Football flies to Valparaiso to start final five-game run
With half the season in the rearview mirror, the JU football team has put itself in contention for the Pioneer Football League title.

The Dolphins (5-1, 3-0 PFL) will put their share of first place on the line on Saturday as they travel to face Valparaiso (0-6, 0-3 PFL) at 2 p.m. (EST). The game will be broadcast on 1010XL, with Barry Milligan calling the action – starting with the Bono’s Barbecue Pregame Show at 1:30 p.m.

Jacksonville has won four straight to share the top spot in the PFL with Dayton. The winning streak has vaulted the Dolphins in the national polls, moving up to 29th in the Sports Network/ top 25.

Yet all of that can go away if the Dolphins get caught looking ahead or lose focus on the task at hand – the Valpo game.

“This is an important game for us to keep the momentum going,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “They are at home in front of their fans and will come out fired up ready to play. We can’t take them lightly. We’ve got to match their intensity and take care of business.”

JU is off to its best start in program history and the current four-game winning streak is tied for the second longest in program history.

But there have been some anxious moments in the last two weeks at JU has taken a large lead into the locker room at halftime only to have a battle on its hands at the end of the game.

JU opened a 28-7 lead on San Diego before the Toreros came back against JU’s young defenders to make the final 35-28. Against Drake last week, the Dolphins owned a 30-7 lead at halftime before the Bulldogs fought to make it a one possession game before falling, 39-34.

It’s a problem that Coach Bell and the staff have focused on this week in practice.

“We need to finish games strong and develop that killer instinct,” Bell said. “We’ve done really well in the first half of the last two games, but we’ve let up for some reason in the second half. We need to play the entire 60 minutes at a high level on both sides of the ball.”

One of the constants in the winning streak has been the ability of the offense to move the ball. The Dolphins have put up at least 500 yards in three of the last four games with a balanced attack. Josh McGregor has thrown for at least 300 yards in each game and JU has produced a 100-yard rusher in three of the four outings.

The defense has come around as well, allowing less than 300 yards in every game but one and has given up just 100-yard rusher during the streak.

“With our young defense, they are going to make some great plays and they are going to make some mistakes,” Bell said. “The great thing about them is they are hungry to get better each week and we’re seeing that in their play.”