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Jacksonville Dolphins go Cold in Finale
Offense loses grip, JU blanked in team’s first postseason game.
ALBANY, N.Y. - The sun had barely set on a frigid afternoon and a season that started in the heat of August, but already Kerwin Bell had turned his attention to the promise of tomorrow.
“The success we’ve had and this failure of this one game, all that really doesn’t matter for next year,” Bell, the coach of the Jacksonville University football team, said after his Dolphins took a 28-0 punishing from the University at Albany in the third annual Gridiron Classic. “What matters is, where do we go from here. We’re a good young football team. We’ve got some good young players. We need to get bigger and stronger, and I think that showed a little bit today, but as we continue to grow and as we continue to get bigger and better, this program’s got a great chance to win a lot of championships.”
The Dolphins (9-4), winners of seven in a row coming in, were overpowered by the Great Danes (9-3), who became the first Northeast Conference champion to beat the Pioneer Football League representative in the Gridiron Classic. Albany doubled JU in yards from scrimmage (456-228) and rushed for 322 yards, led by a career-high 271 yards by junior David McCarty, who scored all four touchdowns. His 77-yard burst midway through the fourth quarter sealed it.
“I honestly thought we’d move the ball as we did in the second half. I didn’t have any clue that we would be able to shut them down,” said Albany coach Bob Ford, who expected a shootout. “They are a good offensive football team. Lot of speed on the perimeter.”
But the Dolphins, in the postseason for the first time in their 11-year history, never found a way to exploit their advantage. JU’s star underclassmen, freshman quarterback Josh McGregor and sophomore halfback Rudell Small, were bottled up by Albany’s aggressive defense. The Great Danes sacked McGregor twice on the Dolphins’ opening possession and harassed him all afternoon. He completed 10 of 25 passes for 113 yards and was fortunate to have thrown just one interception. Small was held to 46 yards in 16 carries.
McGregor said he had trouble gripping the cold, slick ball, and when he did get a handle on it, the frozen field made it difficult to plant and throw with accuracy.
“I wasn’t making plays I would normally make,” he said. “Normally when they’re running wide open, I’m not going to miss that.”
The Dolphins’ only real scoring chance occurred late in the second quarter. Trailing 7-0, the Dolphins put together their best drive of the game, moving from their 3-yard line to the Albany 18, but freshman halfback J.J. Laster lost his footing on a cutback and fumbled without being hit - one of the Dolphins’ four turnovers.
Albany players said they could sense that the Dolphins were having trouble with the weather - a game-time temperature of 34 degrees with a stiff breeze rippling the flags. But Bell said the field conditions, more than weather, affected his team.
“I’d like to play them in 90 degree weather with the humidity 100 percent,” he said a grin, “and I think our advantage then would’ve come into play.”
Dolphins go cold in finale
By Bill Callen, The Florida Times-Union
Photo Credit: Steve Jacobs/Special to the Florida Times-Union