Dukes face tough task against Tribe

HARRISONBURG — Coming off its first loss of the season, James Madison University will have to bounce back quickly as it travels to play at William & Mary at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Dukes, ranked No. 9 in both main Football Championship Subdivision polls, will have their hands full with a 5-2 William & Mary squad. The Tribe are ranked 15th in the FCS Coaches poll and 16th in the STATS FCS poll.

To make matters even tougher for the Dukes, they will be without starting quarterback Vad Lee, who is out for the season and had surgery earlier this week. JMU sophomore Bryan Schor will get the start.

“We’re really happy where Bryan is. He’s going to do a really good job,” JMU head coach Everett Withers said. “He did a really good job for us (last week). So I’m really excited about watching him play. There’s been an opportunity to get him in the game some, and we haven’t gotten him in the game enough, but I think he’s really excited. I think our football team’s really excited.”

Schor replaced Lee in the fourth quarter of the Dukes’ 59-49 loss to Richmond last week and led the team to two scoring drives. He threw a touchdown pass on one drive and ran for a score on the other. Schor finished the game with 73 yards passing and 18 rushing yards.

Schor will have plenty of talent around him. The Dukes are averaging 318.5 rushing yards per game. Khalid Abdullah has 754 yards on 146 carries and 10 touchdowns, while Cardon Johnson has 735 on 109 carries and eight scores.

There have also been 13 different players who have caught a pass this season for the Dukes.

JMU’s offense will face a tough task against William & Mary. The Tribe are allowing only 15.3 points and 290.1 yards per game.

“They play good sound defense. They’re good up front,” Withers said. “They want to stop the run, they do a good job of that. They don’t give up a lot of big plays. They’re very talented on both sides of the ball.

The Tribe are averaging 438.9 yards and 31.3 points per contest. They have been very balanced all season, averaging 214.9 through the air and 224.0 on the ground.

Quarterback Steve Cluley has thrown for 1,504 yards and 10 touchdowns. His top receiver, DeVonte Dedmon, has 32 receptions for 346 yards. Withers said Cluley, who has thrown only one interception, has been aided by the talent around him.

“I think what makes him effective is he’s got a lot of good players around him,” Withers said. “They are able to run the ball. They do a great job of running it, which allows him to be effective as a passer and as a runner. When you got two really good running backs, a good offensive line, good tight ends, it really allows a quarterback to be efficient and be able to manage a football game, and he does a good job of that.”

William & Mary’s running game has been led by Kendall Anderson, who has rushed for 896 yards on 130 carries and has eight touchdowns.

JMU’s defense will need to play much better against the Tribe than it did against Richmond if the Dukes expect to win. The Dukes gave up 720 yards of offense.

Withers said the Dukes will need to improve on defense, especially at stopping the run.

“They have very similar backs, very similar offensive line,” Withers said in comparing William & Mary and Richmond. “It will be a big challenge for us to be better this week than we were last week.”

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