Big First Half By No. 3 Southeastern Stifles Dolphins in Season Opener

Big First Half By No. 3 Southeastern Stifles Dolphins in Season Opener

HAMMOND, La. – A persistent downpour of rain had many believing Jacksonville University's season opener against Southeastern Louisiana would be a wash out. There weren't sunny skies at the 8 p.m. kickoff but the weather subsided enough for the game to go off without a hitch. In the Saturday night game at Strawberry Stadium, the Dolphins fell by a score of 44-3.

The Dolphins won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Southeastern Louisiana opened the game with a 37-yard kick return to start on their 44-yard line. Eight plays later, the Lions cracked the scoreboard on the back of a 10-yard rush. The ensuing extra point was good and the Lions held a 7-0 lead, taking just four minutes off of the clock (11:00).

After Yeovanti Williams' fair catch placed the Dolphins on their own 20-yard line, JU's first play from scrimmage resulted in an incomplete pass. Two plays later, facing third-and-14, Jacksonville looked to its quarterback Kade Bell to connect with Andrew Robustelli for a 23-yard gain. A two-yard carry by Frantz Caudio and a 17-yard hookup between Bell and Andy Jones led the Dolphins to Lion territory (SLU 42) before a fumble and incomplete passes forced the Fins to punt.

Trailing the Lions, 27-0, an interception by Mike Klein put JU in the position to score its first points of the game when SLU quarterback Bryan Bennet muffed a throw that landed in the hands of Klein. The linebacker then trekked eight yards to start the Dolphins' drive on SLU's 47-yard line.

The Fins easily picked up a first down on a 29-yard bomb down the left sideline to Jones. On the next play, Ulysses Bryant drove the Dolphins into the red zone for the first time on an eight-yard rush down the middle, his longest of the game, setting them up on the SLU10. JU nearly put six on the board as Bell scrambled to find an open Jones in the end zone but it fell incomplete. In the end, Brandon Behr's 33-yard field goal traveled through the uprights. As both sides managed only a field goal in the second quarter, SLU lead the Dolphins, 30-3, at the half.

Dolphin defense forced the first Lion punt in the third quarter after holding the previous drive to a two-yard gain. Bell would later guide his team to the Lions' 37 yard line on passes to three different receivers and 13 rushing yards before facing a fourth-and- 13 with 3:32 remaining in the third. In their second scoring opportunity, JU attempted a 54-yard field goal that was on target but fell inches short.

An undeniable trait of the Dolphins is their relentlessness. Though they were down 44-3 late in the fourth quarter, JU's eyes were on the end zone the entire game. After Brandon Roe's interception and 28-yard return landed the Dolphins on SLU's 22 yard line, the Dolphins went to the legs of Bryant. In the four play drive, he rushed for nine yards and was just shy of reaching the chains for the first down.

Despite limiting the Lions' offensive efforts in the second half, the Dolphins were unable to generate much of their own as the final score read: SLU 44, JU 3. 

Bell completed the game 19-for-50 for 149 yards while Jones led all receivers with 59 yards on four receptions. Bryant finished with nine carries and 30 yards rushing and 16 yards receiving.

After a week off, Jacksonville will host its home opener at the newly renovated D.B. Milne Field as San Diego heads to town on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. Field renovations include a 2,900 seat grandstand, lights, a new scoreboard, a state-of-the-art press box along with new concessions and restroom facilities.