By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG -- JMU practices the two-minute drill over and over. The Dukes practice it every day in practice and in the 13-10 win over Towson on Saturday that practice worked to perfection.
JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe said the game-winning drive was routine for the Dukes.
"We practice the two-minute drill every day," Thorpe said. "We were kind of like robot on that drive. We were just kind of automatic."
Thorpe went 6 for 6 through the air on the winning drive, and ran in the touchdown from nine yards out. It took only 1:57 for the Dukes to go 79 yards on eight plays, after the offense had sputtered most of the game.
JMU coach Mickey Matthews said the Dukes have set plays that they run in the two-minute offense and everything was working against Towson.
"Justin knew what he was doing with the ball," Matthews said. "The kids knew what routes we were going to run. It was all good."
Matthews said he was very proud of the way his players executed in the final minutes.
"I told the kids that was a championship drive there with three minutes left, take it the length of the field and do what we did," Matthews said. "A big time drive. That's what championships are made of when you do things like that."
STINGY AGAINST THE RUN: JMU's defense takes a lot of pride in making stops, but they take even extra pride in shutting down the running game.
The Dukes are allowing only an average of 102.2 rushing yards per game.
Against Towson the Dukes rose to the occasion once again. JMU held Towson sophomore running back Terrance West to only 112 yards on 28 carries. West won the Jerry Rice Award last year, given to the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Tigers had only 170 yards rushing as a team against JMU, they entered the game averaging 194.2 per game.
"As a defense we look forward to games like these since their a pound, smash-mouth type of football team on the offensive side," JMU senior linebacker Stephon Robertson said. "Even the secondary guys you'll see them come up and make hits. We will not let them run the ball on us. That's just how our defense is.
"I know, me personally, I take people running the ball to heart. So, I make sure it doesn't happen. I don't allow it. And our defense is the same way."
'MORE COTTON TO HOE': JMU's win over Towson was a big one for the Dukes for many reasons. The win gives the Dukes an edge if they would end the regular season tied with the Tigers. It was also sure to help build the team's confidence, especially if they are faced with more tight games.
Matthews said while it was a nice win, the Dukes haven't won anything yet.
"It's way too early to start crowning any champions," Matthews said. "I think they're going to be there. I think Towson's going to be there and we're going to be there. There's a lot of cotton to hoe. There's some really good football teams. We've got some trips down the road. We've got a lot of good teams to play."
The Dukes host William and Mary this week. The Tribe lost 20-17 to Towson on Sept. 15 on a controversial play at the end of the game.
Matthews said his team still has a lot to improve on.
"We need to be better on offense than we were today," Matthews said. "If we want to go, where we want to go, we've got to be better on offense."
MILESTONE FOR MICKEY: The Dukes had a little extra motivation to get the win on Saturday. It was the 100th career win for Matthews, who is in his 14th year at JMU.
JMU is the only place Matthews has been a head coach, and he now has a 100-62 record.
Matthews said the team gave him a plaque for his 100th win after the game Saturday.
"I was stunned," Matthews said. "And my wife said they were all excited about it. They've all been chipping in some money, so it's very humbling. It's pretty nice."
Matthews is tied for 24th on the FCS career active victories list with New Hampshire's Sean McDonnell.
He was an assistant coach at several Division I schools, including Marshall and Georgia before coming to JMU as head coach in 1999. Matthews led the Dukes to the National Championship in 2004.
"When you start winning in triple figures that just means you're getting older," Matthews said. "It was obvious after the game it was a big deal -- the kids wanting to win the 100th game for me. That's very humbling that our players felt that way."
Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org