Dolphins win opener at Old Dominion, 35-25
Play Video
The JU football team exorcised some demons on Saturday at Foreman Field, using timely defense and an explosive offense to topple Old Dominion, 35-25, in front of a sellout crowd of 19,782.

JU (1-0) put up 493 yards of total offense, throwing for 311 yards and putting up 182 on the ground, led by Walter Payton Award candidate Rudell Small. Small had 19 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Josh Philpart did his part as well – putting up 115 yards on six receptions with two touchdowns, including the game-clinching 19-yard pass from McGregor with 1:54 left in the game.

The Dolphins young defense stood tall when it needed to all night, forcing four turnovers and stopping the Monarchs on a fourth down inside the 20 despite giving up 461 yards.

“We talked all week about getting respect after last year,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “We did a lot of good things tonight, especially with our young defense that made a lot of big plays when we needed them.”

After seeing a 27-14 lead evaporate in the fourth quarter against ODU at home a year ago, the Dolphins had seen a 28-17 lead turn into a 28-25 with just 8:28 left in the game after a Thomas DeMarco one-yard run.

The JU offense had a quick 3-and-out and ODU came right back down the field – driving to the JU 11-yard line, where on 3rd-and-9, Jordan Dewhirst got in front of a DeMarco pass in the end zone and raced it out to the JU 41-yard line.

Jacksonville took advantage of the turnover, with McGregor icing the game with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Philpart with 1:54 left in the game to give JU a 35-25 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, JU’s J.J. Laster forced a fumble and Montaque Mack recovered to end the victory.

The Dolphins led 14-10 at halftime after a slow start in the first quarter. The Dolphins put up just 36 yards, gave up 133 and trailed only 3-0 entering the second quarter. In the second quarter, JU posted 152 yards in the second quarter, racking up 10 first downs.

JU got on the board to take a 7-3 lead on a 4-yard touchdown pass from McGregor to Chris Kuck with 10:44 left in the half. Small posted his first TD of the season on a 1-yard out of the “Wild Fin” formation to take a 14-3 lead.

ODU took momentum into the locker room when Prentice Gill caught a 19-yard pass from DeMarco to make it a four-point game at the intermission.

JU extended its lead on a 32-yard pass from McGregor to Philpart to make it 21-10. ODU came right back with Dorian Jackson, the hero of the game in Jacksonville, scoring on a 44-yard pass play from DeMarco with 4:44 left in the third.

The Dolphins seemed to take control on Small’s 2-yard run to start the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 28-17.

McGregor finished with 24-of-34 passing, hitting nine different receivers in the process, including Larry Thompson – who had five catches for 72 yards.

The defense was led by Leonard Smith’s 10 tackles as the Dolphins racked up six tackles for a loss, led by Layne McCombs’ two en route to his eight tackles.

DeMarco was 22-of-40 passing for 334 yards and two touchdowns, but threw three interceptions.

Jacksonville returns to the road next Saturday as they face No. 3 Appalachian State at 3:30 p.m.