Bulldogs bite JU, 31-9, in opener
Quarterback Josh McGregor had 208 yards passing against The Citadel.
Quarterback Josh McGregor had 208 yards passing against The Citadel.
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Citadel took its time figuring out the Jacksonville University defense Saturday, but about the same time it did the Dolphin offense sputtered and the Bulldogs scored 31 consecutive points on their way to a 31-9 non-conference win at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The Dolphins, 0-1, drew first blood with 8:45 to play in the first quarter when senior J.J. Laster, who rushed for 36 yards, scored from the 2 on a touchdown set up when Darren Johnson forced a fumble by punt returner Greg Adams and recovered by Andre Addison. The extra point snap went awry and place kicker Bladen Gudz was stopped after retrieving the ball.

JU went up 9-0 later in the quarter when Gudz connected on a 23-yard field goal attempt and didn’t score again as the Dolphins struggled figuring out how to move the ball consistently while Citadel began rolling in front of 12,099 fans.

“We played about as bad football, especially on the offensive side of the ball, as I’ve been here’’ JU head coach Kerwin Bell said. “We just didn’t have a chance and I have to take the blame for that. It’s my job on the offensive side. We’ve got to understand we’re not the number one team in the nation on offense this year.’’

JU was held to 186 yards on offense including a minus 22 yards rushing.

“We went out there thinking somebody was just going to give it to us and they played their butts off on defense and really gave us the opportunity to not do much and we stayed on the field on defense too much,’’ Bell said.

He was noted the offensive line took too much time to understand the Bulldog defense.

“They gave us a couple of looks in the first half and it took us a whole half to figure out? We have a senior offensive line and it’s something we hadn’t seen before,’’ he said. “It took us a whole half and once we got into that rut we just couldn’t get out of it. We never got (quarterback) Josh (McGregor) comfortable because of the protection and from there they really turned it on us on defense. Hopefully we’ve learned from that.’’

McGregor, a Walter Payton Award candidate, was 21 of 33 and no touchdowns, the first time he didn’t throw a touchdown pass in 21 games. He was sacked five times. Senior running back J.J. Laster led the JU rushers with 27 yards.

“We had chances early but we didn’t connect,’’ McGregor said. “I felt like we didn’t play our best game but we’ve got to back to work.’’

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs found the answer they needed late in the first half on offense and wound up with 439 yards rushing, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Ben Dupree scored twice in the final 4:29 for a 14-9 halftime lead in the opener for both teams.

First, Dupree faked a handoff and took off on a 58-yard run for a score and after the defense held JU he scored again on a 28-yarder with 1:12 to play to cap a six-play, 42-yard drive.

The Citadel, 1-0, kept the pressure on through the third quarter and scored 10 more points on a 30-yard field goal by Ryan Sellers and a 1-yard run by sophomore running back Darien Robinson. They offered more of the same in the final quarter when Dalton Trevino ran in from the 7.

Dupree led all rushers with 141 yards rushing on 22 carries.

JU quarterback Josh McGregor, a Walter Payton Award candidate was 21 of 33 and no touchdowns, the first time he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in 21 games.

JU travels to Western Illinois (0-1) next week.

- Jim Nasella