Plenty at stake with Senior Day on tap
Josh Philpart (10) needs one TD catch to reach 35 for his career.
Josh Philpart (10) needs one TD catch to reach 35 for his career.
With its loss to Drake now a bad memory, Jacksonville University attempts to rebound this week as it celebrates Senior Day for its final home football game of the season Saturday.

The Dolphins still are in the thick of the Pioneer Football League race and should they win out will, at worst, be co-champion. JU is in a battle with both Drake and San Diego as each has only one PFL loss. The Dolphins play host to Butler this week then travel to San Diego while Drake ends its season this week at home against Dayton.

Should JU (6-3, 5-1) and Drake (8-2, 6-1) each end up with one league loss they are declared co-champs under league rules. A league spokesman said Sunday tiebreaks are used in the PFL only if playoff berths are at stake.

JU had its record 16-game PFL win streak snapped at Drake with a 31-24 loss.

“We had such a good run, when you haven’t lost in the conference in two and a half years it’s a big shock to everybody,’’ coach Kerwin Bell said.

In the game, the Dolphins had five turnovers, ran only eight plays in the fourth quarter and ran nearly 20 fewer plays (78-59), all of which helped doom JU.

In addition, bad luck struck in the fourth quarter when Drake punter Billy Janssen shanked a punt from his own end zone on fourth and 30 and it wound up hitting a JU player who was running downfield. At that point, of course, it was a live ball and Drake recovered.

“A bad punt by their punter and it hits our guy, there was nothing he could do about it, it was a bad punt and they get the ball at midfield and that was a big turning point in the game,’’ Bell said.

Shortly after that, game officials got confused on what down it was and Drake wound up getting five downs before getting a first that kept the drive alive.

“The chain crew from Drake, everybody saying it was third down but the head referee never would change his mind,’’ Bell said. “They tried to call up to the booth but couldn’t get an answer. It’s just one of those things that happen.’’

“Don’t talk about what we didn’t do, talk about what they did,’’ coach Kerwin Bell said. “They played a whale of a game. Playing at their place is always tough, we’ve known that.’’

In fact, the Bulldogs held JU to 43 yards rushing and kept tremendous pressure on quarterback Josh McGregor throughout the game. They sacked McGregor four times and backup Trevius Folston once.

Despite all that, the Dolphins were in it until Drake scored with 21 seconds to play.

“I was really proud that after the turnovers we were still in position to win and had them down,’’ Bell said. “One bad bounce (on the punt) was the difference.’’

Now, the Dolphins take on Butler (5-4, 3-3) which celebrated its own Senior Day Saturday with a 17-7 win over Davidson. Butler quarterback Wade Markley, a redshirt freshman, made his first collegiate start replacing injured Andrew Huck (shoulder).

He was 15 of 22 for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.

"Wade Markley played a great game," Butler coach Jeff Voris said. "The thing with Wade that allows everyone to relax and feel confident is the intangible things that he brings to the game. He spends as much time as anyone studying. He spent most of the year with very few 'reps', but mentally he was into each practice."

Game time this week switches to noon and the game will be broadcast on 1010XL radio, and CW-17 television.

On the radio side, Terry Norvelle will call the action and the Bono’s Barbeque Pregame Show will begin at 11:30 a.m. Barry Milligan and Maurice Williams will handle the television broadcast duties.

-- Jim Nasella