By Tommy Keeler Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
HARRISONBURG -- One of the things JMU wanted to improve on from its first game was having a few more explosive plays on offense -- mission accomplished.
The Dukes had five plays where they gained at least 20 yards in their 42-3 victory over Alcorn State on Saturday. Several of those plays were sparked by redshirt junior tailback Dae'Quan Scott.
"When you throw it to [Scott] you're going to get that," JMU coach Mickey Matthews said of the Dukes' big-play offense. "Dae'Quan's one of those satellite guys, you've got to get him out in space. When he gets out in space with the ball, they could have three guys out there, he's going to make a lot of them miss. He would be tough to tackle in a phone booth."
So far this season Scott has 180 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Dukes. Scott was also named the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson said Scott was able to make plays even when they thought they had him under control.
"He's just so athletic," Hopson said. "There were a couple times where we had a four-man rush, and he just goes and makes you miss and just takes off. If he gets out in the open field he's extremely dangerous."
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN: Another player who makes big plays for the Dukes' offense is quarterback Justin Thorpe. The redshirt senior threw for 140 yards with two touchdowns, and 101 yards rushing with one touchdown.
After the season opener, Matthews said the only problem they had with Thorpe was that he sometimes takes off with the ball too early. However, Thorpe showed against Alcorn State that taking off with the ball can lead to good things.
"If they're dropping eight people, and everybody's running in man coverage, then there's a lot of running lanes out there, and I took advantage of them," Thorpe said. "You can always get better at staying in the pocket. It's just when I see lanes open up, it's just so easy to go get 10 yards. I tried to take advantage of it."
Thorpe has 177 yards rushing this season with three touchdowns. He also has 317 yards passing with three touchdowns.
Thorpe did have one interception, on the Dukes opening drive. Thorpe thought that tight end Brian Barlow was wide open, but Alcorn State's Brandon Thompson made a play on the ball at the last second to get an interception in the end zone.
"The funny part is I seen him wide open, and in the back of my head I said 'it's too good to be true,'" Thorpe said. "And nine times out of 10 if it seems like that, it is too good to be true. I made a mistake. The coaches got on me and said 'shake it off, this is one pick, and you can recover from it.'"
BANGED UP SECONDARY: The Dukes have been battling injuries in the secondary since the start of preseason camp. As JMU prepares to play No. 8 West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Saturday, the injury bug is even more of an issue.
Previous injuries to safety Jakarie Jackson and cornerback Corey Davis, forced the Dukes to shuffle their starting lineup around against Alcorn State. Davis didn't start, but did play in the game. Jackson is out with a turf toe.
Handley graduate and cornerback Jeremiah Wilson started at cornerback, along with Leavander Jones, while Ryan Smith moved from cornerback to safety. Against Alcorn State, backup safety Pete Rose suffered a hip-flexor injury, and fellow backup safety Daniel Allen has pneumonia.
"Ryan [Smith] was playing [safety] with [starter] Dean [Marlowe]," Matthews said. "[At the end of] the game we were playing a four-linebacker defense, and one safety to get Ryan and Dean out of the game. We didn't have anyone to put in the game."
Matthews said he wasn't sure what they would do, if the injuries don't heal by Saturday. The Mountaineers have one of the top offenses in Division 1, led by quarterback Geno Smith.
"Your probably playing the Heisman Trophy winner," Matthews said of Smith. "I don't get a vote, I don't know who it's going to be. After one game -- he's going to put up big numbers this year. He's a great player."
HIGH PRAISE: Hopson said after JMU's win over Alcorn State that he believes "[JMU] is probably the best team in America in 1-AA football -- FCS."
Hopson said the Dukes were probably the biggest FCS school Alcorn State has faced in the last 20 years.
"You look at James Madison, it's a program that year in and year out is either going to win a national championship or compete for national championships," Hopson said. "James Madison is always a dominant team. This team is really an outstanding football team."
Through two games the Dukes are averaging 48.5 points per game, while allowing only 5.0 points per game. JMU is averaging 511.5 yards per game on offense. The Dukes are currently ranked No. 4 in The Sports Network FCS poll, and No. 5 in the FCS Coaches poll.
Matthews said it's too early in the season to talk about who the best team in the country is.
"I've said this all along, we think were a top 10 team," Matthews said. "We have good players. I think it's way too early to say all that, but Jay's a nice guy. We think were good, but were fixin' to find out."