Jacksonville University took advantage of four Charleston Southern turnovers and returned a kickoff and punt for touchdown to beat Bucs in their home opener, 31-10, on Saturday at Buccaneer Field.
With the win, the Dolphins move to 1-1, while the Bucs fall to 0-2 on the year.
The Dolphins had a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown and a linebacker Jordan Dewhirst had an interception return and a kickoff return for a touchdown, both in the second half, to carry the Dolphins.
The Bucs offense blew a few early opportunities on turnovers and penalties, before getting started a little too late.
Junior quarterback Derek Hatcher floated a 17-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Nathan Perera with 1:58 remaining for the Bucs' only score of the day. Hatcher finished 12-of-17 for 138 yards and a touchdown. He came on in relief of junior Malcolm Dixon, who finished the game 8-for-20 with 140 yards and an interception.
"No question about it, we're just not getting 11 people hitting on all cylinders," CSU head coach Jay Mills said after the game. "Dropped passes, missed open targets, missed passes, you name it, across the board. We didn't have the consistency. I'm disappointed because I feel like we made some strides in practice this week."
Jacksonville freshman quarterback Kade Bell finished only 10-of-27, but had 209 yards passing and a touchdown. He also had a touchdown dropped in the third quarter.
The Bucs defense kept CSU in the game. The Dolphins had only 98 yards on the ground and 307 total yards, but CSU's option attack also struggled. The Bucs had 67 yards rushing on 30 carries.
"The defense did a great job," Mills added. "They played hard from start to finish. You know they had two scores on special teams and one off an interception where our quarterback was hit ... so our defense only gave up one touchdown all day. They started a little bit slow, giving up a lot of yards in the first half, but it was a great job by Coach (Shawn) Quinn and the defense."
The defense kept the Bucs in the game, but it was a mistake by the offense that got Jacksonville rolling in the third quarter.
The Dolphins opened the second half with their first touchdown of the year. Linebacker Jordan Dewhirst intercepted an underthrown Dixon pass and weaved his way 39 yards across the field for JU's first touchdown of the year. The play appeared to be a touchdown going the other way, as Chase Jones had wheeled behind the JU defense and was running free on the underthrow.
The Bucs would answer with their first points of the game on the ensuing possession. Dixon found a streaking Perera across the middle for 72 yards on the first play of the drive to set up the Bucs on first-and-goal at the Dolphins three. A delay-of-game penalty and a stand by the JU defense forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal.
After the two teams traded punts, the Dolphins' special teams came up with the game's biggest play.
JU's Terrance Bryant returned a Cameron Mitchell punt 55 yards for a touchdown to give JU a 17-3 lead. Bryant beat two Bucs at midfield, then cut back across the field for the Dolphins second non-offensive touchdown.
Hatcher came on for the Bucs for first time this season with about eight minutes left in the game. He found Tanner Rogers in the seam for a 19-yard gain to get CSU on the move, but an apparent bobble-and-drop by Perera was ruled a fumble, and JU's Blythe Weaver recovered to end the Bucs' hopes.
The Dolphins would add a touchdown to take a 24-3 lead on a 46-yard Robustelli catch-and-run with 4:19 left.
The Dolphins also returned a late onside kick attempt by the Bucs 44 yards for a touchdown. It was the second return of a touchdown in the game for Dewhirst and the third return and third non-offensive touchdown of the game.
Both teams had opportunities in the first half, but neither could deal a knockout blow.
Charleston Southern appeared to be driving for the opening score of the game following an early Jacksonville fumble.
The Dolphins put together a six-play, 39-yard drive to open the game, but turned it over at midfield on a botched handoff and CSU took over at the JU 46.
CSU went for the quick strike as Dixon just missed an open Nathan Perera on the post. CSU would move the ball inside the Dolphins 10 on a third-and-9 conversion on a Dixon 22-yard run.
The Bucs would turn the ball over on the next snap as Chase Jones had the ball ripped out and JU recovered at its own seven.
Jacksonville would get on the scoreboard first with a field goal following a well-executed 11-play, 72 yard drive. A 37-yard Dylan Lynch field goal capped the scoring drive as he booted it through from the left hash.
Bell found Robustelli, his favorite target, down the left sideline for 39 yards as the big play on the drive.
Robustelli finished with three catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
JU punter Dylan Lynch also had a big game for the Dolphins. He punted six times for a 59-yard average.
Perera had the biggest day of the Bucs. He has 10 catches for 134 yards and the Bucs' touchdown.
The Bucs travel to Champaign, Ill. next Saturday to face the University of Illinois. Kickoff is at noon eastern time. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.