Dukes excited to face Colgate

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University head football coach Everett Withers wants his team to look at the season as two different seasons.

The Dukes had their regular season bye in the 10th week, and Withers said he considers the games after that the second season.

“We’re 2-0, we started after the bye week we had before Delaware,” Withers said on Monday of his team’s second season. “We had a bye week in season 2 last week, that’s kind of how we look at it. We’re 2-0 with an opportunity to go 3-0.”

The fifth-seeded Dukes (9-2) were off last weekend with a first-round bye in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. They host Colgate, a 27-20 winner over New Hampshire last weekend, in the second round of the playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium.

Withers said he treated last week’s bye week much like the one the Dukes had in the regular season.

“Just like most bye weeks you go work on your fundamentals with your young kids,” Withers said. “You try to rest some guys that are beat up and banged up, and we got a number of those guys. And then you try to give your team an opportunity to get home and see family.”

Playoff key: Withers said one of the biggest things for JMU will be to get the running game going against Colgate.

The Dukes have rushed for 3,128 yards this season, 284.4 yards per game.

“We have to find a way to establish the run,” Withers said. “Then obviously we want to be able to do the things we do off of that – play-action pass, throw our relief game and then take our shots down the field.”

JMU has used both Cardon Johnson and Khalid Abdullah effectively in the run game this season. Johnson has rushed for 989 yards on 148 carries, while Abdullah has 902 yards on 180 carries.

Tough task: Running the ball will not be easy for the Dukes against Colgate this weekend.

Withers said the Raiders (8-4) have a very strong defensive line with three linemen with a combined 24 sacks.

“They’ve got good players up front,” Withers said. “They’re a three down (lineman) team and they’re going to mix up who the fourth rusher is. I expect them to pressure us a little bit like Villanova did. They’re very, very good upfront.”

Colgate defensive linemen Pat Afriyie and Brett Field lead the team with a combined 17.5 sacks.

The Raiders have won six straight games and won the Patriot League conference. Withers said during their win streak he believes their defense has gotten better.

“They’re a very talented football team, just like any team that you face at this point and time of the year,” Withers said. “They’re going to be very good. … We had a good practice last night and excited about the opportunity to keep preparing for a very good Colgate team.”

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