JMU seniors proud of accomplishments

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University has only 10 seniors on this year’s squad, but most of them have had a very eventful four or five years.

With the exception of transfers Vad Lee and Xavier Gates, all of them have been through two different head coaches and many other changes. Going through that made the seniors even more appreciative of being able to close out their last home regular season game with a victory on Saturday over Villanova.

“We’ve all been through a lot of changes in coaching at positions, a difference in coaching (style),” JMU senior defensive lineman Alex Mosley said. “It means a lot to us to win our last regular season home game. It means a lot. It speaks volumes. We’re just very thankful for our team.”

Most of the senior class was recruited by former JMU head coach Mickey Matthews, who was fired at the end of the 2013 season.

He was replaced by Everett Withers and the players said it wasn’t easy getting used to a new coach.

“Coach Withers will tell you he came in here and — boom — changed everything around,” JMU senior offensive lineman Dominick Richards said. “Everybody that’s here bought in, and everybody believed what he preached and what he pretty much told us right from the get go.”

In just two seasons the Dukes’ program has risen under Withers. JMU has made the playoffs in back-to-back years and is 18-6 overall. The group of seniors have won a combined 31 games in the last four years.

The Dukes are the No. 5 seed in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs with a bye this week. They will host the winner of this weekend’s first round game between Colgate and New Hampshire on Dec. 5 at 1 p.m.

JMU also earned a share of the Colonial Athletic Association conference title for the first time since 2008.

Richards said that sticking it out through all the changes has been worth it.

“It’s cool to see it pay off,” Richards said. “Co-champs out-right champs doesn’t matter — we did it. We’re really, really proud of that.”

The Dukes won their first seven games this season before stumbling with two straight losses, and suffered a season-ending injury to Lee. The team has bounced back with back-to-back wins heading into the playoffs.

JMU bounced back through adversity, and senior offensive lineman Austin Lane said that’s a trait the senior class and the whole team has.

“We’ve been through so much stuff,” Lane said of the seniors. “Holes close up, people have to step up. We’re just trained to be such a tough team, and resilient — that’s the way we are. And that’s what’s showing right now.

“And now we’re conference champions.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or