Marist rallies past JU with late touchdown, 31-27
The fourth quarter has not been a friend of the JU football team this season.

With Chris Debowski’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Kirk Fitzpatrick with seven second left, JU (2-3, 1-1 PFL) saw what once was a 27-17 lead completely vanish into a 31-27 Pioneer Football League win for Marist (3-3, 2-2 PFL).

The fourth quarter rally was the second time this season JU has lost the lead in the fourth quarter and the third straight game that the Dolphins have been out scored in the final stanza.

Debowski won a duel between the quarterbacks, completing 20-of-34 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Debowski directed the Red Foxes’ offense to 471 yards of total offense, with his favorite target was James LaMacchia, who had 10 receptions for 195 yards and one touchdown.

“We had the game in our grasp and just didn’t make the plays we needed,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “We made a lot of mistakes that added up to the result. We’ve got to learn how to finish a game, which is something we haven’t done well this season.

Trailing by 10 after Josh McGregor completed his fourth touchdown pass of the day to Chris Kuck with 8:30 left in the game, the Red Foxes went to work quickly into the deficit. Marist marched 81 yards in six plays, with Debowski connecting with LaMacchia on a 43-yard scoring toss to cut the lead to three, 27-24, with 6:34 left in regulation.

Jacksonville got the ball back after the kickoff and drove into Marist territory. On a third-and-5 play from the Marist 46, McGregor’s pass to J.J. Laster came up two yards short of a much-needed first down – forcing the Dolphins to punt.

Logan Chipperfield’s punt was set to be fair catched at the 8-yard line, but Colby Walden ran into the punt returner before he caught it – tacking on 15 yards and getting Marist out of a hole to start the drive at the Red Foxes 25-yard line with 3:18 left in the game.

The Marist drive got off to a good start with O’Neil Anderson picking up 28 yards via a running play on first down – getting the Red Foxes into JU territory.

Facing a fourth-and-8 moments later, Debowski hooked up for an 8-yard gain to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, JU had forced another fourth down – this time it was fourth-and-12 after a sack by Aaron Frye and Shaun Lewis.

The defense forced Debowski out of the pocket where he found Fitzpatrick for the game-winning score – sending the entire Marist bench into the end zone to celebrate the touchdown.

It was a bittersweet end to a game that JU seemed to have in its hands throughout.

JU scored on its opening drive when McGregor hooked up with Elliott Finkley for a 62-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes into the game.

Marist tied the game on a Debowksi touchdown pass to Chris Ortner and took a 14-7 lead after Ryan Dinnebeil scored from a two yards out with just 20 seconds left in the half. The score was setup by a pass interference call on fourth down that kept the Red Foxes drive alive.

On the ensuing kickoff, Walden raced up the sidelines for what looked like an 86-yard touchdown return but was whistled out of bounds at the Marist 42-yard line. After a nine-yard gain on first down, Donovan Curry’s 50-yard field goal attempt came up short, sending the Dolphins into the locker room down 14-7 at the half.

Things seemed to turn around for JU with the start of the second half. Curry’s kickoff into the wind got held up and Marist did not field on the bounce with Bradley Burns recovering it at the Marist 31-yard line to give JU the ball to start the half.

The Dolphins went right to work, going 31 yards in four plays with McGregor connecting with Philpart on a 19-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.

After falling behind 17-14 on a 26-yard Jason Myers field goal, JU answered with back-to-back touchdown drives to take a 27-14 lead. McGregor completed a six-yard pass to Elliott Finkley for the first touchdown then hooked up with Kuck to extend the lead to 10.

JU’s McGregor was up to the challenge from his counterpart, completing 21-of-32 for 294 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns give him 37 career passing touchdowns, just two away from becoming the school’s all-time leader in the category.

The Marist comeback also overshadowed a stellar day from Rudell Small, who rushed for 121 yards on 24 carries. It’s the second straight 100-yard rushing day for the junior and the ninth of his career. He enters next week’s game needing 44 yards to become the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards.

Jacksonville’s defense saw stellar efforts from Jason Wood (13 tackles), Joseph Fennell (12 tackles) and Shaun Lewis (11 tackles). The Dolphins racked up four sacks, with Lewis getting two, to go along with nine tackles for a loss, with Lewis being responsible for 3.5 of those.

Nine different Dolphins made a reception in the game, with Philpart leading the way with five catches for 82 yards. Finkley had three catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

The loss snapped JU’s seven-game winning streak in PFL play – the longest in school history.

The Dolphins return to cozy confines of D.B. Milne Field for Homecoming against Morehead State next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.