Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reserves Star as Jags Roll to 34-14 Win

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reserves Star as Jags Roll to 34-14 Win

Article excerpt

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Not too bad for jayvee players.

With much of the Jaguars' so-called varsity, including 10 projected starters, sitting out with injuries and one absence (Tony Brackens), the team opened its preseason in impressive fashion last night. The Jaguars jumped to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, then the starters watched as players who likely will be spending their days at the labor pool come September finished the 34-14 victory.

A sparse crowd of 55,703 at Ericsson Stadium saw the Jaguars take the early lead, hold it with an impressive performance by the first-team defense and then widen it with some big plays by the reserves. The biggest play of the night came when Stacey Mack took the second-half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-7. By then, the starters for both teams were either long gone or never even took the field.

"This is part of the deal, working against odds, working against adversity," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said. "You can't expect things to be exactly the way you want them to be."

There may be more adversity today when the team determines the extent of the injured right calf suffered last night by defensive end Joel Smeenge. Smeenge, who is the starting right end in place of Brackens, may have torn the muscle, which could put him on the sideline for an extended period. That would leave Rahmaan Streater as the starter for Friday night's preseason home opener against the New York Giants.

There were no other serious injuries last night, which means all the build-up about the chance Coughlin was taking to play Mark Brunell proved to be a moot point.

In his only series of work, Brunell led the Jaguars to a 7-0 lead when he hit Jimmy Smith with a 39-yard touchdown pass. Playing behind a patchwork offensive line made up of five players who didn't start a game in 1999, Brunell engineered a five-play, 80-yard drive, capping it with a pass to Smith.

Of course, the offense was matched against a Carolina defense that was without four or five projected starters of its own. The Panthers also did not play quarterback Steve Beuerlein and several other key offensive players.

After Brunell threw his touchdown pass, he put on a baseball cap and sat back as the team's three other quarterbacks finished the game, with the most important news of the night for the Jaguars being Brunell made it out unscathed. Without injured starting linemen Tony Boselli, Leon Searcy, John Wade and Zach Wiegert, there was some concern.

"Those guys are inexperienced, but they were challenged all week, and they did a good job," Brunell said. "I threw three balls and didn't get touched. And they created running lanes for Fred [Taylor]. That was good."

After Brunell sat, it was left to Jonathan Quinn, Jamie Martin and Roderick Robinson to finish out the night. …

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