Story by Mike Wendlandt
Photos by Joel Venzke
The Bulldog defense dominated from the opening gun, only allowing scores on a 77-yard tipped pass and after a turnover in Drake’s own red zone.
Jacksonville was never able to get going offensively, as it was swarmed time and time again by a roving defense led by fifth-year senior Brandon Coleman.
”I love playing them. They always bring it,” Coleman said of their rivalry with the Dolphins (3-3, 1-2 PFL).
Jacksonville got the opening kickoff and stalled, as did Drake.
With 5:11 left, the Bulldogs (2-3, 1-1) drew first blood after a blocked punt gave them the ball at the Jacksonville 20-yard line.
After a 19-yard pass to fifth-year senior receiver Nick Rosa put the ball at the one, junior Andy Rice called his own number and ran a quarterback sneak to give Drake an early lead.
Drake’s lead was only 6-0 after the extra point went wide right.
“Guys get excited when I drop my head,” Rice said. “The coaches, not so much.”
Drake then ran its lead to 13-0 four minutes later, as junior receiver Michael Hudson caught a short pass and ran over two defenders on his way to the end zone from 26 yards out.
Jacksonville finally got on the board after a field goal late in the second quarter, but Drake held the lead 13-3 at halftime.
The story of the first half was penalties, especially of the pre-snap variety.
On one third down alone, the Jacksonville offensive line earned two consecutive false-start penalties, moving from third and three to third and 13 in the blink of an eye, part of their seven first-half flags, while Drake was only penalized twice.
When the third quarter began, it was like a shadow fell on the Bulldog offense, as they fumbled twice, once deep in Jacksonville territory, and the Dolphins made them pay.
After a fumble set them up on the Drake 13, running back Ulysses Bryant scored from one yard out to make it a 13-10 game.
And just three minutes later, Jacksonville took the lead on a 77-yard bomb to receiver Andrew Robustelli.
The ball was tipped by fifth-year senior Michael Ratelle. Robustelli adjusted, made a fine catch and scampered into the end zone to take the collective wind out of Drake Stadium temporarily.
However, Drake controlled the fourth quarter completely on every side of the ball.
On the second play of the quarter, Rice scored again on a quarterback sneak.
With 5:54 left in the game, Rice found junior tight end Lee Snell for his first collegiate touchdown catch, this one from 32 yards to essentially put Jacksonville away.
Even the special teams got into the action.
After such a convincing win, Coach Chris Creighton was understandably pleased, especially with his defensive line.
“We felt from last December that our defensive line is something special. We always expect them to step up and play at a high level,” Creighton said after the game.
Offensively, Rice led the way with 241 yards passing, completing 17-of-26 passes and accounting for four total touchdowns.
Sophomore running back AJ Washington led the way out of the backfield with 72 yards on the ground and 48 yards receiving.
Fifth-year senior Nick Rosa made multiple acrobatic and breathtaking catches to record 93 yards through the air.
Defensively, junior linebacker John Hugunin paced the way with 10 total tackles.
He was followed closely by junior safety Bob Quilico Jr. and fifth-year senior linebacker Seth Hedman.
Coleman had two sacks and was joined in that department by senior defensive tackles Matt Acree and Brett Park.
The defense also totaled 10 tackles for a loss and forced one fumble.
Drake will be on the road the next two weeks, traveling to Davidson next week and then to Butler.
The Bulldogs return home on Oct. 26 when Valparaiso comes to town.
Kickoff next weekend is at noon.