Notebook: Depth on offensive line key for JMU

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University’s offensive line could have fallen apart in the first half of Saturday’s 42-28 victory over Albany. The Dukes had several players go to the sidelines with injuries, but each time a different offensive lineman came off the bench and stepped up to the plate.

JMU’s Mitchell Kirsch and Casey Krol suffered injuries. Kirsch is expected to play against SMU this week, while Krol will be out 2-4 weeks with a high-ankle sprain. Krol doesn’t start but is usually one of JMU’s top options off the bench.

“What was great was we had four guys who aren’t starters step up — Kyle Rigney, Nick Edwards, (Millbrook graduate) A.J. Bolden and Casey Kroll,” JMU redshirt senior offensive lineman Austin Lane said. “They all stepped up and we didn’t skip a beat, which I’m extremely proud about. Developing depth on the offensive line is awesome, especially at the tempo we go. Sometimes the starters need a blow, and if you have a guy that you can rely on like that it’s great.”

JMU head coach Everett Withers said he wasn’t surprised at how well the offensive line performed despite a few setbacks.

“We’ve got a lot of faith in those guys to come in and play,” Withers said. “We had some guys step in and play and that’s what we expect. That’s why you recruit good players, so they can step in and play.”

The Dukes were able to run for 350 yards, and the offensive line has been a real strength for the team in the first three games. JMU has the No. 2 rushing offense in all of Football Championship Subdivision, averaging 328.3 yards per game.

Responding well: JMU had made things look pretty easy in its first two games, but against Albany things were much different.

The Dukes were tested for the first time and the team was pleased with how they responded.

“I thought we did really well coming out of halftime, like we did all last year,” Lane said. “That’s what we train for and I was really pleased to see how our team responded to that. … I would say we’re extremely resilient. We know how to take events that happen in a game and respond to them well.”

Withers said his word for the week to his team was relentless. He said he felt his team was relentless in their victory over Albany.

“I think if you look at this, you turn the ball over as many times as we turned it over, but you still got two guys with career rushing days and you get 600 yards of offense — that’s being pretty relentless,” Withers said. “We turned it over. We didn’t play very good, but we kept going and that’s kind of what we thought we might have to do.”

Defense rises: While the Dukes piled up a lot of points and yards against Albany, the defense may have been the key to the victory.

JMU allowed 353 yards of offense, but considering the Dukes turned the ball over six times Withers said he was pleased with their effort.

“Any time you turn the ball over six times you put your defense in a bad way,” Withers said. “We would have not been able to win the football game if our defense hadn’t stepped up and made some three and outs. They had a talented offensive line, two talented running backs. We didn’t fit the run like we needed to but we made some plays.

“I thought our back end played well. I thought they did a good job tackling on the perimeter and making some plays.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or