Dolphins let lead slip away at UNCP, 22-21
The JU football team saw a 21-3 lead slip away as UNC-Pembroke scored 19 points in the final 19 minutes to steal a 22-21 decision in front of crowd of 3,578 at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.

Taylor Baskett’s 25-yard field goal with 1:14 left in the game capped the rally and gave UNCP (3-1) its first lead since early in the second quarter and sealed the Dolphins (2-2) fate.

In the end, the Dolphins were their own worst enemy – turning the ball over five times and holding the ball for less than four minutes in the fourth quarter.

“We took a big step backwards on offense today,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “We let them hang around and you can’t do that when you’re on the road against a team like this. You’ve got to give them credit because they never quit and took advantage of their opportunities.”

Trailing 21-3, the Braves started their rally with a four-play, 13-yard drive that was capped by Keith Gore running in from three yards out. Baskett missed the extra point, cutting the deficit to 21-9 with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

The Braves took their opening drive of the fourth quarter right at the Dolphins and Rashon Kennedy scampered in untouched for a four-yard score to cap a seven-play, 68-yard drive. Baskett’s extra point cut the deficit to 21-16 with 13:50 left in regulation.

After recovering an onside kick, the Braves were unable to take advantage as the Dolphins got a quick 3-and-out to get the ball back. JU was unable to move the ball, picking up one first down, but giving the Braves the ball back with 10:07 left in the fourth.

The Braves drove 51 yards on 12 plays, with Baskett cutting the deficit to 21-19 on a 31-yard field goal with 4:24 remaining in the game.

On the Dolphins ensuing drive, facing 2nd and 8, Josh McGregor fumbled on a quarterback draw with the Braves taking the ball back at the JU 36 yard line at the 3:41 mark.

The Braves took their time, going 28 yards on seven plays – capped by Baskett’s field goal to take the lead.

The Dolphins last chance to move the ball into field goal range went awry as McGregor was picked off for the third time, allowing UNCP to run out the clock to seal the win.

After putting together three straight solid offensive performances, the Dolphins were held to just 198 yards of total offense. The Braves recorded 16 tackles for a loss, including six sacks, forcing five turnovers – with three of those being interceptions.

Freshman quarterback Josh McGregor struggled for the first time this season, completing 12-of-24 passes for just 118 yards with one touchdown pass.

Rudell Small was the bright spot for the JU offense, putting up 96 yards rushing and two touchdowns, giving him seven touchdowns against the Braves the last two seasons.

UNCP took an early 3-0 lead after Baskett converted a 20-yard field goal just a minute into the second quarter.

The Dolphins scored two touchdowns late in the first half to take a 14-3 into the intermission, taking advantage of big plays. Elliott Finkley’s 62-yard punt return gave JU the ball at the UNCP 16-yard line and Small scored three plays later to give JU a 7-3 lead.

Tremaine Mack almost ran back his second interception for a touchdown in as many games, giving the Dolphins the ball at the UNCP 8-yard line. McGregor found Josh Philpart in the endzone on the first play to give JU a 14-3 lead with only 38 second left in the opening half.

The Dolphins forced another turnover, recovering a fumble at the UNCP 12-yard line but McGregor was picked off trying to force the ball into coverage.

The interception was critical as JU scored on 3-of-5 red zone opportunities, both of which came back to haunt JU in the end.

Garrett Sutphen came on in relief at QB for the Braves, completing 14-of-21 for 123 yards in the second half in leading the Braves late resurgence.

The Dolphins return to North Carolina next week as they jump back into Pioneer Football League play against Davidson. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.