Jacksonville, Fla. ? David Macchi passed for a school-record 452 yards and four touchdowns, and Rob Giancola had a school-record 233 receiving yards and three touchdowns, but Valpo (3-2) fell to Jacksonville 34-27.
Despite trailing 17-0 in the first half, the Crusaders rallied to take a 27-26 lead on Macchi's 11-yard touchdown pass to Giancola with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. After each team had one more possession, Jacksonville (3-1) mounted a seven-play, 59-yard drive that culminated with Mike Sturgill connecting with Eldin Ferguson on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:24 left. Sturgill then completed a pass to Jimmy Willman for a two-point conversion to give the Dolphins a 34-27 advantage.
Valpo, which finished with 496 total yards, attempted another comeback by orchestrating a 14-play drive that ended at JU's 34-yard line on a fourth-down incompletion. Previously on the drive, the Crusaders had a first down at the Dolphins' 18-yard line before a third-down penalty pushed them back to the 34-yard line.
Macchi and Giancola hooked up for two big plays in the second quarter to bring the Crusaders within 20-13 at halftime. A 56-yard touchdown pass from Macchi to Giancola trimmed the JU lead to 17-7 with 13:20 left. Following a 20-yard field goal by Jacksonviile's Ryan Long, Giancola hauled in a 63-yard scoring pass from Macchi to cut the deficit to 20-13 with 3:36 remaining before intermission.
Valpo was forced to play catch-up after committing five turnovers, including four fumbles, in the first half. The Crusaders took the opening kickoff 56 yards to the JU 24-yard line before Brandon Torre sacked Macchi, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Charlton Williams and returned 64 yards for a touchdown.
Jacksonville increased its lead to 14-0 with 7:32 left in the first quarter on Emmett Hunter's 5-yard run. Hunter enjoyed a huge afternoon, establishing career-highs of 210 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries. Following Valpo's third lost fumble, Long added a 25-yard field goal early in the second quarter to build the Dolphins' lead to 17-0.
The Crusader defense and special teams helped balance the turnover ratio in the first half as Elliott Powell and Kris Hardaway each made interceptions and Michael Mroz blocked a Jacksonville punt.
Valpo carried its momentum into the second half, forcing the Dolphins to punt after three plays. Macchi, who surpassed his own school record of 446 yards (vs. Drake, 2002), then utilized Ryan Barno and Giancola on three pass plays, the last of which tied the game at 20-20. Barno, who had career-highs of 11 receptions for 145 yards, caught a 19-yard aerial from Macchi and Giancola snagged a 25-yarder. Macchi and Barno completed the six-play, 58-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown connection.
Giancola, who added to his Pioneer Football League scoring lead, has eight touchdowns and 50 points. The junior from Whiting, Ind. made three touchdown receptions for the second time this season, also accomplishing the feat against Austin Peay.
Brad Smeja led the Crusaders with 13 tackles and Lawrence Canada added 12, including two for losses. Senior John Tsahas made seven tackles, including a sack, and forced a fumble.
Valpo hosts Morehead State next Saturday (Oct. 4) at 1:30 p.m. in the Homecoming Game.