MOREHEAD, Ky. – A record-tying rushing attack and three second half turnovers by the Jacksonville University defense lifted the Dolphins to a wild, 61-49 victory against Morehead State Saturday at Jayne Stadium.
Jacksonville (3-3, 2-1) tied its program-record with 433 rushing yards, and the 61 points were tied for the fourth-most in Dolphin history. Jared Morris led JU with career-bests in 19 carries for 93 yards and a score. Rylan Wells was 13-21 with 165 yards and two touchdowns, and Prince Gray caught five passes for a score and had a 70-yard punt return for a score. Grady Redding led the Dolphins with 10 tackles and scored on an interception.
"We played together today. I challenged our team last night to play as one and they responded," said Head Coach Ian Shields. "Our defense caused key turnovers in the second half and our offense executed well today. It was a good win to enjoy for the Dolphins."
Jacksonville set the tone to start the second half after seeing both teams combine for 66 points in the first two quarters. After its defense forcing a stop on third down, Gray gave Jacksonville its first lead of the afternoon on his first career punt return for a score. With a 38-35 edge, Morehead State (2-6, 1-4) gave away its first of three turnovers when Redding picked off Eagle quarterback Austin Gahafer and sprinted 23 yards down the left sideline for his first career pick-six. Gahafer, the Pioneer Football League career leader in completions and attempts, was held to 0-5 in the third quarter.
Trevor Jones scored on a 61-yard run on the next possession to cut the lead back to three. Jones set the Morehead State single-game record with 284 rushing yards and four scores.
The Dolphins answered with an impressive 10-play, 89-yard drive highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Wells to Gray.
The game's final quarter began with a Lawson Page six-yard rushing score, his second and last of the game for the Eagles.
Leading 52-49, Jacksonville marched 12 plays and 60 yards, taking 5:55 off the clock and took a six-point lead on Javier Arce-Ramirez's 27-yard field goal. A key 33-yard fake punt run by Justin Horton kept the drive alive. The Dolphins then turned around and struck on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wells to Brian Burnett, capitalizing on Griffin Garland fumble recovery on the first Eagle offensive play following the field goal.
Burnett led Jacksonville with five catches for 88 yards and the score.
The first half was a barn-burner and defensive stops came at a premium. Morehead State struck first on its opening possession with a short four-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a Jones one-yard rushing score.
Jacksonville came right back to begin a scoring slugfest with a six-play, 63-yard drive that finished with Pernell Rattray's career-best 45-yard run to pay dirt. Rattray carried eight times for 74 yards in the win, and totaled 196 yards in kickoff returns.
Morehead State led 35-31 at the halftime break thanks to touchdowns from Gahafer to Christian Robinson in the first quarter, and two touchdown runs from Jones and one from Page in the second quarter.
Jacksonville answered each time. A one-yard Wells run in the first quarter, and a 35-yard Morris score and 40-yard Jake Brito sprint kept pace in the second quarter. Brito had an impressive game with 10 carries for 88 yards. Arce-Ramirez ended the first half fireworks with a 35-yard field goal set up by a dropped Eagle punt attempt.
Jacksonville, winners of 11-consecutive against Morehead State, accumulated 598 yards of total offense while Morehead State had 582. The Dolphins averaged 6.6 yards-per-carry, and 20 of the 27 first downs gained came on the ground. Jacksonville owned the football for 36:35, including 11:40 in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins converted a season-best eight of 17 third downs. Wells rushed 12 times for 62 yards, and Frantz Caudio carried seven times for 54 yards.
Jacksonville is on the road again next week with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Davidson on Saturday, Oct. 29.