Football Loses, 54-38, to PFL North Champion Valparaiso

Sept. 25, 2004


VALPARAISO, Ind. - Sophomore running back Jerry Brant (Jacksonville/Raines HS) rushed for a career-best 114 yards and two touchdowns as the JU football team racked up a program-best 374 yards on the ground but it wasn't enough to overcome numerous special team's mistakes as the Dolphins fell to Valparaiso, 54-38, Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. The game marked the first Pioneer Football League competition for both schools. JU, with a record of 0-3, racked up 484 yards of total offense and also got a career-high 79 yards on the ground from junior fullback Steven Battle (Jacksonville/Raines) as the Dolphins dominated time of possession with nearly 36 minutes of total offense. Valparaiso (3-2), the defending PFL North Champions last season, took advantage of Dolphin miscues and were sparked in the second half by the play of backup quarterback Dustin Shamburg. After entering the contest in the second quarter, Shamburg finished 7-of-8 for 235 yards and three touchdowns to erase a 26-21 JU halftime lead. The Crusaders were also led offensively by Jeff Horton's 125 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.

"We played well enough to win offensively and defensively but special teams really let us down today," said JU head coach Steve Gilbert. "We made great strides as a team and we certainly feel good about the remainder of the league schedule."

Among the JU problems with the special team's unit were four missed extra-point attempts, a missed field goal, a bad snap over the punter and a blocked Valparaiso punt which ended up as a touchdown for the Crusaders after a JU fumble near the end zone. JU junior quarterback Mike Sturgill (Vero Beach, Fla.) completed only 6-of-23 passes for 110 yards on the day but did most of his damage on the ground with 77 yards on 11 attempts and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Julio Santiago led the squad with 61 yards on two catches, including a 52-yard hook up in the second half. Defensively, junior defensive back Leighton Henderson (Miami, Fla.) recorded an interception while the squad held All-American Rob Giancola to only two catches on the afternoon.

Valparaiso jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter after a fumble recovery by Jake Feit resulted in a touchdown after JU blocked a field goal attempt and inadvertently touched the ball. Junior linebacker Brandon Torre (Tallahassee, Fla.) blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt by Valparaiso and the ball fell near the JU goal line. Henderson inadvertently touched the ball and was recovered by Feit in the end zone for the score.

JU answered back with a 41-yard touchdown run by Brant with 5:53 remaining in the first quarter but the extra-point attempt was missed (7-6). Valparaiso made it 14-6 after a 4-yard scramble by Horton with a 1:58 remaining in the first quarter.

The Dolphins made it 14-13 after a one-yard plunge by freshman fullback Corey Saunders (Bradenton, Fla.) but Valparaiso answered back with 79-yard strike from Dustin Shamburg to Giancola with 8:28 remaining in the half. JU took a 26-10 halftime lead after a pair of touchdown runs by Brant (41 yards) and freshman running back Phillip Fields (Orlando, Fla.) (6 yards).

In the second half, Valparaiso capitalized on two punting miscues to take a 33-26 advantage. After blocking a JU punt, Matt Van Daele connected with Kenny Kiel for a 19-yard touchdown with 12:40 remaining in the third quarter. The Dolphins stalled again on their next drive and were forced to punt but the snap flew over the head of junior punter Ryan Feely (Odessa, Fla.) and was recovered by the Crusaders in the end zone. Valparaiso then made it 40-26 after a 6-yard touchdown strike by Shamburg to Kevin Knutson.

JU cut the deficit to 40-38 after a pair of touchdown runs by Sturgill (18 yards) and Saunders (1 yard) but Valparaiso scored 14 unanswered points to end the game.

The Dolphins will return home to face Drake at the D.B. Milne Field on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m.