Jaguars Start Fast, Finish Strong in Defeating Cowboys, 28-23

(Photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys)
By Mike Bonts, Florida Sports Wire

DALLAS – What may be a preview of things to come, an aggressive Jacksonville Jaguars offense took control in the first half and scored twice late for a 28-23 NFL preseason win over the Cowboys in Dallas Saturday night.

Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw nine yards to Christian Kirk on a fourth and three to put the Black and Teal on the scoreboard first. The Jaguars went for two. Zay Jones caught a pass across the back of the end zone.

“We have a lot of depth. Since I’ve been here, it’s definitely the deepest we’ve been. I would argue at every position, but definitely at receiver. We have a lot of good players. It’s going to be tough when it comes down to the end on who’s getting those last spots. We’ve got a lot of really good players," Lawrence said after the game.

Jacksonville third string QB Nathan Rourke ran and threw for two fourth quarter touchdowns. The CFL product finished 9 of 17 passing for 153 yards.

Lawrence played two series. He was 5 of 6, passing for 36 yards. Jacksonville was stymied by 36 yards of penalties in the first half.

Lawrence was intercepted by Juanyeh Thomas on the opening drive. The Jaguars defense held QB Cooper Rush and the Cowboys on the ensuing possession. Rush finished 10 for 12 passing for 83 yards.

Backup QB C.J. Beathard completed a 42-yard pass to Jacob Harris at the Dallas one. Three plays later Beathard ran for Jacksonville’s second TD of the night. Beathard was 6 of 13 passing for 80 yards.

Former Florida and West Virginia QB Will Grier put the Cowboys on the board with a 17-yard pass to Jalen Tolbert with 13 seconds to play in the first half.

Dallas’ Brandon Aubrey kicked a 29-yard field goal to open the third quarter.

Jacksonville starters sat out at the beginning of the second half. Rourke came on as QB.

The Cowboys rallied in the final quarter. They took a brief lead on Deuce Vaughn’s four-yard TD run. Trailing 28-16, Grier threw a 15-yard TD pass to John Stephens with 2:16 to play. Grier was 22 of 31 passing for 199 yards.

Rourke led the Jaguars on a 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter highlighted by a 32-yard pass to Elijah Cooks. Rourke scored on a four-yard run. He threw a pass to Oliver Martin for the two-point conversion. Rourke avoided several tackles before throwing a 21-yard TD pass to Qadree Ollison with 4:06 to play.

"Nate (Rourke) had some unbelievable plays. That was really cool to see him play well. That’s what it takes in these preseason games…end of the game, you get a lot of different guys in there. You’ve got to have some plays like that. Nate, he played great and took care of the ball. He won the game for us," Lawrence added.

The Jaguars defense came up with four sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

“Always, it’s always a good sign. Always put pressure on their quarterback. I thought that Yasir [Abdullah] stood out and had a couple of nice rushes, there. Even the first group getting some pressure. All good things that we’ll look at on tape and build on," said Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson.

The second half gave Pederson and his staff a chance to evaluate young talent heading into this week of training camp.

"I think some of the young guys in the second half, our quarterback, Nate, did a nice job of stepping in and making some plays. Just coming up big when we needed those guys to make plays. Overall, a lot of things to clean up but there is some positive that we’ll take a look at and build on," Pederson added.

The Jaguars play the Lions in Detroit next Saturday.

Jaguars Game Notes: Cornerback Gregory Junior recovered a fumble and caused a fumble recovered by Tim Jones… Long snapper Ross Matiscik injured his shoulder separating the ball from punt returner KaVontae Turpin on Junior’s recovery. He was replaced by Josh Pederson…. Calvin Ridley made his first catch as a Jaguar, he finished with two receptions for 21 yards... Rookie running bac Tank Bigsby had 52 yards on nine carries. He made his debut on a three-yard run… Christian Braswell picked off Grier…. running back Snoop Conner lost a fumble.

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