Despite losses, Withers staying positive with Dukes

Even though James Madison University has lost two games in a row, head football coach Everett Withers is staying very positive about where his young team is at.

The Dukes lost a close 44-41 contest to William & Mary this past weekend, a week after a 59-49 loss to the University of Richmond. Withers said they simply lost to two of the top teams in the Colonial Athletic Association.

“We just had a six week stretch. We’re in week 10, and we’re just now getting to a bye week,” Withers said. “You play SMU, Stony Brook, Towson, Elon, Richmond and William & Mary. That’s a pretty good stretch and we’re 4-2 in that stretch. … (We’re) 4-2 coming out of that stretch. If somebody would have told me that at the beginning of the year, I would have said I’d take that and taken it to Vegas. I’m pretty proud of this football team.”

The Dukes (7-2, 4-2 CAA) led the entire way against the Tribe on Saturday until giving up a game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

Withers said he was just happy with the way the team fought.

“I thought our kids battled,” Withers said. “We’re very proud of our football team, how they fought til the end. We didn’t play particularly well on defense, but we were in the game til the very end.”

Withers said it’s hard to get too upset with the defense considering how young they are on that side of the ball. JMU started one senior, three juniors and seven sophomores on defense against William & Mary.

“I have to be careful about being too impatient,” Withers said of his young defense. “… JMU football is in real good hands for the next few years. We’re going to be fine.”

Strong debut: Withers said JMU’s offense “didn’t skip a beat” in sophomore Bryan Schor’s first start at quarterback.

Schor replaced Vad Lee, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in the loss to Richmond.

Schor went 17 for 27 for 227 yards and had one touchdown pass. He also ran for 64 yards and one touchdown.

“It’s kind of neat to watch a guy that had to sit behind a really talented player,” Withers said of Schor. “We talk about taking mental, not just physical reps, but mental reps. He’s been the consummate professional in his job. He’s taken all the mental reps you can take, studied the game, done an unbelievable job. I think it showed on Saturday.”

Withers said he was a little concerned with how the young team would handle losing Lee to injury.

“It’s been remarkable how our team has handled the fact that we don’t have arguably the best player in FCS football,” Withers said. “… They’ve rallied behind Bryan Schor, and he was unbelievable Saturday.”

Making strides: Another player who has been playing well lately for the Dukes is wide receiver Ishmael Hyman.

The transfer from Kansas University had three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown against William & Mary.

For the season, Hyman has 21 receptions for 366 yards and four scores.

“The last two weeks Ishmael Hyman has probably been our best football player,” Withers said. “He runs out on kickoff. He blocks on the perimeter. … Some of that off schedule stuff, not just catching the ball as a receiver, but all that other stuff that you want your players to do – he’s been really, really talented at that.

“I’m really proud of the way he’s grown up and helped our football team.”

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

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