By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
One year is all it takes for a program to turn things around and earn respect.
James Madison University's football team is well aware that Towson, who the Dukes host today at 1 p.m., has done just that. The Tigers went from a one-win season, to being CAA champs and winning nine games last year.
A big part of the Tigers' success has come from the play of sophomore tailback Terrance West and senior quarterback Grant Enders.
"Those two guys last year really changed their program," JMU coach Mickey Matthews said. "Even this year they're 75 percent of their offense, at least that."
West has 330 yards on 71 carries and seven touchdowns this year. Enders has thrown for 708 yards on 69-for-108 passing with five touchdowns. Enders also has 176 yards rushing.
West won the Jerry Rice award last year, given to the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision. Matthews said he saw West play at Fork Union Military Academy in 2010 and was impressed with him, and he was being heavily recruited by both Clemson and Maryland.
The 5-foot-11, 233-pound tailback ran for 1,294 yards last year, and led the FCS with 29 touchdowns. The 29 touchdowns was also a national record for a freshman.
"He's a heck of a player," Matthews said. "He's like tackling a fire plug. He had a great year last year."
Enders is a junior college transfer. The senior played at Lackawanna Junior College before coming to Towson and playing last season. He threw for 2,081 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
"When your quarterback's a competitor, he keeps a lot of plays alive," Matthews said. "He just keeps some plays alive and finds some guys open down the field."
The Tigers (2-2, 1-0 CAA)) are coming off a 38-22 loss to LSU. Towson held LSU to only 158 yards rushing. Towson had more first downs than LSU, and forced three turnovers.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose said despite playing LSU tough, he's not happy with where his team is right now.
"After making it through what we consider to be the first quarter of the season, 2-2 is not a pleasing place to be," Ambrose said. "It doesn't matter who we played, or how we played versus whoever we played, 2-2 is not a good place to be."
Towson's defense is led by senior safety Jordan Dangerfield and sophomore cornerback Tye Smith. The two have combined for 50 tackles. The defense is yielding only 288.5 yards per game.
Ambrose said he was especially happy with how his defensive front did against LSU's offensive line.
"You look at the eight guys LSU is shuffling in and they're all in the five-star supermen of college recruiting, and we had seven able bodies that could actually play in the game," Ambrose said. "It was a yeoman's challenge, and I thought they certainly answered the bell."
JMU is coming off a bye week that Matthews said was much-needed.
The Dukes (3-1, 1-0 CAA) have been banged up for several weeks and Matthews said it's given some of the players a chance to rest up and heal. However, Matthews said linebacker Titus Till and cornerback Jeremiah Wilson are all doubtful for today's game, while running back Dae'Quan Scott is probable.
The Dukes threw for 347 yards in their 32-7 win over Rhode Island two weeks ago.
Matthews said they will need to be able to do more of that against Towson.
"Certainly we worked really hard on our play-action before the Rhode Island game and I thought that helped us," Matthews said. "We need to continue to complete some passes down the field."
Defensively, Matthews said the Dukes need to generate more of a pass rush. JMU has only four sacks this season.
It is Parents' Weekend at JMU this weekend, so a big crowd will be expected for the game, which will be televised on NBC Sports Network.
Matthews said he hopes the crowd will be noisy to help the Dukes out.
"I always call it the Eddie Haskell weekend," Matthews said. "All the kids are perfect little angels because all the parents are in town. Hopefully, we'll have a boisterous crowd."