The University of Dayton football team dropped 21-17 heartbreaker to the Jacksonville Dolphins on a windy afternoon at Welcome Stadium. The Flyers scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:39 remaining in the contest on a Ross Smith touchdown catch from Will Bardo. That touchdown made the score 17-14 in favor of UD, but Jacksonville’s Colby Walden returned the ensuing kick-off for the game-winning touchdown. The Flyers tried to squib the kick, in order to prevent a big return, but Walden picked up a high bounce, broke at least three Dayton tackles and returned the kick 85 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Dayton quarterback Will Bardo also threw for 192 yards as he completed 22-of-48 passes for one touchdown and one interception. Through the first three quarters, Bardo struggled through the air as heavy winds played a major factor. Bardo completed just 9-of-25 passes for 52 yards through the first three quarters, but he heated up in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, Bardo completed 13-of-23 passes for 140 yards and the touchdown.
UD squandered many opportunities in the game as the Flyers were just 6-of-19 on third downs and 1-of-4 on fourth downs. Dayton failed to score on two key fourth-quarter red-zone opportunities, as the Flyers had a fumble lost on the Jacksonville 20-yard line with 14:15 remaining, and they turned the ball over on downs on the Jacksonville 19-yard line with 7:59 left.
Dayton outgained Jacksonville 388-to-252 in total yards, but the Jacksonville defense and their special teams were the difference in the game. Jacksonville had a touchdown each from its offense, defense, and special teams. Jacksonville defensive back Andre Addison returned a Bardo pass 43 yards for JU’s first score, quarterback Kade Bell threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andy Robustelli to give the Dolphins a 14-10 lead, and Walden’s return completed the scoring.
The Flyers were able to drive from their own 15 to the Jacksonville 34, but had to throw a Hail Mary into that wind on the game’s final play, and it was batted away
The Flyer defense forced two turnovers and held the Dolphins to just 3-of-13 on third down conversions and only 11 total first downs. Senior linebacker Colin Monnier led the Flyer defense with 11 total tackles, two of them in the JU backfield. Senior nickelback Joe Janasek contributed with seven tackles, two of them were tackles for loss. Junior Howard Savage and redshirt freshman Devon Morgan each had fumble recoveries.
Robert Washington was UD’s top ground gainer, getting 75 yards on five carries. Dan Jacob carried the ball 19 times for 74 yards. Branden Johnson caught seven passes for 53 yards. Jordan Boykin and Nik Gillum each had five receptions for 50 yards.
Dayton falls to 1-3 on the year, while the Dolphins improved to 3-1. It was the PFL opener for both teams.
Dayton is back in action next Saturday Sep. 29 at Butler. Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.