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Cloherty comes up big in 1st game with Jaguars

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)

Disheartened by his NFL career, tight end Colin Cloherty put together a resume last month in hopes of landing ''a real job.''

An Ivy League graduate with a degree in political science and history, Cloherty applied to be a staff assistant to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) after nearly four months of unemployment. He was offered an entry-level position answering phones, making copies and giving tours.

Then the Jacksonville Jaguars called.

''I went down on the first flight,'' he said.

Nonetheless, he had no idea things would work out this well. After three weeks on Jacksonville's practice squad, Cloherty got a chance to play Sunday against Tampa Bay and scored his first career touchdown. His 8-yard fumble return sparked a 41-14 drubbing that gave interim coach Mel Tucker his first victory.

''It was tough to face the possibility that your football career might be over,'' Cloherty said. ''Thank God I didn't have to go out and get a real job.''

Cloherty has three more games, beginning Thursday night at Atlanta, to add to his highlight tape and possibly prevent himself from having to find a regular job.

''You never know what kind of opportunities you're going to get, so you've just got to make the most of every play,'' Cloherty said.

He sure did that against the Buccaneers.

The Jaguars (4-9) trailed 14-0 in the second quarter, a huge hole for a team that had been averaging less than 13 points a game. But Tucker kept telling his players to be relentless, and when special teams standout Montell Owens jarred the ball out of punt returner Preston Parker's hands, Cloherty did just that.

He scooped up the loose ball and scored.

''I couldn't believe it,'' he said. ''I absolutely couldn't believe what was happening. All I could think about is, `Pick up the ball, get in the end zone. Pick up the ball, get in the end zone.' And then once I got there, I went nuts.''

The Jaguars scored three more touchdowns in the quarter, a 28-point barrage in a span of 7 minutes, 32 seconds that turned a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead. They scored on offense, defense and special teams in the same game - and the same quarter - for the first time since Nov. 1, 1998, at Baltimore.

There were plenty of standout performances, too.

Owens forced two fumbles. Linebacker Daryl Smith caused another when he sacked Josh Freeman near the goal line. Defensive tackle Nate Collins fell on the ball in the end zone for a score, his first touchdown since college. Linebacker Paul Posluszny and cornerbacks Kevin Rutland and Ashton Youboty had interceptions.

Blaine Gabbert threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Marcedes Lewis finished with a career-high 77 yards receiving.

Maurice Jones-Drew had a career-high four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving.

MJD also set the franchise record for touchdowns, breaking the previous mark of 70 held by his mentor, Fred Taylor. Jones-Drew now has 73 touchdowns in 90 career games.

Tucker ended up with the game ball, a small token of appreciation for keeping the team together after two weeks of turmoil that included coach Jack Del Rio getting fired, owner Wayne Weaver selling the franchise and numerous personnel moves.

Cloherty, who spent time with Indianapolis, Cleveland and San Francisco before landing in Jacksonville, benefited from all the changes.

''The later it goes in the season, the better chance you have (of playing),'' he said. ''It doesn't feel that way when you're sitting on the couch. As every Sunday goes by, it just gets more and more frustrating to watch everybody be out there competing and you're just waiting for the call. It's tough, but there's nothing else to do but keep running, keep lifting, keep staying on top of yourself, and when you get a chance, make the most of it.''

Tagged: Buccaneers, Jaguars, Colin Cloherty

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