WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2002
Dolphins Capture First Championship On The Gridiron
JU football made the most out of its first season as a member of the Pioneer Football League. The Dolphins, playing in just their fourth season of intercollegiate football at the I-AA non-scholarship level, captured the PFL Southern Division Championship by going 3-0 in league play en route to their first winning season overall (6-5). By winning the division, JU qualified for the inaugural PFL Championship game where the Dolphins eventually fell to perennial power, No. 2 Dayton, 42-21.
JU finished the season ranked No. 9 in the Sports Network Mid-Major Top 10 poll and was ranked as high as No. 2 earlier in the season. Along the way, the Dolphins established school records for wins (6), best start ever (4-0), most consecutive wins (4) and most road wins (3). Senior running back Brent Alexander earned All-America honors after rushing for a conference-best and school-record 1,089 yards, which ranked 31st nationally. Alexander re-wrote the JU record books, including single-season (12) and career rushing touchdowns (20), and became the first player in school history to eclipse 2,000 career yards (2,090).
Joining Alexander as an All-American was senior free safety Tyrone Wright, who earned Honorable-Mention honors and was tabbed the PFL Co-Defensive Player of the Year after recording a team-best 65 tackles, grabbing four interceptions and breaking up seven passes. Wright also forced two fumbles and was part of the JU defense which ranked 13th nationally allowing just 151.8 yards passing per game.
"I'm so happy and proud for our 25 seniors who helped build the program from the ground up," says head coach Steve Gilbert, who is entering his fifth season at JU. "This year was a culmination of five years (four seasons) of hard work and commitment to the Jacksonville University football program. Regardless of what happens in the future, this group can always be proud of having the first winning season and capturing the first conference championship."
All totaled, JU had a league-high 10 players on the PFL All-Conference First-Team, while 27 Dolphins were named to the PFL Academic Honor Roll. The Pioneer Football League also named six Dolphins to the Academic All-Conference Team for their work in the classroom and their contributions on the football field.