With the win, Drake (8-3, 7-1) claimed a share of the PFL title with Butler and possibly San Diego, which will play at Marist on Dec. 1 in a makeup game caused by Hurricane Sandy.
The Bulldogs, behind senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski, jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and added a field goal for a 17-0 lead early in the second before the Dolphins (7-4 5-3) put the clamps on.
Playing his last home game on Senior Day for JU, defensive lineman Daniel Del Guidice ignited the Dolphins by sacking Piatkowski in the end zone for a safety with 9:50 to go in the first half. It was one of four sacks the Dolphins, who lost two home games in a season for the first time since 2007, recorded on the day.
Place kicker Dylan Lynch was good on a 24-yard field goal as time expired in the half for a 17-5 deficit.
“I’m not sure what that first half was,’’ JU coach Kerwin Bell said. “It might have been the emotion of Senior Day, but we ran some bad ball plays. We fumbled around, bumbled around, didn’t take handoffs properly.
“More than anything else we just settled them down at halftime and told them we couldn’t play any worse,’’ he said. “And we made some adjustments in our running game that we needed to make.’’
The Dolphins then played their best third quarter of the season and it started when safety Andre Addison intercepted Piatkowski and returned it 50 yards for a score, his second pick-6 of the season.
“With the big turnover and touchdown the defense got us, that gave us confidence,’’ Bell said. “That and the adjustments in the run game let (quarterback) Trevius (Folston) make some big plays passing.’’
The sophomore Folston, making only the third collegiate start of his career, then took the Dolphins on a seven-play, 73-yard drive culminating with his longest pass of the season, a 48-yard TD strike to D’Andre Randle. It was the first JU touchdown pass in three games and gave the Dolphins a 19-17 lead.
Lynch then connected on a 40-yard field goal with 14:11 to play in the game for a 22-19 lead but Drake responded with a pair of scores in less than two minutes.
First running back Gary Scott went in from the 1 with 11:49 to play. JU then went three-and-out and Drake’s Tyler Moorehead returned a punt 36 yards. Piatkowski, who finished the day going 25 of 34 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and one interception hit Joey Orlando with what turned out to be the winning score from 13 yards.
JU wouldn’t throw in the towel and Folston engineered a 10 paly-92 yard drive that ended when senior Keith Dawson went in from the 2. Dawson had 53 yards on the day on 18 carries and led the team in rushing this season with 550 yards.
Folston ended the day at 17-for-28 for 237 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions.
The JU rushing defense once again was stellar as it held the Bulldogs to 80 net yards, the third consecutive game and fifth time in six games, opponents have been held to less than 100 yards on the ground. The Dolphins gave up 557 in the opener to Georgia Southern and gave up only 872 yards the remaining 10 games combined.
Senior Taylor Marsh ended the season exactly as he started by recording seven tackles and fellow senior Layne McCombs had six. Safety Jordan Dewhirst, who led the team in tackles with 57 this year, had five as did senior Colby Walden.