JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville football team fell late in the fourth quarter to take a heartbreaking 45-27 loss to Butler University on Saturday, Sept. 28. The Dolphins first home loss of the season drops the team to 2-3 on the season while the Bulldogs improve to 4-3.
Sophomore QB Steven Hughes finished with a school record and Football Championship Series season high 509 yards passing, but it wasn't enough to slow the Bulldogs who scored 31 unanswered points in the second half.
Hughes completed 25-for-61 with three touchdowns and three interceptions while junior WR Andrew Robustelli led all receivers with 197 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions.
On Butler's side of the ball, running back Trae Heeter rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts.
Electing to receive on the coin toss, a 42-yard kick return from Yeovanti Williams allowed the Dolphins to start on their own 44 yard line. JU has scored on each of their opening drives at D.B. Milne Stadium and quarterback Hughes and the offense continued the effort connecting on a 43-yard field goal from Dylan Lynch to take a 3-0 lead.
In the second half, a booming 75-yard punt by Lynch pinned the Bulldogs on their own five yard line. With the defense caving in on him, Butler quarterback Matt Lancaster gave the team some breathing room on a 31-yard pass down the right sideline to receiver Brendan Shannon. Advancing to the JU 29, Butler went for it on 4-4 and Andre Addison again broke up the play with one of his four pass break ups to force the Bulldogs' second failed fourth down conversion.
Jacksonville mistakes late in the second quarter allowed Butler to score and take a 7-3 lead. JU's defense had forced a Butler punt and on the subsequent return fumbled the ball, allowing Butler to take over with a brand new set of downs on their own 45. Lancaster pushed the chains down to the red zone and scored on a 1-yard sneak up the middle.
JU's offense needed just 52 seconds and seven plays to get their first touchdown of the game. With all his receivers covered, Hughes scrambled to find Robustelli who beat his defender down the right sideline for the 64-yard touchdown.
An interception from Antonio McCrae with 35 seconds left in the half set the Dolphins up for a great closing drive at Butler's 42. With no timeouts and thinking touchdown the entire way, quick throws towards the sideline allowed the Dolphins to conserve time and push down the field. Hughes took two shots at the red zone and both passes sailed through the hands of the respected receiver. Facing 4-2, Lynch was charged with stretching the lead and he knocked it through the uprights to give the Dolphins a 13-7 edge at the half.
The second half kicked off with a Butler touchdown, 14-13, with Lancaster hitting Brendan Shannon on an 11-yard pass.
Finding success with Robustelli, JU dialed up the same play down the opposite sideline for an 81-yard touchdown pass and a 20-14 lead.
With 10:42 on the clock, a forced fumble on JU gave Butler the ball. However, the Bulldogs lost it two plays later on a forced fumble from Blythe Weaver, recovered by Anthony Joiner on the JU 43. Hughes crowned the drive with his third touchdown of the game, throwing it up 35-yards to D'Andre Randle, 27-14.
Butler regained its lead on back-to-back touchdowns in the final bit of the third quarter. Hughes was intercepted on a tight pass to Robustelli that was juggled and landed in the hands of Butler's David Burke. Starting on Jacksonville's 38-yardline, the team scored a rushing touchdown to make it 28-27.
After Butler stretched its lead to 11, the Dolphins attempted to score on a drive that made its way inside the 20 but another interception put a halt to the endeavor. Unable to close the gap, the Dolphins fell to Butler to a final score of 45-27.