Bye week may help Dukes against Blue Hens

HARRISONBURG – Having last week off could be a real benefit for James Madison University’s football team as it travels to take on the University of Delaware at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

It was late in the season to have a bye week, but the Dukes made the most of it.

“We were able to give some guys some rest, that needed some rest, during the week,” JMU head coach Everett Withers said. “That was a good thing.”

Withers said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the Blue Hens, who have been up and down all season.

However, he said that he knows what Delaware would like to do.

“They want to stop the run on defense,” Withers said. “They got talented skill guys on offense. They want to be able to run the ball on offense.”

Running backs Thomas Jefferson (715 yards and six touchdowns) and Kareem Williams (581 yards and two touchdowns) have led the way for the Blue Hens’ offense this season.

Delaware has also used two different quarterbacks. Joe Walker has thrown for 506 yards (58-for-130) and one touchdown in eight starts. Blake Rankin has thrown for 111 yards (11-for-19) in two starts.

“I think they’re both talented,” Withers said. “I know they both played last ballgame. I think they were searching, trying to find somebody to give them a spark. Joe Walker’s a talented player. Rankin is a talented player.”

The Blue Hens are averaging 14.3 points per game, and allowing 21.2 per contest.

Delaware (3-6, 2-4 CAA) has had two impressive wins over William & Mary (24-23) and New Hampshire (31-14), but has also lost to some of the lower-ranked teams in the conference.

Defensively, Charles Bell leads the way for the Blue Hens with 79 tackles this season.

Despite back-to-back losses, JMU’s offense is still one of the very best in Football Championship Subdivision.

The Dukes (7-2, 4-2 CAA) lead the country in scoring (47.9) and total offense (592.9 yards per game). JMU is also third in FCS in rushing offense (309.0 per game).

JMU sophomore quarterback Bryan Schor had a solid game against William & Mary on Oct. 31. That was his first start since replacing Vad Lee, who is out for the season with an ankle injury.

“I thought he had a really good week of practice,” Withers said of Schor. “I did feel him getting a lot more comfortable being the guy in the offense, which is what you want. You want the guy to feel comfortable. I think our players have been comfortable with him, but I think they gain even more of a comfort level with him each time he takes a snap.”

Withers said even though Delaware’s record may not look impressive, he knows the Blue Hens will be a tough opponent.

“They’ve got their backs up against the wall just like we do in a lot of ways,” Withers said. “But we know that we’re going to get a strong challenge – a physical football game from Delaware.”

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