Dukes start big road swing at Towson

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University’s football team will be playing four out of its next five games on the road, starting with today’s contest at Towson University at 3 p.m.

For some teams that could be a daunting task, but JMU quarterback Vad Lee said the team actually enjoys playing on the road.

“We love it,” Lee said. “Obviously, we love being at home playing in front of our crowd, but on the away games we know it’s just us and it’s no distractions. It’s just those guys that are traveling and just our coaches. We kind of like it like that, where it’s no distractions and we’re going to take care of business on the road.”

The Dukes (5-0, 2-0 CAA) will have their hands full with the Tigers today at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Towson is 2-2, but one of those losses came to a Football Bowl Subdivision school – East Carolina. The Tigers are averaging 24.2 points per game, and 204.0 rushing yards per contest.

Junior tailback Darius Victor has 465 yards rushing this season with six touchdowns.

“They’re another big team,” JMU coach Everett Withers said. “A very talented running back in Victor, and he’s a bowling ball type running back. He’s one of those guys that’s going to be hard to bring down.”

Withers said he believes that Towson redshirt senior quarterback Connor Frazier has improved. Frazier has thrown for 775 yards on 64-for-112 passing.

Junior wide receiver Jacquille Veii has caught 19 passes for 273 yards to lead the Tigers. Redshirt senior Brian Dowling has 14 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and junior Andre Dessenberg has 10 catches for 109 yards and one touchdown.

Last year the Dukes beat Towson, 61-7, and Lee said he expects a more competitive game today.

“I think they’re a good team, and they have had success in their program,” Lee said. “I know the game last year we scored a lot of points, but I feel like that’s going to drive them this week throughout practice because they’re going to remember. …So, were not taking this game lightly. You can’t take no CAA game lightly because every opponent is tough.”

JMU is ranked No. 5 in both the FCS Coaches poll and the STATS FCS Top 25 poll. The Dukes are averaging 47.8 points and 640.8 yards per game.

A big key in the running game has been the play of tailbacks Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson. The pair have combined for 1,014 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Withers said that the friendship between Abdullah and Johnson is special, and the running back unit as a whole is a great example for the team.

“Khalid and Cardon both understand that they’re going to get the carries that they get. When one gets tired, the other is ready to go into the game,” Withers said. “So, I just think that the whole entire group has a great relationship. They practice hard. They hang together off the field, and that’s what you try to build. You try to build nine units strong, and that’s what we’re trying to build as a football program.”

Withers said the word of the week for the Dukes is detailed. JMU struggled in the second half last week against Stony Brook. The Dukes had only 127 yards and ran only 26 plays on offense. JMU was outscored in the second half, 13-10, and Withers said part of the reason was not paying attention to all the details.

“Our whole objective from (Sunday) until the end of this week when we kick it off at Towson is going to be being a more detailed football team,” Withers said. “Our best offensive lineman has two holding penalties (against Stony Brook). Why does he have two holding penalties? He doesn’t finish and he doesn’t move his feet, and the details of cleaning up a block aren’t there and he reaches out and grabs.”

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