By Tommy Keeler Jr. - email@example.com
HARRISONBURG -- JMU got exactly what it hoped for out of its season opener with Saint Francis (Pa.) on Saturday.
The Dukes used a high-powered offense and a stellar defensive effort to dominate the Red Flash 55-7.
"I thought we played fine," JMU coach Mickey Matthews said. "It was all good. I don't really know of anything negative."
JMU's offense churned out 602 yards, which was third highest total against an FBS or FCS opponent, in the school's history.
The offense was also very balanced as they had 377 yards rushing and 225 yards passing.
The Dukes did not play well last year in the first two games of the season according to Matthews, so he said he emphasized to his team how important it was to not let that happen again.
JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe said he felt the team needed to win big.
"We owe it to the fans," he said. "There's no reason not to. We have me, Dae'Quan [Scott], Jordan [Anderson] and so many guys that can touch the ball and we should be putting up a decent amount of points every week."
The Dukes had no trouble taking control of the game early. After stopping the Red Flash on their opening series, JMU went 63 yards on 11 plays. The combination of running backs Dejor Simmons, Scott and Anderson and Thorpe ran for 52 yards on the drive.
The first drive was a sign of things to come for the Dukes.
The Dukes were only stopped once in the first half, and that was a seven-play drive that ended at the Red Flash 33.
Thorpe finished with 76 yards rushing on 11 carries, while Scott had 73 yards on 12 carries. Anderson finished with 51 yards on 10 carries and Simmons had 51 yards on five carries for a balanced running attack.
"We just have to keep doing what we're doing every week," Scott said. "We have weapons, so I feel like everybody should touch the ball like they did tonight."
JMU was just as dominant on the defensive side of the ball. The Dukes held the Red Flash to only 155 yards of offense and only nine first down in the game.
JMU redshirt junior Stephon Robertson said he was just excited to be able to start the season and go against someone other than teammates.
"I think it was about time, to be honest," Robertson said of going against another team. "I was tired of going against our offense. It was definitely a change. I know myself out there, I missed a couple of tackles. All together I thought it was good for us to go out there and stop them."
Saint Francis' top returning running back from last season Kyle Harbridge did not play due to a high ankle sprain.
Thorpe went 15-for-27 for 177 yards passing, including a touchdown. Freshman Michael Birdsong also got some playing time in his first game and went 6-for-7 for 48 yards. Birdsong also ran the ball three times for 40 yards.
Matthews said he was really pleased with Birdsong's performance.
"We wanted to get him 25 plays tonight," Matthews said. "I thought the biggest thing was that he competed. I think it was obvious that his last five plays were better than his first five plays."
Sherando graduate and senior redshirt tight end Brian Barlow had three receptions for 50 yards. Handley graduate and redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremiah Wilson played the majority of the game and had one tackle.
The Dukes play at home again next week against Alcorn State. Thorpe said he feels the team should be able to duplicate Saturday's performance throughout the season.
"We have a great offense and an awesome defense," Thorpe said. "There's no reason why we shouldn't score 40 a week."