Photo by Ryan Montez
The stage was set under the afternoon sun on Saturday Sept. 13 as a crowd gathered at D.B. Milne field for what was sure to be a memorable day in JU history. Recent construction to the facilities has sparked conversations across campus, which grew louder as the day grew closer. As kickoff for the home opener drew near, it seemed like the crowd was a bit anxious to see the new facilities, and they were not disappointed. The Dolphins didn’t disappoint either, walking away with a decisive victory over San Diego 35-18.
Pulling onto campus there was an energetic vibe that was attached to the events taking place at JU on Saturday. As fans started pouring through the gates, the term “game day” came to mind.
JU has worked to bring the “game day” feeling to Dolphin fans. From the JU rock band “Dorsal Funk” rocking in The Grove, to the food trucks planned for every home game and renovations to the facilities, JU is trying to do their part in creating an atmosphere that fans can enjoy.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed, said Victoria Hernandez, junior kinesiology major.
“The field looked great,” Hernandez said. “Judging by the crowd at the first game, it seems like more students will be attending games.”
This was good news for the JU administration, who hosted approximately 1,900 people for the first game of the year.
Saturday’s game marked several changes to the game day experience, including food trucks. Up in Smoke BBQ offered pulled pork sandwiches and smoked sausage, while What’s the Catch? offered fresh seafood, giving fans the ability to get something other than a hot dog or burger to eat.
“The reaction was very positive,” said Presidential Fellow Clayton Levins. “Jacksonville is known for their food trucks and you’re getting some of the best-of-the-best in town.”
Le Petit Cheri Cupcakery offered the fans a dessert option as well, with homemade cupcakes that ranged from red velvet to maple bacon cupcakes.
Up in Smoke BBQ will remain at every home game and the second truck will rotate every event, keeping the fans guessing as to what truck will be present at each different event.
Though the students enjoyed the food, the fans were mostly interested in the performance of the football team. The Dolphins provided for their fans with a commanding win over the Toreros. The Dolphins had stellar performances on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball while special teams added big plays.
“A good complete game,” said coach Kerwin Bell. “As far as all three phases, I thought they did a really good job”
The Dolphins made it clear from the beginning of the game that they were going to establish the run game, rushing for an astounding 297 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Ulysses Bryant led all backs rushing for 168 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns while redshirt junior Orlando Thomas added 79 yards on eight carries and a touchdown of his own.
It seemed as though the Dolphins had started where they left off against SE Louisiana when the Toreros were able to stop the first drive and force a punt. A fumble by San Diego’s Toney Sawyer, however, gave the Dolphins great field position and three plays later the Dolphins were on the board after a touchdown pass from redshirt junior Kade Bell to senior wide out Andrew Robustelli.
Bell finished the game 15 of 24 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Senior wide out Dorian Guy led all receivers with three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Bryant’s 168 yards was a career high with the Dolphins and the team’s total of 297 was just shy of successive Pioneer Football League games with 300 yards rushing. It would have been the first time in school history that the Dolphins would have accomplished the feat.
They rushed for 308 yards last year in their PFL finale with Stetson.
The defense was not going to be outdone by the offense and they contributed in a big way by creating turnovers and stopping San Diego drives that could have kept the Toreros in the ball game.
Redshirt senior linebacker Montaque Mack led all defenders with seven tackles while redshirt senior defensive back Jordan Dewhirst added six tackles of his own and an interception. The Dolphins held the Toreros to just 281 total yards and forced three turnovers, while the special teams unit added a turnover of their own.
“When they give it to you, we’re going to take it,” said coach Bell.
The Dolphins took what was given to them and used that momentum to help build a lead the Toreros just could not overcome. Hopefully the Dolphins can continue with this momentum and use it to their advantage this week against Pennsylvania.
The day was a great success for Jacksonville University on and off the field. The Dolphins brought home a resounding win for the home crowd and the fans themselves were delighted to see the changes that had been made to D.B. Milne field.
The university will get to do it all over again this Saturday when the Dolphins take on the University of Pennsylvania at 1 p.m. in D.B. Milne field.