The Dolphins (3-1 overall, 1-0 in the Pioneer Football League), play host to always tough Marist and are trying to extend a couple of streaks Saturday at D. B. Milne Field.
First, JU is trying to extend its home win streak to 16, currently the best active home streak in the country. In addition, the Dolphins have won eight consecutive Homecoming games (11-3 all time), and, with a win would move the program back to .500 (75-75) for the first time since 1999 when they were 7-7.
Many times, teams like to schedule patsies for the big game of the year. That would not be Marist.
“They always play us tough,’’ coach Kerwin Bell said. “They play a defense that, for us, we have to run the ball. We have to be good running the ball.’’
Bell recalled the game here two years ago when JU was able to pull out a 56-14 win.
“We took care of them then and you say ‘why is that?’,’’ he said. “Because we ran for 433 yards and we complemented that with a high percentage passing game( 13 of 21). They play three down linemen and a 3-5-3 defense and on pass downs they’ll drop all eight guys and rush only three. They were one of the top defenses in the conference, and in certain areas the nation, last year.
We couldn’t run the ball at them last year and we really struggled.’’
While the defense presents its problems for JU, the Red Foxes’ offense is rolling as it comes in to meet one of the nation’s top defenses.
Marist (2-2, 1-0) KO’d Davidson, 34-21, last week in record-setting fashion as it racked up 550 yards in offense.
Quarterback Chuckie Looney, from Ocala, Fla., threw for 403 yards, only the second time in team history the 400-yard mark was broken and his four touchdown passes tied the school record.
Bell coached Looney one year at Trinity Catholic High School before the coach moved to JU.
“He has really grown up and has won the starting job,’’ Bell said. “He has a lot of confidence and a quick release. He doesn’t wait on receivers to open up, he gets receivers open with his throws.’’
His favorite target has been wide receiver Mike Rios who had three of the td catches and 244 yards, a PFL record. He has 431 yards for the season.
While the key matchup, of course, is against JU’s fourth-rank pass defense, Bell’s focus is on getting the offense going.
"We need to have our young linemen and backs come off the ball and get us in positive situations and stay away from negative plays,’’ Bell said. “We’ve got to be positive in the run game and if we do that I feel very comfortable. We need to score a pile of points because they are a team to be reckoned with.’’
Kickoff is at 1:06 p.m. and the game will be televised on CW17. On radio, the game can be heard on 92.5 FM and 1010XL.com.
The pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m.