Despite loss, Bell see better days ahead
WR Josh Philpart (10) and QB Josh McGregor (2) talk it over after their first touchdown Saturday.
WR Josh Philpart (10) and QB Josh McGregor (2) talk it over after their first touchdown Saturday.
MACOMB, Ill. -- Another second-quarter letdown helped pave the way for a second consecutive Jacksonville University loss Saturday, but coach Kerwin Bell says he sees signs his team is getting better.

The Dolphins, who fell behind in the second quarter of the opening loss to The Citadel, gave up 21 points in the second to Western Illinois which led to a 35-21 defeat at Hanson Stadium. It was the first back-to-back losses by JU since early in the 2009 season and this loss wasn’t helped by the suspension from starting of five players who violated team rules.

“We’ve been getting off to good starts,’’ Bell said. “We feel like our team is in good shape; this week’s a little bit different than last week because we were down a lot of men. If you look at everybody who was hurt and everybody who was suspended we went out there with a patch work unit and I was so proud of those guys.’’

The Dolphins got the early lead when quarterback Josh McGregor hit wide receiver Josh Philpart on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:55 to play in the first quarter which ended an eight-play, 69-yard drive.

The Leathernecks responded with a 94-yard drive covering 16 plays that ended when senior fullback Josh Gabelmann went in from the 1 with 8:07 to play in the first half and continued its scoring when quarterback Josh Hudson threw a 2-yard scoring pass to Aaron Muhammad with 3:27 to play.

Running back Caulton Ray scored the third td of the quarter with a 54-yard run with 1:10 to play for a 21-7 lead. “We played hard but they went down there right before the half and we didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball,’’ Bell said. “It was one of our worst days for turnovers and you combine those two things and it gave them a chance to jumpstart their offense and score some points before the half.’’

Hudson was 14 of 20 for 215 yards and three touchdowns while McGregor was 23-for-50 with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Philpart led Dolphin receivers with 104 yards on eight catches.

JU (0-2) tried to make a game of it when McGregor connected with wide receiver Larry Thompson on a 46-yard touchdown pass with 9:25 to play in the third quarter to pull within 21-14. It was Thompson’s 22nd consecutive game with a reception. McGregor struck again in the third quarter when tight end Quintin Davis got behind the secondary for a 46-yard touchdown with 1:55 to play.

The Leathernecks took the lead for good with one second to go in the third on a five-play, 53-yard drive when Hudson hit Myles Daughtry on a 24-yard score. They followed up with a 53-yard td pass from Hudson to Terriun Crump with 12:27 to play. “We came out with a lot of energy in the second half and came back on them and made some big plays in the passing game,’’ Bell said. “Our line did a lot better blocking this week and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. That was a big defensive front and we don’t face those kind of people in the PFL.’’

While disappointed, Bell said the work his team is putting forth is leading to improvement.

“Life’s not always a bed of roses,’’ he said. “We had dreams of starting 2-0 and making a big run early and we just didn’t play at the level we need to play at. When you play up and you’re playing scholarship programs like we’re playing, you have to play at a high level to have a chance. We didn’t play at that level and I’m disappointed in that, I thought we would have. We’re not at that level but I see signs and if we continue to do that we’ll be a good football team.’’

The Dolphins play their home opener Saturday against Charleston Southern at 1 p.m.

-- Jim Nasella