Late Walden score lifts JU past Dayton
Hank Farmer’s never had any hearing problems and nobody is happier about that than teammate Colby Walden.

Because Farmer, from Macclenny, Fla., could hear Walden’s muffled screams to let a Dayton squib-kick get back to Walden, the senior from Tampa, Fla. was able to return the kick for the game-winning touchdown as the Dolphins (3-1, 1-0) won their Pioneer Football League opener 21-17 in Dayton, Ohio, Saturday.

On the ensuing kickoff to what appeared to be a game winning 12-play Dayton drive, Farmer was able to hear Walden despite the wind-driven (gusts were to 29 mph) roars from the nearly 2,500 in attendance.

“I could hear him a little yelling ‘let it go, let it go’,’’ Farmer said. “I was happy to let it go because I didn’t want the game coming down to me returning a kick.’’

In other words, he was happy to let Walden, one of the nation’s top kick returners, do his stuff.

Walden fielded the kick at the 15, escaped a near jersey-ripping tackle attempt at the 30, broke four more tackles along the way, and scored with 1:23 to play.

“It’s a tough place to play,’’ JU coach Kerwin Bell said. “And Colby Walden made a special play and we finished every play and that’s what it took to win here.”

An emotional Walden had a cracking voice immediately following the win.

“Big time players make big time plays,’’ he said. “I refuse to lose. I am not going to see my senior season go down the drain. I said to myself ‘I am going to make a play’ and that’s what I did.’’

Walden said the play came down to determination,.

“We have a job to do this year and we’re going to take care of that job,’’ he said. “If I’m in this, I’m going to make sure we take care of this job. Football today was good. We knew we had to play like that. Dayton is good.’’

The Flyers set up Walden’s heroics when quarterback Will Bardo engineered a 12-play, 58 yard drive that had ended in touchdown only 16 seconds prior.

Dayton had one more chance and started its final effort at its own 15. Bardo was able to get off a dozen more passes including a 17-yard completion to Braden Johnson on a play that had much more yardage written on it until JU’s Blythe Weaver made a key stop.

Following Weaver’s effort, the Dolphins put Dayton in a defensive vise and allowed only short yardage on the few passes Bardo was able to complete.

The back and forth touchdowns were the only scoring in the second half after the Dolphins had taken a 14-10 halftime lead on two second quarter touchdowns. The third quarter was highlighted, however, by freshman linebacker Justin Horton rumbling 23 yards for a first down on a fourth-and-1 fake punt attempt.

The first came with 13:33 to play when safety Andre Addison returned an interception 43 yards for a score and about 10 minutes later quarterback Kade Bell hit tight end Andy Robustelli for 23 yards and a td.

Bell completed 15 of 24 passes for 153 yards. Both tight end Quintin Davis and wide receiver Dorian Guy had four catches each.

The Dolphins continue league play Saturday when they entertain Marist in this season’s homecoming. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

- Jim Nasella