Josh McGregor leads second half rally as JU defeats Savannah State

After being shutout in the first half of the season opener at Savannah State, JU head coach Kerwin Bell felt like there needed to be a change on offense.

                Freshman quarterback Josh McGregor came on in relief and led the Dolphins to three straight scoring drives as the Dolphins dominated the second half en route to a 20-7 win at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

                McGregor got the nod in the second half in relief of sophomore Erik Stepelton and finished with 159 yards on 9-of-14 passing.  He also rushed for one touchdown, a 13-yard scamper on an option play for JU’s first score.

“We knew that once we scored once, the flood gates would open,” Bell said.  “Josh came in and made some plays for us tonight when we needed them.  He’s a young kid who can make things happen and he gave us a big boost when we needed it.”

While McGregor led the offensive renaissance in the second half, the defense was the story throughout the contest – forcing 10 three-and-outs and holding the Tigers to just 226 yards of offense.

“The defense did a great job of keeping us in the ball game in the first half, especially when we turned it over,” Bell said.  “Those guys had a tremendous week of preparation and it showed tonight.”

The offense produced just 107 yards of total offense in the first half, with 93 of that coming through the air.  In the second half, JU produced 247 yards – 159 in the air.

While McGregor gave the Dolphins a spark, he was aided by a strong rushing attack.  Sophomore Rudell Small rushed for 109 yards on 25 carries to lead the team.

Senior wide receiver Geavon Tribble led all receivers with five catches for 81 yards, as eight different Dolphins caught passes.

Both teams missed field goals in the first half, but the Dolphins got the scoring started with a Josh Hostetler 29-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter.

JU kept the momentum going after recovering a fumbled snap on a punt attempt as McGregor ‘s 13-yard run put the Dolphins ahead 10-0 just over five minutes into the second half.

After another defensive stop, Jacksonville got a 7-yard run from freshman Keith Dawson to cap an 8-play, 83-yard drive to go on top 17-0.

The Tigers got on the board midway through the fourth as Kurvin Curry hooked up with Tyron Kirkland for a 32-yard touchdown pass to cut the JU lead to 10, 17-7.

JU sealed the game when Hostetler booted home a 42-yard field goal that put the Dolphins ahead 20-7 with 3:55 remaining.

After the game, longtime JU booster John Sessions was presented the game ball as a member of the Founders – an elite booster group for the JU football program.

Having snapped a six-game losing streak in season openers, the Dolphins hit the road to face No. 1 Appalachian State.

“We’re going to savor this win right now,” Bell said.  “But we’ve got a big week ahead of us, so we’re going to go right back to work tomorrow to get ready for next Saturday.”