defense intercepted a pass, pounced on a fumble, stopped 12 of 17 third down attempts and had six sacks. Rahman Swain had nine tackles (four for loss) and two sacks. Tommy Sanders had the interception and made seven tackles.
On the less-than-good side, Butler had trouble at times on the ground. While they did have 86 yards rushing, the team average 2.9 yards per rush. Derrick Thomas had a healthy 53 on 10 carriers and while Jasper Sanders broke a 20 yarder, he only had 16 yards on 10 other carriers.
Navarro dominated time of possession, 52:44 to 22:09. Enough disturbing stat was Butler was 1 for 3 in the red zone.
The Grizzles start conference play against Fort Scott at 7 p.m. Sept. 3. The Greyhounds lost 65-18 to No. 4 Blinn, Texas on Thursday.