Change has been a constant for Ben Jolliffe in his college football career.
As a redshirt freshman at the University of Mary, Jolliffe was thrust into the starting quarterback role after an injury to starter Zach Roberson. He started six games, threw for 951 yards, rushed for 183 and produced a combined 12 touchdowns, passing and rushing.
Last year, he shifted to wide receiver, where he caught 16 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in five games before suffering a season-ending injury.
This fall, he’s back under center, leading the Marauders’ new triple-option offense. The former Bismarck High standout rushed for 50 yards and completed 9 of 13 passes for 63 yards in the season opener last week at Concordia-St. Paul.
“He’s stepping into his time,” Marauders head coach Josh Kotelnicki said. “The difference between Ben this year and two years ago was that was a reaction. It’s supposed to be Zach’s team, I only go in if somebody gets hurt. Now he’s had the mindset that for the last nine months, this is my team. I’m going to be the guy out there from the beginning.
“When players have that different mindset, it does affect their preparation and their confidence levels.”
“We have a great supporting cast here at the University of Mary,” Jolliffe said. “Between our coaches, the strength coach and out athletic trainers – they help out immensely and that’s the biggest thing.
“As I get older, the leadership has to pick up a bit, and as you go through the program, you kind of understand your place in the program. Jumping into the starting role has been a lot easier this time.”
A young U-Mary offense took some good things from their season opener – the ball-control option offense helped establish a ground game and held the ball for 35:31, the third-best time of possession of any Northern Sun team in Week 1. That, in turn, helped keep the defense off the field and aided in U-Mary limiting Concordia-St. Paul to 338 yards on 55 plays.
But one thing was missing. U-Mary couldn’t put any points on the board, and a pair of late touchdowns allowed the Golden Bears to break open a tight game late in a 17-0 victory.
“It was the first game of the year … we have a young offense and a lot of guys saw their first collegiate game,” Jolliffe said. “A lot of early jitters got out, so hopefully we can put a few points on the board, get our offense rolling a little bit.”
“It was our first time running the offense with coaches who hadn’t run the offense before, with players that have never run it before,” Kotelnicki said. “We went into half time (down 3-0) and we were playing better every series on offense so I was pretty optimistic we would put it together in the second half, it just didn’t happen.
“We think we know why that happened and we’ve had a week of practice to allow us to correct it. We’ll find out (Saturday), won’t we?”
“Holding the ball is going to help out a lot with this offense,” Jolliffe said. “We’re going to run the ball a lot, chew up the clock, keep our defense off the field. We had no problems moving the ball, it’s just we need to execute when we get down to the red zone, put some points up.”
The Marauders will get a test today in their home opener, taking on No. 21-ranked Augustana at 1 p.m. at the MDU Resources Community Bowl.
The Vikings, who opened the season with a 37-34 overtime win over Northern State, and they come in with a veteran, explosive offense led by senior quarterback Trey Heid, last year’s NSIC South Division offensive player of the year. Heid has two receivers back who each went over 1,000 yards receiving last year in Charlie Hayes and Matt Heller.
“This is an important game for our program,” Kotelnicki said. “We’re coming out ready to smack them in the mouth. We went to this offense to match up well against teams like this that run 90 plays a game with good skill players, to keep our defense off the field and to do something that they don’t see on a weekly basis, to try to tilt the field in your favor a little bit.
“We think that the problems from last week are easily correctable. We think we’ve already corrected them, but we’ll find out.”