Valparaiso, Ind. - Jeff Horton rushed for a career-high 125 yards and one touchdown and Dustin Shamburg tossed two touchdown passes to Kevin Knutson as Valpo (3-2) defeated Jacksonville 54-38.
The Crusaders outgained the Dolphins 506-484 as the two teams combined for 990 total yards.
Shamburg, a sophomore, came off the bench in the second quarter and completed 7 of 8 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. His first career scoring strike was a short pass to Rob Giancola, who outran the Jacksonville secondary for a 79-yard touchdown. Giancola's scoring reception - his first of the season - increased his career-point total to 224 - 10 shy of the school record of 234 held by Joe Pahr (1949-51).
Valpo took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a bizarre play. After the Dolphins' Brandon Torre blocked Andrew McCawley's 47-yard field goal attempt, the ball bounced near the Jacksonville end zone. Jacksonville's Leighton Henderson touched and fumbled the ball at the Jacksonville 1-yard line. The ball was then recovered by Valpo long snapper Jake Feit in the end zone.
After Jacksonville's Jerry Brant trimmed the Crusader lead to 7-6 with a 41-yard scoring scamper, Horton extended Valpo's lead to 14-6 with a four-yard touchdown run - the first of his career.
Jacksonville (0-3) outscored Valpo 20-7 in the second quarter to take a 26-21 halftime lead. Following Henderson's 16-yard interception return, Corey Saunders plunged in from 1-yard.
Giancola's 79-yard touchdown pushed Valpo's advantage to 21-13 before Brant rushed for his second 41-yard touchdown and Phillip Fields raced in from six yards to give the Dolphins their only lead with 1:29 left in the first half.
Valpo dominated the scoring in the third quarter as Andrew Critchell blocked a punt and fullback Matt Van Daele connected with tight end Kenny Keil on a 19-yard touchdown pass on the very next play. After Valpo's defense stopped JU on three plays, a snap over punter Ryan Feely's head was recovered by Valpo's Kevin Grimoldby in the end zone for a touchdown.
With 3:30 left in the quarter, Shamburg hooked up with Knutson on a 6-yard touchdown just inside the right front pylon to increase the lead to 40-26.
The Dolphins responded again with two straight touchdowns in the first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mike Sturgill ran for an 18-yard score and Saunders added his second 1-yard touchdown. Both conversions failed as Valpo maintained a 40-38 lead.
Knutson, who caught a team-high six passes for 84 yards, snagged a 12-yard touchdown aerial from Shamburg with 8:42 left to give Valpo a 47-38 lead. Following another three-play defensive stand, Joel Cyrier returned a punt 22 yards and Horton sprinted 49 yards to set up a 1-yard scoring burst by Robert Clark for the final score.
Valpo finished with 293 passing yards and 213 yards on the ground, while Jacksonville rushed for 374 yards and passed for 110.
Horton, who averaged 7.8 yards per carry, also caught two passes for 82 yards.
Brant led the Dolphins with 114 yards on 13 carries, while Steven Battle had 79 yards on 14 carries, Sturgill finished with 77 on 11 attempts and Fields added 61 on 13 carries. Sturgill was limited to 6 completions on 23 attempts.
Critchell, a linebacker, topped Valpo with eight tackles, while defensive end James Riker made five stops, including a sack and another tackle for loss.
Valpo travels to play at Morehead State on Saturday (Oct. 2) beginning at 1 p.m. ET (noon CT). The game is a rematch of the 2003 Pioneer Football League Championship Game, won by Valpo 54-42.