JMU roundup: Seven Dukes claim all-CAA football honors

HARRISONBURG — After finishing third in the Colonial Athletic Association at 9-3 and 6-2 in the league, James Madison University’s football team received seven All-CAA selections for the 2014 season, announced Tuesday by the league office. The teams and top honors were selected by the league’s head coaches.

Two defensive standouts for JMU were named First Team All-CAA, as senior defensive lineman Sage Harold and senior safety Dean Marlowe picked up the accolades. Four Dukes were recognized on the second team — redshirt-junior quarterback Vad Lee, redshirt-senior wide receiver Daniel Brown and redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Mitchell Kirsch on the offensive side of the ball, along with sophomore cornerback Taylor Reynolds from the defense. Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Brandon Lee was the Dukes’ lone third-team representative.

Harold paced the Dukes’ defense on the front lines, leading the league’s defensive linemen and tied for 42nd in the CAA overall at 5.6 tackles per game (a career-high 67 total). He became just the 14th player in JMU history to record 10 or more sacks in a single season, a mark currently at a league-best 11.5 sacks. He also has 20.5 tackles for loss on the year, ranking second in the league and 11th in FCS football, while also having forced four fumbles on the season. A two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Week, Harold recorded nine tackles (including a career-high tying seven solos), 4.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, tying career highs for both tackles for loss and sacks and setting career highs for both in yardage lost at William & Mary. Harold was huge in limiting the Tribe to just 274 yards of total offense. Harold had two tackles, including a sack, on the Tribe’s first drive of the fourth quarter to force a 3-and-out. Then on the final drive, he sacked the W&M quarterback on what ended up as the final play of the win. He also recorded a career-high 10 tackles each in victories against Saint Francis and Stony Brook.

One of JMU’s three permanent captains in 2014, Marlowe tied for eighth among the league’s defensive backs at 7.0 tackles per contest (84 total) along with two interceptions. He also has had two interceptions, five pass breakups and one fumble recovery. His best game was in the home victory against Towson, recording a season-high 12 tackles, including 1.0 sacks. In the season finale against Elon, he had two interceptions, including one for touchback, along with four tackles to help the Dukes seal a berth in the NCAA FCS Playoffs. He also had at least five tackles in six of the eight CAA games and nine of the 12 contests overall.

A Walter Payton Award finalist for the top offensive player in FCS football, Lee had a record-setting season after transferring in the spring to JMU and leading the most prolific offense in the league. Lee set new single-season school records in passing completions (264), attempts (43), yards (3,323) and touchdowns (29) as well as total offense (4,192 yards). A three-time CAA Offensive Player of the Week pick, he has also set the single-game passing record twice this year, becoming the first-ever JMU player to surpass the 400-yard mark with 406 at Villanova Sept. 20 before extending it with 433 yards in the 55-20 victory at then No. 14-Richmond, Nov. 15. Lee has thrown for more than 300 yards in five contests and has a streak of six games with at least 250 passing yards, entering this weekend’s playoff game against Liberty. Lee has also done it on the ground, ranking ninth in the league at 64.1 yards per game and eight rushing touchdowns on the season. He set a personal collegiate career-best with 174 rushing yards against Saint Francis, also the team season-high mark.

Brown ranked among the league leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns this year, finishing with 41 catches for 564 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Contributing to a record-setting year for the JMU offense in all major passing categories and total offense, his seven touchdowns rank fifth in the CAA while his 47.0 receiving yards per game were 13th. His top game of the year was in a home victory over then-No. 17 William & Mary when he made eight catches for a career-high 128 yards and one touchdown. He also had six catches for 67 yards and a career-high two touchdowns against Saint Francis.

Kirsch was the top offensive lineman on the league’s most prolific offense, one that churned out a league-high 497 yards per contest and a CAA-best 39.9 points per game in conference action. The offense set new single-season program mark for the top passing categories as well as total offense.

Reynolds posted a career-high 59 tackles, finishing tied for 23rd among defensive backs in the CAA at 4.9 tackles per game. He tied for second in the league with four interceptions, including tying for fourth in FCS football with teammate freshman Jimmy Moreland with two interception returns for a touchdown. He also ranked eighth in the league in forced fumbles at 0.25 per contest. Reynolds earned CAA Defensive Player of the Week after his play in the Dukes’ resounding 55-20 thumping of the then-No. 14 Richmond Spiders in Robins Stadium. The cornerback had eight total tackles (seven of them solo) along with two interception returns for touchdowns, two forced fumbles for touchbacks and two additional pass breakups. He had a season-high 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss, at Villanova earlier this season. In the win over Towson, as part of the seven-game winning streak, Reynolds had five tackles (four solos) and forced a fumble that he recovered in the 62-7 win.

Brandon had 35 total tackles (21 solos) along with 10.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups. He tied for the league lead with five forced fumbles and his 7.0 sacks (0.58 per game) tied for ninth in the conference. He had a season-high six tackles in the victory over Saint Francis in early September. Brandon was named The Sports Network National Defensive Player of the Week, CAA Defensive Player of the Week and College Sports Madness National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Dukes’ 62-7 win over Towson. He recorded five total tackles, with 3.0 tackles for 19 yards of loss, including 2.0 sacks for 16 yards, and three forced fumbles resulting in two JMU takeaways. The second forced fumble directly resulted in points, as it was caught in the air by linebacker Rhakeem Stallings and returned 27 yards to put JMU up 20-0. Lee was a leader on the defense that limited Towson’s Darius Victor, the second-leading rusher in the CAA, to just 37 yards on 12 carries and the Tigers’ offense to just 234 yards of total offense while forcing four turnovers.

Currently on a seven-game winning streak, the No. 15 Dukes will host Big South Conference champion Liberty in the 2014 NCAA FCS Football Championship at Bridgeforth Stadium at 4 p.m. on Saturday.