Withers happy with JMU’s effort in victory over Delaware

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University head football coach Everett Withers wasn’t happy with how his team played against Delaware in Saturday’s 24-21 victory, but he was happy with how his team competed.

“I thought our kids gave great effort,” Withers said in his weekly press conference. “I thought they came into the ballgame with the mindset that we were going to have to play really, really hard against a team that was going to play hard at home for their seniors. I felt like our kids did that.”

The Dukes were able to get a key stop late in the game to force a punt, and then sophomore quarterback Bryan Schor drove the team down the field for the game-winning touchdown — a 12-yard pass to Brandon Ravenel — with 17 seconds left in the game.

Withers said the team did just enough to win and move its record to 8-2.

“We didn’t play very well,” Withers said. “It was probably our worst game of the year on offense. Defensively, we played hard and played just good enough to get a stop there in the fourth quarter and win the game.”

JMU had 388 yards of offense, 195 on the ground and 193 through the air against the Blue Hens. The Dukes are still ranked No. 1 in Football Championship Subdivision in scoring offense (45.5) and total offense (572.4 yards per game).

The Dukes have struggled against Delaware over the years, especially on the road. Withers said, regardless of how they played, it was still a big win for the team.

“I don’t think people realize that in the last 13 times JMU’s played Delaware we’ve only won five,” Withers said. “That’s only the second time we’ve won there since 2009. So it’s always been a tough place for JMU to play. And for it to only be the second time since 2009 to win in Delaware — that’s a pretty big win for our program.”

Bright spot

One of the few bright spots Withers saw from his team on Saturday was the play of the defensive line.

“Our defensive line played really well. They played really well,” Withers said. “They did a nice job against a team that does a lot of gap scheme blocking, where you drop back and you pull a lot of people, and they did some things a little bit different. But our kids up front did a really good job this week. … We’ve got some other positions we’ve got to continue to grow and get better at, but our D-line’s not one of them right now. They’re playing pretty good.”

The Dukes will most likely be without one of their top defensive lineman this week against Villanova. Redshirt sophomore Evans Osuji suffered a knee injury in the victory over Delaware and Withers said he didn’t think he would play this weekend. Osuji had six tackles in the win over Delaware.

“Evans will be missed,” Withers said. “He’s been playing pretty well on the D-line.”

Running strong

JMU running back Cardon Johnson played a key role in the victory Saturday.

The redshirt sophomore had 98 yards rushing on 14 carries and one touchdown.

“Cardon did a nice job,” Withers said. “We knew that they were going to try to take away the inside run game. We felt like we still had to establish some of that — we did early. They added an extra guy in the box. I think the weather had a lot to do with it, because of the wind we didn’t want throw the ball down the field very much in that weather. Cardon got some really, really hard yards for us.”

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