Dukes rally past Tribe
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG –Vad Lee couldn’t resist.
With the game on the line, Lee was supposed to run a draw play, but then the senior saw wide receiver DeAndre Smith open and knew he had to make a throw.
Lee’s touchdown pass to Smith gave James Madison University a 31-24 victory over No. 17 William and Mary on Saturday night at Bridgeforth Stadium on Homecoming.
“It’s funny because I was supposed to run with it, but DeAndre had beat his guy so bad, I had to throw it,” Lee said with a smile. “The offensive line did a great job on the play, giving me the time, and we executed it.”
Trailing 24-23 with 4:39 left, JMU went 78 yards on 12 plays on the game-winning drive. The Dukes made several big plays on the drive. On third-and-8 from the JMU 24, Lee connected with Daniel Brown for a nine-yard gain. Khalid Abdullah ran for 16 yards two plays later to the William and Mary 45-yard line.
On third-and-1 from the William and Mary 9-yard line, Lee found Smith in the end zone for the touchdown with 47 seconds left. Lee ran in the two-point conversion for a 31-24 lead.
The Tribe had one final chance. They drove all the way down to the JMU 23-yard line with 10 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. JMU’s Sage Harold sacked William and Mary quarterback Steve Cluley to end the game.
“When it got down to it, I just told the defense it’s our time, we’ve got to take over the game,” Harold said.
William and Mary scored on the first possession of the game. The Tribe went 62 yards in nine plays.
The Tribe were able to move the ball to the JMU 6-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in and settled for a 23-yard field goal by Nick Dorka.
The two teams traded fumbles on their next possessions. JMU took advantage of the William and Mary fumble. The Dukes went 41 yards on six plays, including a 42-yard pass from Lee to Daniel Brown. JMU was able to move to the Tribe 20-yard line, but the William and Mary defense held. JMU’s Ryan Maglio hit a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with 7:50 left in the first quarter.
The Tribe (5-4, 2-3 CAA) scored on their next possession. William and Mary’s Devonte Dedmon took the kickoff 77 yards to the JMU 19. The Tribe needed six plays to retake the lead. The Tribe went for it on fourth-and-2 from the JMU 11 and converted the first down. Two plays later, Mikal Abdul-Saboor ran it in from the 4-yard line to give the Tribe a 10-3 lead with 4:19 left in the opening quarter.
A strange play set-up JMU’s next score. Facing a third-and-10 from the JMU 48-yard line, Lee was ruled to have fumbled the ball when being hit. William and Mary’s Jesse Santiago picked it up and returned it inside the JMU 10. However after the referees talked about the play it was ruled an incomplete pass, and that Lee’s hand was going forward as he was hit. There was a personal foul penalty on the return, which gave the Dukes a first down.
“Obviously, it was a big play. It could have been a heckuva play,” William and Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “On replay, I don’t know if it was a correct call or not the correct call. I have no idea, but it was big.”
Three plays later, Lee scrambled and turned nothing into something with a 19-yard run to the William and Mary 8-yard line. However, with only two seconds left in the half, JMU settled for a 25-yard field goal by Maglio to cut the lead to 10-6.
JMU (6-3, 3-2) used 10 plays to take its first lead of the game in the third quarter. The Dukes drove 80 yards, with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Brandon Ravenel giving JMU a 13-10 lead with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
The Tribe used an 11-play 69-yard drive on the ensuing possession to take the lead back. A 30-yard touchdown pass from Cluley to DeVonte Dedmon gave the Tribe a 17-13 lead with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
JMU was forced to punt to start the fourth quarter, and William and Mary’s Kendell Anderson blocked JMU punter Gunnar Kane’s punt and a two-yard return for a touchdown, and a 24-13 lead, with 14:55 left in the game. It was the second blocked punt of the game for the Tribe.
JMU responded with a 12-play drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal by Maglio to cut the lead to 24-16 with 12:21 left in the game.
On JMU’s next possession the Dukes went 69 yards on seven plays. Lee completed three passes to Brown on the drive, and one to tight end Deane Cheatham for 24 yards.
Brown made a one-handed grab for the 20-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone, to cut the lead to 24-23 with 8:49 left in the game.
“I ran a terrible route,” Brown said with a laugh about his touchdown. “That was all Vad. He made a great throw, put it right where only I could catch it. But, the route was terrible.”
Brown had his first 100-yard receiving day. The senior caught eight passes for 128 yards and one touchdown.
JMU head coach Everett Withers said he decided to go for the extra point instead of the two-point conversion because of how well the defense was playing. It paid off.
The Dukes forced William and Mary into a 37-yard missed field goal on its next drive, and then the offense went down for the game-winning drive.
JMU also unveiled new black and purple uniforms and helmets, which the players found out about just minutes before coming out for the start of the game.
Lee threw for 324 yards on 26-for-40 passing and three touchdowns.
Lee said that the Dukes knew they had to respond in the fourth quarter, because they wanted to get the win.
“It was just the fear of losing,” Lee said of the comeback. “We did not want to lose this game. We got big dreams, big goals and we feel like we’ve got a good team. Defense, offense, special teams we knew we had to make the most of opportunities and make plays. We just really wanted it.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org