Dolphins looking for progress this week

Sept. 5, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It is often said in football that teams make the most improvement between the first and second game.

JU head coach Kerwin Bell has a very similar outlook as the Dolphins get set to travel to Gardner-Webb on Saturday.

"There are a lot of positive things that we can take away from Saturday's game," Bell said. "What I want to see is more consistentcy on offense. I have to remind myself that this is a new offense for these guys, but eventually, I want it to become second nature for them.

"Once these guys realize they can score on any given play, this offense will really take off."

Each part of the team had highs and lows in the season opening loss to Bethune-Cookman, 31-17. There were highs for the offense - an impressive 76-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter; for the defense - holding BCU to 4-of-14 on third down conversions; and special teams with the kickers and punters having a spot-on performance.

But as high as the highs were, the lows were lower. The offense committed three turnovers in the second half, with one being returned for a touchdown. The defense saw BCU quarterback Jimmie Russell rush for three touchdowns. The special teams had some hiccups in the return game, especially to start the second half.

"The one thing we need to become is more consistent - from start to finish," Bell said. "We're looking for a consistent effort on every play."

The offense had a Jekyl-and-Hyde performance against Bethune-Cookman. In the first half, the Dolphins piled up 163 yards, with 118 of that coming via the passing game.

"We had it going in the first half, but we never got into rhythm in the second half," Bell said. "We made some turnovers late in the ball game that hurt us."

One of the bright spots for the offense was the play of freshman Tommie Rogers. The Tampa, Fla. native had two catches for 60 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate game - a 28-yard catch for JU's first score.

The offensive line also played well, giving senior quarterback Chris Horton time to throw as he was sacked just once. Freshman Leonard Payton, a product of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, started in his first collegiate game and acquitted himself well at right tackle.

The JU defense did a good job of slowing down the triple-option attack employed by Bethune-Cookman, holding the Wildcats to less than 300 yards on the ground.

"Coach McCrone and the defensive staff had a great game plan for stopping their attack," Bell said. "We threw a lot of different looks at them and it kept them off balance."

Junior Robson Noel moved over to free safety and starred in his debut, racking up 11 tackles - the ninth highest total in the country on Saturday. Joining him in the tackle party was junior strong safety James Mills, who had eight tackles.

Another impressive debut at a new position was sophomore defensive tackle Jon Martinson, who was converted to the defensive side from tight end in the spring. Martinson finished the game with six tackles, including a sack.

The starting five defensive linemen did a solid job for the Dolphins, racking up 25 tackles - led by sophomores Haywood Range and Nixon Maitre, who had seven apiece.

"We were physical on defense and our front line did a good job of getting up the field and throwing off their timing," Bell said.

Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 6 p.m. in Boiling Springs, N.C.