BY ADAM ROGAN
For the second time in the game, Drake Football was attempting an onside kick. It was the fourth quarter and Drake was down three with no timeouts left and 1:29 remaining. The Bulldogs were making a last-ditch come-from-behind effort in their season opener at home. Drake kicker Danny Donley’s onside popped up in the air as planned, but Quincy University’s De’Carlos Poole pulled down the free ball.
The Quincy Hawks, a D-II program, knelt through their final possession to run out the clock and Drake was handed its first loss of the season, 38-35.
The story of the game was two dominant performances from two of Quincy’s offensive standouts: senior wide receiver Eric Poindexter and redshirt-freshman running back Jaylan James.
Of Quincy’s 293 passing yards, more than half of them went to Poindexter. He was the only receiver with more than three receptions (he had seven), 45-plus yards (he had 167) and caught both of Quincy’s touchdown passes.
James netted 187 rushing yards on 34 attempts – an average of 5.4 yards per carry – and found the end zone twice in his college debut. Even watching from the stands, it’s clear that James is a fearsome power runner. Weighing in at 253 pounds and standing 5-feet, 10-inches tall, he’s built like a fullback but is agile and athletic like a halfback.
Even with the menacing backfield and quick WR, the Bulldogs still appeared to be shaking off the offseason rust.
“We had some issues with our alignments and our assignments,” fifth-year senior linebacker Taylor Coleman said, “just technical stuff we have to take care of.”
“It’s a great one-two punch that they have,” head coach Rick Fox added, comparing Poindexter and James to Drake’s own RB Conley Wilkins and TE Eric Saubert.
Saubert, a fifth-year senior, pulled down seven catches on eight targets for 95 yards and a touchdown to start his senior campaign. A player who has been looked at by NFL scouts, Saubert is a cornerstone of the Bulldog offense and a strategic headache for opposing defensive coordinators.
“He had influence in this game even when the ball wasn’t coming to him,” Fox said.
Defenses, Quincy’s included, oftentimes use double coverage to try and shut down the 6-foot-5 Saubert, which allows other receivers to run free. Senior wideout Grant Menard snagged five passes for 65 yards – both the second highest marks of his career – and a touchdown. Senior Keegan Gallery also had three receptions for 38 yards and a score.
Even with 35 points scored, Drake’s offense struggled throughout. The team only recorded 375 total yards, far less than Qunicy’s 553. Quarterback Cody Thibault’s numbers were respectable (14-for-24, 179 yards, two TDs, two INTs), but it was clear that he wasn’t dialed this early in the season. Both of his picks resulted from ill-advised passes and several of his incompletions came on passes thrown just out of reach of receivers.
“I got to get in the film room more, just know what the defense is doing,” the fifth-year senior said. “It’s just me, I’ve got to make those throws.”
The Bulldogs only converted on two of 10 3rd downs and had possession for just 41 percent of the game.
When Drake’s offense was clicking, it appeared unstoppable. With time waning at the end of both halves, the Bulldogs had the ball and marched downfield for two 60-plus yard drives for touchdowns, each lasting eight plays or more.
The Drake D came in clutch at several points, despite the big numbers put up by Quincy’s offense.
Of the Hawks’ seven trips to the red zone, they only scored five times (three TDs, two FGs) as Drake forced two turnovers on fumbles, both late in the second half. Costly for the Bulldogs, both of the ensuing possessions ended with a punt, unable to convert on the opportunities provided by Quincy’s mistakes.
“We left some points on the field,” Fox said.
Down 10 with 3:36 left in fourth quarter, Drake got the ball at its own 16. Thibault proceeded to complete six consecutive passes to set up a 1-yard TD run for Wilkins, his second on the day. The unsuccessful onside kick followed, ending the Bulldogs’ hopes for a comeback.
Drake’s first onside came on the opening kickoff. The Bulldogs caught the Hawks off guard and stole away the first possession of the season.
“I didn’t say anything to anyone until … right before our pregame meal today,” Fox said of the decision. “We want to be aggressive. We’re going to take risks.”
Drake will head out on the road next week to face South Dakota State University in a nonconference matchup on Sept. 10.