JU faces stern test at Samford

Last season, the JU football team stepped up to face the highest level of competition in the Football Championship Subdivision when the Dolphins took on top-ranked Appalachian State.

A year later, the Dolphins (1-0) will test themselves against another Southern Conference foe as they travel to Samford (0-1) on Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (EST), with the Bono’s Pregame Show set to air at 6:30 p.m. The “Voice of the Dolphins” Barry Milligan will be calling the action on 1010XL.

“We are excited about the opportunity to face a growing program in the best league in the FCS,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “They have done a great job of building the Samford program and we look forward to see how far we’ve come from last year’s game at Appalachian State.”

JU is coming off a water-logged 40-24 win over Webber International in the season opener. The Dolphins got 315 yards in the air from Josh McGregor, with 195 of those going to sophomore wide receiver Josh Philpart. Philpart caught six passes to amass the yardage total, with two going for touchdowns.

Aiding the offense was a Dolphins defense with four starters out due to illness or injury. JU racked up 9.5 tackles for a loss, with 7.5 of those coming from sacks. Senior linebacker Allen Fennell led the effort with 12 tackles, including two for loss.

Senior defensive lineman Haywood Range racked up a career-best 11 tackles with two for a loss and one sack. Shaun Lewis extended his streak of consecutive games with a sack to three while getting two tackles for a loss.

Sophomore linebacker Layne McCombs stepped up in the role of outside linebacker in place of Will Perry, getting 10 tackles and one sack.

“Our defense was solid with so many guys out,” Bell said. “They were out there a long time and held their ground, really controlling the line of scrimmage and eliminating their running game.”

RECORD CHASE CONTINUES: For junior Rudell Small, he inched closer to the all-time rushing record with his 94 yards against Webber. He enters the Samford game needing 422 more yards to break the school’s all-time record. His two touchdowns on the ground give him a total of 26 for his career, extending his own school record and increasing his rushing touchdown career total to 24, which is also a school record.

Josh McGregor picked up the third 300-yard passing game of his career against Webber and needs 2,150 yards to break the school’s all-time passing record. His four touchdowns increased his career total to 28 and needs 11 more to break the school’s all-time record.

Senior defensive back Jason Wood’s chase for the all-time tackle lead took a hit as he missed the game due to illness. He needs 88 tackles over the next 10 games to tie Brandon Torre for the school record.

Another Dolphin aiding his effort for the record books was Shaun Lewis, who picked up a sack in the opener. He now has 13 career sacks and needs 12 more to tie Justin Yowell for the school record.

DOLPHINS RECEIVING VOTES: JU continued to receive votes in both national polls this week. The Dolphins received five points in the FCS Coaches Poll, down from 11 in the preseason poll. In the Sports Network FCS Top 25, JU lost two points as the Dolphins got 14 points. Samford received 87 points, which ranks the Bulldogs 36th in the poll.