By JD PELEGRINO
Following the bye week, the Bulldogs headed to Jacksonville, Florida to face their first conference matchup of the season, the Jacksonville Dolphins. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs were 1-1, with their last win taking place two weeks before against Missouri S&T at home. The Bulldogs were set to earn their first Pioneer Football League win against the Dolphins.
In the win against Missouri S&T, Drake quarterback Grant Kraemer completed 14 of 16 pass attempts for 359 yards and 6 touchdowns. This was the best offensive display by the quarterback all season, and beat his best game of 2017. Last season, Kraemer played his best, against Campbell where he completed 17 of 20 passes for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns; a similar performance, but half as many touchdowns.
“I think [Kraemer’s] playing spectacular,” Doran said. “I think watching him in fall camp, his ceiling is super high. He can still improve a lot, but from what I’ve seen, he’s been the star.”
The Bulldogs showed up at D.B. Milne Field on Sept. 29 to try and win their first conference game.
The Dolphins received the opening kickoff to start the game, but punted the ball after just six plays on offense. Kraemer and company hustled out onto the field, having great field position due to a Terry Wallen 15-yard punt return to the Jacksonville 39-yard line. Drake’s drive only lasted six plays as well, but ended in a touchdown. Running back Drew Lauer carried the ball on four of the six plays for 14 yards. Kraemer threw 2 passes on the drive, both to the 6 feet 3 inches tall wide receiver Steven Doran. The first pass was deflected by Jacksonville defender Jeremiah Johnson, but the second went for 25 yards and a touchdown. This was Doran’s first of 3 touchdown receptions on the day.
“I was supposed to actually run a deeper route, but my mind said on third-and-6 or third-and-7 is always just get the first down, worry about yards after the catch later,” Doran said. “On the other plays, it’s more of Grant throwing great balls.”
The second Dolphin drive of the game resulted in a three-and-out courtesy of fifth-year senior linebacker Kieran Severa and redshirt-sophomore Will Kulick. Severa sacked Jacksonville quarterback Calvin Turner Jr. on third down for a loss of 6 yards forcing the Dolphins to punt on fourth-and-12. From their own 23-yard line Dolphin punter Riley Garrison’s punt was blocked by Kulick.
The Bulldogs started their second offensive possession in enemy territory on the 9-yard line. It only took two plays for Cross Robinson to hammer his way into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown rush.
The Bulldogs scored a touchdown on 5 of 6 first half drives, kicking a field goal on the other. Drake receiver Doran, scored his final two touchdowns on the last two Bulldog drives of the first half. The second Doran touchdown of the game came on a 43-yard reception from Kraemer to put the Bulldogs up 24-0 (Danny Donley kick).
The third of Doran’s three touchdown receptions came from Kraemer for only a one-yard gain. Doran finished the day with 103 yards on 5 receptions with 3 touchdowns. At the end of the first half, the Bulldogs led the contest 31-0.
The Bulldogs piled on 10 more points in the second half to bury the Dolphins 41-9 by the end. Aside from another dominant Bulldogs offensive display, the defense is owed much credit for the win.
“I think ironically, [our offensive success] was mainly because of our defense,” Doran said. “The defense held Jacksonville’s offense inside their 30, inside their 20 a lot of the time.”
Drake LB Severa concluded the game with 1½ sacks, 2½ tackles-for-loss and one fumble recovery. The fumble recovery was made possible by fifth-year senior defensive back Austin Dismond who punched the ball out of Turner Jr.’s possession mid-way through the fourth quarter. It was redshirt-sophomore cornerback Jeran Proctor who intercepted one of three Dolphin pass attempts throughout the game, which led to the Bulldogs lone touchdown in the second half.
“[Severa] flies around and makes plays,” Doran said. “As a senior leader and a captain, he brings so much energy to the team. To have a linebacker that can flow and make those types of plays, helps tremendously on the defense.”
At the conclusion of the game, the D.U. defense surrendered only one 9-yard pass to the Dolphin triple offense throughout the game. The majority of the Jacksonville’s yards came on the ground and from their QB. Turner Jr. carried the ball 27 times for 137 yards and the Dolphins only touchdown of the game.
Drake posed only 278 offensive yards against the struggling Jacksonville defense, while forfeiting 218 yards on defense. Turnovers proved costly in the first PFL matchup of the season.
Kraemer finished his first PFL game of the 2018 season, 16 of 24 for 176 yards, 4 touchdowns and one interception. Through three games, Kramer has posed a 65 percent completion percentage for 845 yards and a powerful 11 touchdowns with 4 interceptions.
“[Kraemer’s] been the driver of our offense, the driver of our team, really,” Doran said. “If he can continue to play at that level of success and us receivers as a home, we have a lot of options.”
The Bulldogs will be home for the next two weeks for conference games against Butler (3-1, 1-0) and Stetson (3-1, 1-1). Butler just defeated Morehead State (1-3, 0-1) by a score of 24-21.
Drake head coach Rick Fox and his Bulldogs will take the field at Drake Stadium for opening kickoff set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. This will be the 26th meeting between the Drake Bulldogs and the Butler Bulldogs, Drake leads the series 18-7 thus far.