Football drops conference opener to Davidson, 20-10

Sept. 29, 2007

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The first 30 minutes went according to plan for the Jacksonville University football team as they held a 10-0 lead at the intermission.

But the second half went terribly awry as Davidson scored 20 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes to steal the Pioneer Football League opener for both teams, 20-10, at D.B. Milne Field on Saturday.

"We weren't very good today and that started from the opening coin toss," said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. "We just weren't very sharp. That's not to take anything away from Davidson, because they played a great game and executed when they had to. That was the difference - they did and we didn't."

The difference in the game was the running game. Davidson was able to run the ball in the second half while JU wasn't, despite the Dolphins (1-3, 0-1 PFL) second straight 100-yard rushing effort. This time freshman Tommie Rogers went over the century mark by carrying the ball 17 times for 127 yards to lead the JU rushing attack that compiled 197 yards.

But, he was offset by Davidson (3-1, 1-0 PFL) running back Kenny Mantuo, who rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns, with 120 of that total coming in the second half.

And it was the ground game that got the Dolphins on the board first as Ron Harris scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 19-yard run with 14:49 left in the first half.

Michael Zacco boosted the Dolphins halftime lead to 10 with a 45-yard field, the third longest in school history, with 4:19 left in the opening half.

At the half, the Dolphins had piled up 234 yards, with Rogers accounting for 111 of that on the ground. The defense had done its job as well, holding the Wildcats to 166 yards and forcing two turnovers.

JU opened the second half the same what it had the first - on defense. An omen of things to come, the Dolphins won the coin toss and elected to kick, giving Davidson the option in the second half.

The Wildcats opted to receive the second half kickoff and took advantage quickly, scoring on the second play of the quarter - a 29-yard pass from Ryan Alexander to Kirk Konert, cutting the deficit to 10-7.

Despite holding the lead, the Dolphins offense was unable to get on track. JU went three-and-out on its first three drives of the season half, and were unable to do much when the defense forced its third turnover of the game on a fumble midway through the third.

But the Dolphin offense did come to life for a moment, driving 38 yards on 10 plays before Zacco missed his first field goal of the season, a 37-yarder with 2:27 left in the third.

After the defense made a key stop, Cecil Coltrane fumbled the ball and the Wildcats recovered - giving Davidson new life entering the fourth quarter.

With good field position, the Wildcats drove 54 yards in seven plays, with Mantuo scoring his first touchdown from three-yards out to put Davidson on top, 14-10, with 13:23 left in the game.

After another JU three-and-out, the Wildcats put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive with Mantuo playing the hero again. Facing third-and-one, the Wildcats gave to Mantuo and he broke through the line and dashed into the end zone from 37-yards out to give Davidson a 20-10 lead, as the snap on the extra point attempt was off the mark, with only 7:25 remaining in regulation.

The Dolphins tried to answer with a drive of their own, getting to the Davidson 28, but Chris Horton's pass for Michael Jenner in the end zone was just under thrown and picked off by Jeffrey Scott to clinch the win for Davidson.

Horton finished the day going 15-of-33 for 157 yards with two interceptions. Geavon Tribble caught four passes and Jenner had 40 yards receiving as eight different Dolphins had receptions.

Davidson's Ryan Alexander threw for 243 yards, completing 15-of-36 with two interceptions and one touchdown after missing the past two games due to injuries.

Robson Noel led the Dolphins' defense with 10 tackles with Chris Cherry and Patrick Stoner chipping in with eight apiece. JU failed to record a sack in the game, the first time that has happened this season.

The Dolphins return to the field next Saturday as they head to Dayton, Ohio to face the Flyers. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.