DAYTON, Ohio – The last time Dayton was shut out in a football game, Gerald Ford was in the White House, a gallon of gas costs 59 cents and nobody had ever seen a movie called “Star Wars.”

A long time ago, in other words. Try 41 years and 457 consecutive games since a 9-0 blanking by Marshall on Oct. 16, 1976. That’s the longest streak in Division I, by a bunch. Montana is way back in second at 373, Florida the best of the FBS at 363.

So let’s go to a Dayton game and ask around to find out what the Flyers have to say about it all. The primary reaction seems to be ...

Streak? What streak?

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Let's start up in the radio booth. There’s Mike Kelly, who put together one of the most glorious coaching careers in college football history at Dayton; 246-54-1, or an 81.9 winning percentage, from 1981-2007. So a big chunk of the streak belongs to him.

“We are very much aware of the fact it’s there, but trust me, it is never brought up, it is never discussed,” he said. “No one needs that pressure to have to be the one to say `I was part of the team to be shut out.’ Quite frankly we don’t want it to be a national story. We know that when it does happen it will be a national story.”

He heard about it when he was coaching, but can’t remember the first time. Other numbers concerned him back then, such as the 13-0-1 record in 1989 when his team won the Division III national championship, or the 48 Academic All-Americans he coached.

“It didn’t help us win the next game, and as a coach and a player, that’s all you’re concentrating on. You’re not concentrating on the history of the program. It’s a fun statistic, it’s fun to have people mention it once in a while, but it’s not something we hang our hat on.”

Still, not many guys can look back on a 27-year coaching career and say they were never shut out. Not once. Some of the credit goes to long-time offensive coordinator Dave Whilding, too.

“When I think back on my personal career, all I think about are the darn losses we had,”  Kelly said. “I can tell you everything about every loss we had and how we lost it and the score. I can’t tell you anything about the wins. It’s not a number I’ve ever thought of.

“I think if you went and asked our players and our coaches, they wouldn’t be able to discuss it. They wouldn’t know how long it’s been.”

OK, let’s do that.

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Current coach Rick Chamberlin:

 “Don’t even think about. You can’t. Whenever I see that pop up, I have no clue how many games that is. I have no idea. I know it’s over a hundred, I don’t know how much more.”

Quarterback Alex Jeske:

“I know it’s there, but that’s the last thing anyone’s thinking about.”

Well then, the numbers can do the talking.

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Dayton is 362-92-3 in those 457 games, a streak that started in Division III and now has stretched well into the FCS era. The Flyers have had only one losing season since 1976, so no wonder they’ve been hard to keep off the scoreboard.

They have been held to single digits 14 times in 457 games, and three times scored only a field goal. The last time they did that was 30 years ago. Kelly can’t remember any close calls, where a game came down to the final minutes with no Dayton points.

Some streak, hey? Even if mum’s the word in Dayton. Besides, who wants to tempt fate by blabbing about it?

“I’m not superstitious,” Kelly said. “But I am superstitious.”

Mike Lopresti is a member of the US Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, Ball State journalism Hall of Fame and Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. He has covered college basketball for 43 years, including 38 Final Fours. He is so old he covered Bob Knight when he had dark hair and basketball shorts were actually short.
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