JU dives into conference play by hosting Davidson
The JU football team will begin its title defense in earnest on Saturday as they open Pioneer Football League play against longtime rival Davidson at D.B. Milne Field. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

JU will be honoring members of the military with the annual Military Appreciation Day. All members of the military will get free admission with ID with all family members able to purchase tickets for $5.

The matchup will be the 12th meeting all time in the series, the longest running rivalry in JU’s short history. Davidson owns a 6-5 lead in the series, having won the last three matchups.

The Wildcats (1-2, 1-0 PFL) are coming off a 24-7 win at home over Campbell two weeks ago to open PFL play. A year ago, Davidson was the only team to top JU in conference play – scoring 24 unanswered points in the final 17 minutes to beat the Dolphins, 38-35.

“Once you get into conference play, every game has a little bit more meaning,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “We were in a similar situation last year and ran the table. We know what we have to do to succeed and play championship football.”

Jacksonville is looking to bounce back from a heart-wrenching 28-27 loss to Old Dominion last time out. The Dolphins had rolled up a 27-14 lead with 10 minutes left in the game, but the Monarchs scored two touchdowns in the final quarter to pull out the win.

JU’s offense put up some big numbers in the game. Josh McGregor had his fourth 300-yard performance of his career, throwing three touchdowns in the contest. Josh Philpart put up another big day receiving, making six catches for 109 yards.

Junior running back Rudell Small rushed for 95 yards on 24 carries, moving him within 275 yards of tying the school’s all-time rushing yards record.

The one fatal flaw for the Dolphins was four turnovers, which stopped several drives deep in ODU territory.

“One of the major factors in that game was turning the ball over four times,” Bell said. “You can’t give the ball away that many times and expect to win games.”

SACK ATTACK: The JU defense has made a name for itself the past few years in getting pressure on the quarterback. Now, they have the numbers to back it up.

The Dolphins enter this weekend’s game tied with South Dakota State for the nation’s lead in sacks per game with 4.33.

“Coach McCrone is an aggressive defensive coordinator and loves to bring pressure on every play,” Bell said. “What we’ve been able to do this year is finish the play when we get to the quarterback.”

Leading the team in sacks is junior Bradley Burns and senior Haywood Range – each of which is averaging 0.7 sacks per game. Senior Allen Fennell and freshman Mike Mayoral are right behind with 0.5 sacks per game.

What makes the defense even more dangerous is the number of players with a sack. JU has 10 players that have record at least a half-sack, with nine recording one sack. Four of the players with a sack are defensive linemen, three are linebackers and two are defensive backs.

The blitzes are coming from every direction, which makes this defense so tough to prepare to go against.

“With all of the stuff that Coach McCrone and his staff throw at you, it’s tough to prepare for in just one week,” Bell said. “We go up against it every day in practice, which is great preparation because there isn’t much that an opponent can throw at us that we haven’t seen in practice.”

Record Chase Continues: Entering the 2009 season, several Dolphins have the opportunity to rewrite the record books at JU by the end of the campaign.

Most notable among those is senior Jason Wood and his chase for the all-time tackles record. He enters Saturday’s game with 202 tackles in his career and needs 75 more to tie Brandon Torre atop the list.

Here’s a look at the other records in danger this season:

Category Player Total Record Holder Record To Break
Tackles Jason Wood 202 Brandon Torre 277 76
Rushing Yards Rudell Small 2,096 Jerry Brant 2,370 275
Passing Yards Josh McGregor 3,121 Chris Horton 4,868 1,748
Sacks Shaun Lewis 13 Justin Yowell 25 13