JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University could not keep pace in a wild, offensive showdown against Northeast Conference champion Duquesne, dropping a 54-35 decision in the first-ever meeting between the programs Saturday afternoon at D.B. Milne Field.
The loss drops the Dolphins to 2-2 on the year, while Duquesne improved to 3-2. The score snapped a 12-game home winning streak for Jacksonville that dated back to Sept. 28, 2013. Both of Jacksonville's losses have come to scholarship FCS teams.
"I was proud of the resolve and the fight putting up 35 points against a rugged defense. We didn't have a turnover all day and forced a couple," said Head Coach Ian Shields. "When you're facing a scholarship, playoff football team, you're at an uphill challenge. At times we had two freshman corners, with our top three out, against a quarterback on NFL Draft boards."
JU quarterback Rylan Wells went 9-20 through the air for 125 yards and a touchdown. Prince Gray led the Dolphin receivers with four receptions for 40 yards. Linebacker Grady Redding led all tacklers with 10, including seven solo. Duquesne quarterback Dillon Buechel was 23 of 32 for 394 yards and six scores, while A.J. Hines led all rushers with 28 rushes for 134 yards.
Duquesne opened the second half with a 20-14 lead, but wide receiver Wayne Capers, Sr. scored on the first two Duke possessions from 65 and 44 yards out to stretch the Dukes' lead to 20.
Dolphin freshman Jared Morris helped lead a comeback attempt with a pair of third quarter scores. Following last Capers, Jr. score, Morris finished an eight-play, 65-yard drive with a five-yard rushing touchdown. After a Duke fumble on the next possession, Wells found Morris on a 38-yard reception for the first receiving score of his career.
Jacksonville cut the lead to 34-28 with 6:30 to go in the third, but Duquesne and Capers, Jr. answered with a five-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with a Capers, Jr. 15-yard receiving touchdown, his fourth of the afternoon.
The Dolphins' lone score of the fourth quarter came after freshman CJ Lewis picked off Buechel pass and gave the offense a start at the Duquesne 39-yard line with 7:53 remaining. A key fourth down conversion on a 34-yard catch by Frantz Caudio led to a Ulysses Bryant three-yard touchdown plunge with 6:27 left in the game.
Bryant finished with 32 of the Dolphins' 108 yards on the ground. Pernell Rattray led Jacksonville with four carries for 39 yards.
The Dolphins forced their first fumble of the afternoon on Duquesne's opening drive. Austin Yeloushan stripped Hines and Gabe Stewart sprinted 32 yards to the Dukes' 22-yard line. On the next play, Rattray took a pitch to pay dirt to give the Dolphins an early 7-0 lead with 12:09 to go in the first quarter.
The Dukes answered with a 45-yard field goal by Austin Crimmons to cut into the lead, 7-3, at the 9:40 mark of the first quarter.
After a Dolphin punt, Buechel found Capers, Jr. for his first score on an 11-yard touchdown to put the Dukes up 10-7 with 4:08 to go in the quarter.
The Dolphins then put together their best drive of the game, sledding 75 yards in 13 plays. Two pass-and-catches from Wells to Gray in the beginning of second quarter set up a one-yard rushing touchdown for Wells, his first of the season, as the Dolphins regained the lead, 14-10, with 12:52 remaining in the half.
On the next drive, a 40-yard field goal from Crimmins brought the Dukes back within one, 14-13, with 4:10 showing on the clock before halftime. Duquesne took the lead going into the half on an 11-yard pass to Hines with just 41 seconds to show.
"I love coaching this team and I'm proud of their effort and resolve. We're back to conference play next week," said Shields.
The Dolphins return to D.B. Milne Field next Saturday, Oct. 8, for a Homecoming matchup against Campbell. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets at JUTickets.com.