Dolphins Rally Again For 34-27 Win Over No. 9 Valparaiso

Sept. 27, 2003

Final Stats

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Senior running back Emmett Hunter (Largo, Fla.) rushed a school-record 38 times for a career-best 210 yards and two touchdowns as Jacksonville posted its third-straight come-from-behind win in a 34-27 defeat of No. 9 Valparaiso Saturday afternoon at D.B. Milne Field. The Dolphins improve to 3-1 on the season after winning their third straight at home for the first time ever. After taking a 17-0 first-half lead, JU held off a furious comeback attempt by the Crusaders (3-2) to end Valpo's three-game win streak and record the Dolphins' first win over a Pioneer Football League North Division team.

JU forced five first-half turnovers to take a 20-7 halftime lead, but Valparaiso responded in the second half with a pair of touchdowns, the last of which gave the Crusaders a 27-26 lead with 7:54 to play in the game. The Dolphins answered two possessions later when sophomore quarterback Mike Sturgill (Vero Beach, Fla.) hit wideout Eldin Ferguson (Riviera Beach, Fla.) for a 10-yard touchdown strike to cap a 7-play, 59-yard drive with 2:24 left in the game. A 36-yard kickoff return by Julio Santiago (Jacksonville/Bolles) set up the Dolphins' game-winning drive. Sturgill connected with senior Travis Lewis (Crescent Beach, Fla.) on a big 3rd-and-13 play to move into Valpo territory and then Hunter busted a season-long 29-yard run down to the Crusader 15-yard line. Following a couple of short gains, Sturgill scrambled to find Ferguson on 3rd-and-5 for his first career touchdown.

The Crusaders got to the Dolphin 18-yard line with less than a minute to play, but failed to convert on 4th-and-25 following a personal foul penalty with 33 remaining. Valpo quarterback David Macchi threw for 452 yards and four touchdowns on the afternoon, including seven catches for 233 yards and three scores by Rob Giancola. Senior Ryan Barno also had 11 receptions for 145 yards and a score for the Crusaders, the most catches ever against JU, but the Dolphins defense stuffed the Valpo rushing attack allowing just 44 yards on 30 carries, while forcing seven fumbles on the afternoon.

Hunter literally carried the Dolphins in the second half with 21 carries for 129 yards, including 11 rushes for 72 yards and a two-yard touchdown run as JU marched 80 yards on 15 plays to take a 26-20 lead with 14:28 to play in the fourth quarter. His 210 yards rank second all-time for a single game at JU, second only to Jon Underhill who ran for 225 yards against Greensboro in 1998. Hunter is now averaging 118.8 yards per game after his second 100-yard performance of the season.

JU jumped out to a 7-0 lead when senior free safety Charlton Williams (Lynn Haven, Fla.) scooped up a Valpo fumble on the first drive of the game and raced 64 yards for the Dolphins' first first-quarter touchdown of the season. The Dolphins extended the lead to 14-0 on their first offensive possession when Hunter capped a 9-play, 61-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with 7:32 to play in the first quarter. Freshman Ryan Long (Jacksonville/Orange Park) made it 17-0 with his first of two field goals, a 25-yarder, to open the second. Macchi and Giancola hooked up for a 56-yard touchdown strike two plays later to get Valpo on the board, and then following another Long field goal, which made it 20-7, the Crusaders closed the gap to 20-13 on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Macchi to Giancola. Valparaiso tied the game on its first possession of the second half when Macchi hit Barno for a 6-yard score at the 10:40 mark of the third.

JU returns to action next week at Drake in Des Moines, Iowa, at 2 p.m.