Spiders hand Dukes first loss of season

HARRISONBURG — On a weekend where the national spotlight was on James Madison University, a damper was put on the celebration Saturday afternoon at Bridgeforth Stadium.

The No. 3 Dukes fell 59-49 to No. 12 ranked University of Richmond in Colonial Athletic Association action. To make matters worse for the Dukes, quarterback Vad Lee suffered a foot injury early in the fourth quarter and did not return. The loss snapped JMU’s 14-game regular season winning streak.

“We didn’t play very well today,” JMU head coach Everett Withers said.

JMU hosted ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday morning, but Withers said he didn’t believe that had an effect on how his team played.

Withers said that he wasn’t sure how serious Lee’s injury was.

It wasn’t JMU’s offense that proved costly, it was the defense. Richmond shredded JMU’s defense for 720 yards, including 415 yards through the air.

“Bottom line that team was better on offense than we were on defense today,” Withers said. “They beat our (butts) today.”

Richmond head coach Danny Rocco said he was very proud of the way his team played.

“I’m really really happy with the outcome of this game,” Rocco said. “…Offensively, an amazing performance. The offensive line was superb — just physical. They protected our quarterback He had confidence back there. We were able to let the routes unfold.”

The game was tied at 28-28 at the half. The Dukes took their last lead of the contest on a 10-play 58-yard drive to start the second half. Lee scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to put JMU up 35-28.

The Spiders (6-1, 4-0 CAA) responded by scoring 21 consecutive points. Richmond running back Jacobi Green had back-to-back touchdown runs to give the Spiders a 42-35 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Richmond was without its other top running back Seth Fisher. Green stepped up with 27 carries for 236 yards.

“He was my biggest motivator this week,” Green said of Fisher. “He motivated me this week, before the game, during the game. Me and him are like brothers.”

Richmond extended the lead to 49-35 on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Lauletta to Garrett Hudson with 14:32 left in the game.

The Dukes (7-1, 4-1 CAA) battled back despite losing Lee. The JMU quarterback suffered his foot injury after completing a pass on the ensuing drive. JMU sophomore Bryan Schor replaced Lee and finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 49-42 with 11:18 left.

The Spiders stretched the lead to 10 on a 48-yard field goal by Peter Yoder with 6:38 remaining in the game.

JMU answered with a nine-play 89-yard drive. Schor connected with Rashard Davis for a 7-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 52-49 with 4:02 remaining.

However, the Dukes could not stop the Richmond offense. Green’s 62-yard run moved the ball to the JMU 7-yard line. Three plays later, he scored on a 1-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Lauletta completed 19 of 31 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns. Richmond wide receiver Brian Brown had seven receptions for 204 yards.

Lee ran for 124 yards on 14 carries, and threw for 294 yards on 19 for 32 passing. JMU wide receiver Ishmael Hyman had six receptions for 101 yards.

The game was tied at 28-28 at the half, and Withers said he felt good about things going into the second half.

“We have always been able to come back at halftime and kind of adjust and play well,” Withers said. “We just didn’t do that tonight.”

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