JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In what proved to be a scorching day both temperature-wise and on the field, the Jacksonville University football team began its 2018 season in dominating fashion, defeating Saint Augustine's University, 63-14.
In what was a rush-heavy affair, the Dolphins scored all nine of their touchdowns on the ground, tying a program record for the most in a single game. In total, the team's rushing accumulation of 418 yards clocked in as the fourth highest in a game in school history.
"Our goal every game is to be 1-0 that week," Head Coach Ian Shields said. "We accomplished the mission in week one. Now the goal is to turn the page and look forward to our next opponent."
Assisting the team in scoring on each of their first four drives of the day, redshirt-sophomore running back Jared Morris ran in the 'Phins first score of the new season, capping a 70-yard drive with a 2-yard punch-in. The touchdown gave the Palm Bay, Fla. native his first points in over a season, having missed the entire 2017 campaign with a knee injury.
"Finally getting back out on the field and re-gaining confidence in my playing and me knee went a long way to me today," Morris said. "It felt great to get back in the end zone."
Following an SAU punt, the Calvin Turner Jr. era kicked into high gear, as the sophomore cornerback-turned-quarterback ended a 54-yard scoring offensive with a 36-yard scramble for his first career rushing touchdown.
After concluding the first quarter down 14, the Falcons finished off a scoring drive of their own, putting together 81 yards for a 2-yard run by running back Jeremiah Miller to make it a 14-7 affair.
From there, the Dolphins would add on 49 unanswered points, pieced together by ground scores from six different Dolphins, with Morris adding a four-yard rush and Turner dashing in two more times, the first going for a whopping 73 yards, which set a record for a run by a JU quarterback.
Turner Jr. and the first team offense's day ended in the third quarter, with the Bloomingdale, Ga. Native completing his first start at quarterback going 5-6 with 120 yards through the air and carrying the ball a team-leading 11 times for 207 yards and three end zone trips. The former high school quarterback became JU's first 200-yars rusher since 2012, and the first Dolphin to pass and rush for over 100 yards each since current Offensive Graduate Assistant Rylan Wells in 2016.
"Moving back to quarterback gave me some butterflies at first," Turner Jr. said. "My personal goal was to make all of my reads right and help win the game."
During the fourth quarter, Nicolas and backup quarterback freshman Xaiyhir Jacobs had their turn at offensive success, with Jacobs contributing a 33-yard rushing touchdown of his own to further the lead late.
Leading the pod on the defensive side of the ball was redshirt-freshman Kobie Dickerson, who began his 'Phin playing career with a team-high seven tackles. Other firsts game in the form of sacks and turnovers, with freshman cornerback Lubens Ervil getting to the SAU quarterback in the second half, and sophomore safety T.J. Coley intercepting a pass in SAU territory prior to the conclusion of the first half.
Dolphin defensive heavyweights also made their mark on the scoreboard, with Preseason All-PFL selection Caysaun Wakeley catching the second JU interception of the game in the third quarter and Team Captain Thomas Oporto dishing his first sack of 2018.
Kicker Javier Arce-Ramirez continued his climb up the Dolphin's all-time scoring list, going a perfect 9-9 in extra points attempted. The PAT's boosted the redshirt-junior's scoring total in green and gold to 134 points, moving the Madrid, Spain native from in seventh place all-time in the statistic.
Before the day was complete, the Falcons added a late-game score on the ground to give the game its final score of 63-14. The scoring mark is the highest in the Shields era of Dolphin football, and the second-most the team has ever dished out in a season opener.
Now equipped with its ninth consecutive home-opening win, the Dolphins now prepare to travel north for a rigorous non-conference road trip. Jacksonville will be in action next Saturday, Sept. 8, at 6:00 p.m. against Mercer University in Macon, Ga.
"This is a challenging SoCon football team and a step up for us, but our guys are excited for the challenge, and we expect to play a better brand of football than we did up there last season," Shields concluded.
The Dolphins will return home two weeks from now to conclude non-conference play for the 2018 season with a battle against Walsh University. Game time is set for Saturday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m.