MACON, Ga. – The Jacksonville University football team met Mercer under the Thursday night lights of Five Star Stadium, where it dropped its season-opener, 48-7.
A balanced attack, resulting in 83 yards both rushing and receiving, saw the Bears hold a 20-0 advantage with 30 seconds remaining before the break. For most of the half, the home team capitalized on solid field position, scoring its first two touchdowns on drives that began in JU territory, before entering the locker room on its longest drive.
It took two minutes, nine plays and 72 yards for quarterback Kaelan Riley to connect with Sam Walker on their second touchdown of the game, and the stretch closed the half with the Bears up, 27-0.
Mercer went on to conclude the game 6-for-6 in red-zone opportunities.
"I thought we showed some grit in the second half," said Head Coach Ian Shields. "Obviously, the scoreboard isn't what we wanted it to look, but with that being said, we showed some resolve. We have a long ways to go to be the team we want to be.
"At times, we played very well defensively, there were some great effort plays - some big hits, a nice interception by Emon [Smith]. The self-inflicted wounds are the ones that hurt the most. You tip your hat to Mercer, that's a quality team, but there's some things in our own backyard that need to be cleaned."
Despite the final box, there were several Dolphin highlights, and most of them occurred on defense.
Sophomore linebacker Caysaun Wakeley recorded a game-high 15 tackles with one sack. He forced a fourth down late in the second quarter, wrapping his arms around Riley for an eight-yard loss, and the Bears missed the subsequent field goal.
In the following quarter, senior captain Emon Smith notched his first interception since his freshman season and gunned it 40 yards downfield to put the Dolphins in their best field positon through that point (MU48). Smith finished the game with 11 tackles.
The defense also combined to force a fumble and a turnover on fourth down.
Jacksonville's scoring drive captured quarterback Rylan Wells rushing for 42 yards before connecting with sophomore wide receiver Michon Sobers for the touchdown. The play marked Sobers' first career catch.
Wells went 7-for-9 for 74 yards in his passing game, while also finishing as the team's leading rusher with 68 yards.
Jacksonville must wait two weeks to return to play, as it welcomes Walsh to D.B. Milne Field Saturday, Sept. 16. Kick-off is slated for 1 p.m.
"Typically, a team makes their most improvement from week one to week two," continued Shields. "It's never as bad as you think it is, and it's never as great as you think it is when you're winning. No one is satisfied with this performance. We have to clean some things up and we will."
Single-game tickets are available for purchase day of game at the ticketing booth or online at JUTickets.com. General admission tickets are $10, children aged four and under are free, and students and faculty are free with a valid JU ID.