Defense and Rice’s Four Touchdowns Push Football Past Jacksonville
DES MOINES, Iowa - A strong defensive performance and four touchdowns from junior quarterback Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wis.) led the Drake University football team to a 27-17 victory over Jacksonville at Drake Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Rice rushed for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more in the win as he completed 17 of his 26 passes for 241 yards. Nick Rosa (Owasso, Okla.) hauled in four of those passes for a team-high 93 yards while running back A.J. Washington (St. Louis, Mo.) had 120 total yards with 72 on the ground and 48 receiving to give the Bulldogs’ their 13 straight home conference win.
Drake’s (2-3, 1-1 PFL) defense held the Dolphins’ potent offense well below its season average with John Hugunin (Oswego, Ill.) leading the way with 10 tackles, two for loss and a fumble recovery. The Bulldogs dominated the line of scrimmage and attacked the Jacksonville (3-3, 1-2 PFL) offense all day with 11 total tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 41 yards along with three sacks.
“Jacksonville’s offense is explosive and dynamite,” head coach Chris Creighton said. “Our defensive staff had a great plan and the guys executed it. That was fun to see and a great job from our defense and defensive staff.”
Drake began the game with momentum for the first time this season due to prime field position on nearly all of its possessions in the first quarter. Both Drake and Jacksonville started out slow with little movement down the field on either side of the ball. But after a botched punt by Jacksonville’s Dylan Lynch, the Bulldogs took over on Jacksonville’s 20-yard line, setting them up in perfect scoring position.
A 19-yard play-action pass from Rice to Rosa took the Bulldogs to Jacksonville’s 1-yard line. Rice punched the ball in on the next play for the touchdown, putting points on the board after only a two-play, 27-second scoring drive. The point after touchdown attempt sailed wide right.
“They just played free and I thought Andy did a really nice job today,” Creighton said of the way his team and quarterback started the game.
Big third-down conversions helped Drake keep control of the game throughout the first quarter. Four penalties, several for false starts, cost Jacksonville 22 yards in the first quarter alone. That, and starting with the ball deep in its own territory, kept Jacksonville from moving past its own 30-yard line for much of the first quarter.
Drake tacked on a second score at the end of the first quarter as the Bulldogs marched 64 yards down the field in just over two minutes with Rice finding Michael Hudson (Urbandale, Iowa) on the near sideline for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
By the second quarter, the Dolphins racked up another 27 yards lost due to penalties. The Bulldogs were unable to net points in the quarter, but the defense was able to shut down the Dolphin’s passing attack and surrendered just three points on a 29-yard field goal by Dylan Lynch.
Following a halftime break filled with Homecoming festivities, Jacksonville came into the game looking for a momentum swing. Both teams ended the first half free of any turnovers, but a string of fumbles by both the Bulldogs and the Dolphins put the Bulldogs control of that momentum in jeopardy.
Drake marched the ball down the field to start the second half with runs by Washington, who accumulated much of his team-high 120 yards of offense in the second half. However, just as the Bulldogs approached the red zone, Jacksonville redshirt sophomore Antonio McRae stripped the ball at the Dolphins’ 13-yard line, forcing the turnover and stalling the Drake drive.
Jacksonville’s next possession almost completely mirrored Drake’s previous one. Sophomore quarterback Steven Hughes moved the ball from the Dolphins’ 13-yard line all the way down to the Drake 35-yard line. Similar to the previous possession, Drake safety Mike Ratelle (Edina, Minn.) stripped the ball following a 17-yard pass completion, forcing the fumble and a recovery by Hugunin.
Drake failed to capitalize on the turnover, going three and out in its resulting possession. Later, the Dolphins forced yet another fumble.
The miscue gave Jacksonville life and the Dolphins found the end zone on a 3-play, 13-yard scoring drive in just 32 seconds, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 13-10. The Dolphins’ momentum continued just one possession later with a 72-yard pass to junior Andrew Robustelli for yet another touchdown on a ball that was tipped and deflected by the Drake defense. The fortuitous reception put Jacksonville ahead for the first and only time in the game, 17-13, and accounted for almost half of Robustelli’s 161 receiving yards.
But the Dolphins’ success in the third quarter was short-lived. Penalties continued to plague Jacksonville in the fourth quarter with the Dolphins finishing the game with 12 penalties for 87 yards.
Rice brought the game back for the Bulldogs within the first minutes of the fourth quarter, capping a possession that started in the third quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run, allowing the Bulldogs to once again take control of the game.
The Bulldogs held Jacksonville throughout the end of the game, keeping them scoreless despite a 41-yard field goal attempt.
Washington’s big day for Drake kept the chains and the clock moving by hauling in several catches from Rice and taking the Bulldogs within scoring range. A 32-yard touchdown reception to Lee Snell (Overland Park, Kan.), with just under four minutes in the game, put the Bulldogs up by the final 27-17 tally.
“We love our group of backs and he’s really capable and showed that today,” Creighton said of Washington’s performance. “They were doing some things defensively that allowed for us to get our ball to the running back in the passing game.”
Despite the 10-point advantage, Jacksonville’s high-octane offense remained a threat in the waning minutes, but the Drake defense closed the game with two critical stops. Facing a third down and three to gain on the Drake 49-yard line, Jacksonville quarterback Steven Hughes was sacked for a loss of 11 yards by Brandon Coleman (Cary, Ill.) to stall the drive. The Dolphins next drive saw Brett Park (Olivette, Mo.) get into the backfield for another critical sack and Drew Ormseth (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) swatted away the Dolphins last pass to preserve the win.
The Bulldogs return to action next weekend at Davidson. Kickoff for the game against the Wildcats is scheduled for noon on Saturday, Oct. 12.
By Elizabeth Robinson - Drake Athletic Communications