Dolphins fall to Bethune-Cookman, 31-17

Sept. 1, 2007

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Jacksonville football team held its own in the season opener, but three turnovers in the second half led Bethune-Cookman to a 31-17 win Saturday at Municipal Stadium.

The Dolphins (0-1) dropped the first game of the Kerwin Bell era, but not without a strong performance on both sides of the ball.

"I was pleased with our effort and I know we're going in the right direction," said Bell. "We made a couple of mistakes that hurt us, but there a lot of positives to take out of this game. We're going to shake this off, watch the film and get ready for next week."

Bethune-Cookman (1-0) racked up 283 yards on the ground, with quarterback Jimme Russell leading the way with 114 yards and three touchdowns. Fullback Justin Brandon rushed for 103 yards as well for the Wildcats.

Russell finished the game with 103 yards passing, completing 9-of-17 in the contest.

Senior quarterback Chris Horton had an up-and-down debut in the new offense. He finished the day completing 15-of-39 for 177 yards and one touchdown, but had three interceptions - all coming in the second half.

Defensive back Robson Noel stepped up with 11 tackles, while James Mills had eight to lead the JU defense.

"Our guys are still learning and this was the first game experience, but they handled it well," Bell said. "We've got to become more consistent on offense, but that will come in time."

Trailing 10-7, Russell found a seam and broke into the open field on an option play from 33 yards out to put the Wildcats on top 14-10 with 3:32 left in the first half.

The Wildcats got the ball back one more time in the first half, driving 74 yards - helped by two pass interference calls - with Lucas Esquivel kicking a 33-yard field goal at the buzzer to put BCU up 17-10 at the intermission.

In a defensive stalemate in the second half, Bethune-Cookman got the first big play of the game. Defensive end Dennis King picked off a Horton pass and returned it 15 yards for the score to put the Wildcats on top 24-17.

Russell then put the game on ice with an eight-yard run with 4:25 left in the game to put the Wildcats ahead, 31-10.

The second half was a stark contrast to the first, as JU opened the scoring. Horton hooked up with freshman Tommie Rogers for a 28-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play, 76-yard drive with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

After Russell turned a busted play into a 13-yard touchdown to tie the game, Michael Zacco booted a 30-yard field goal just two minutes into the second quarter to put JU back on top, 10-7.

Cecil Coltrane was the Dolphins leading rusher with 53 yards on 14 carries.

The Dolphins hit the road again next week as they face Gardner-Webb in North Carolina. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.