James Madison seeks first win against Lehigh

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

James Madison University certainly did not have the kind of opening game it was looking for last week, but the team remained upbeat this week as the Dukes got ready to play at Lehigh today at 12:30 p.m.

JMU head coach Everett Withers said he was happy with the way his players practiced last Sunday after the loss.

The first-year coach also said he was happy with the effort his team gave, but not with the execution.

“I can say we passed, as far as the effort. The execution an F, but the effort an A. I thought we gave A effort,” Withers said. “We can get better, we can give A-plus effort and that’s what we have to do to be a really good football team. We’re going to have to execute better.”

One of the biggest things Everett was upset about in the 52-7 opening-game loss to Maryland was the Dukes’ composure.

Withers said he likes to put his team through “a lot of events” in practice to prepare for games and he didn’t feel like his team handled things well.

“Probably the most frustrating thing was I thought we got a little nervous, really had the nerves and jitters going into the game, which I did not expect us to have,” Withers said. “We put our team through a lot of events and they’ve handled the responses pretty well. We did not handle them on either side of the football. I thought special teams-wise we did OK, not great. It also gives us a gauge and I hope we’re better at handling those events from Week 1 to Week 2.”

JMU had nine penalties in the loss to the Terps, and struggled on both sides of the ball against a solid Maryland squad.

JMU quarterback Vad Lee was playing in his first game since transferring from Georgia Tech. Lee went 16-for-37 for 141 yards and threw two interceptions. He also ran for 27 yards on eight carries.

Withers said there were times in the zone read where Lee should have ran with the ball, and that he will need to improve against Lehigh.

“He’s got to play better,” Withers said. “I expect him to play better, he expects to play better. His first game in a new offense and in a situation where the offense is kind of as Vad goes, it will go, kind of a deal. … I think he’ll have to change how he does some things as far as preparation during the week.

“I saw a young man [Sunday] really eager to get back on the field and correct some of the things that he did on Saturday.”

The only injury suffered in the game was to offensive lineman and Millbrook graduate A.J. Bolden (ankle sprain). Warren County graduate and redshirt sophomore Gage Steele (hip) did not play against Maryland, but did practice with the team this week.

It will be Lehigh’s first game of the season. Last year the Mountain Hawks went 8-3 and finished third in the Patriot League last year.

Lehigh lost 14 starters from last year’s team, including eight on offense.

The Mountain Hawks do have a pair of All-Patriot League players returning in defensive lineman Tim Newton and offensive lineman Ned Daryoush.

Withers said he wasn’t sure if having a game under their belts would help the Dukes, but he hoped that it would.

“You’d like to think we’d have an advantage since we’ve been through that first game and knocked that first-game rust off of us,” Withers said.

Withers said it also helps that he knows his team a little better and what they need to work on.

“We know now what we need to improve on. Going into that first game you don’t really know what you have,” Withers said. “Going into the second game you have a lot more of an idea of what you need to work on. You can look at Lehigh and how you match up with them, and try to fix some of the technical things that need to be fixed.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd