This week won’t be any different as all the way to game time there will be plenty to take JU’s attention off Marist in the second Pioneer Football League game for each, and given the Red Foxes’ penchant for giving the Dolphins fits, the recipe for disaster looms.
Not only will JU be dealing with the normal Homecoming hoopla, a 15th year reunion/celebration with former player is going on and the Dolphins have the pressure of keeping a pair of significant streak intact.
First, of course, JU (3-1, 1-0) has the current FCS mark for longest home win streak at 15 to keep going, but a second streak, eight consecutive Homecoming wins, gets less attention. JU is 11-3 all-time during the celebration game.
“Marist is always a tough team,’’ coach Kerwin Bell, whose team all the sudden is on a three-game win streak, said. “It’s Homecoming so we’ve got to make sure we block out all the outside distractions and focus on ourselves. We still have to get much better. We’ve got to keep developing and keep working hard at practice and that will be our focus this week.’’
The Red Foxes (2-2, 1-0) aren’t exactly the tradition Homecoming pushover as they seem to match up well with JU and have given some good battles (JU leads the series, 2-1).
“A couple of them have been tough,’’ Bell said. “We lost to them on a Hail Mary up there (2009) and they played us tough last year and have a good team coming back. We’ve got to get ready to strap in on and play another game and win our second conference game.’’
Among the leaders for Marist is wide receiver Mike Rios who won PFL Player of the Week on offense this week as he scored three touchdowns and had 244 receiving yards against Davidson last time out.
For JU seniors, this is the game the finality of the season, and most likely football careers, normally starts setting in.
“Homecoming means playing in front of the home crowd and alumni who will come to the game,’’ linebacker Alex Bradley said. “It’s nice to have the alumni and people we’ve played with in the past come back and represent everything JU’s about.’’
Bradley says the mere idea of playing Marist should keep the team focused.
“They’ll play as hard as we do as everybody tries to take us down because we’re the best at home,’’ Bradley said. “The Dayton game (Last week’s thrilling 21-17 win) set the tone. Dayton’s always one of our hardest opponents. They are a physical team and coming out of there with a win helps get the season going.’’
With a win, JU would go to 75-75 all time, the first time since 1999 the Dolphins have been at .500. The last time they were at even was a 7-7 record.
Kickoff for Homecoming is set for 1 p.m. with CW17 televising the game and 92.5 FM broadcasting.