Dukes face tough challenge from Colgate in playoffs

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University’s football team has a tough challenge ahead of it when it takes on Colgate University today.

The two teams meet for the first-time ever at Bridgeforth Stadium in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at 1 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN3.

JMU coach Everett Withers said Colgate’s offense reminds him a little of JMU’s offense.

“They’re balanced in their offensive plays. They want to be balanced run/pass,” Withers said. “They’ve got very talented running backs, three of them. … You don’t have a particular guy you give the ball to. You give it to whoever’s hot and whoever’s rested.”

The Raiders have rushed for 2,361 yards, 196.8 yards per contest. The running back trio of Demetrius Russell (544 yards on 124 carries), James Holland (532 yards on 120 carries) and John Wilkins (448 yards on 118 carries) have been a big part of the running game.

However, the top rusher for the Raiders has been quarterback Jake Melville. The junior has rushed for 837 yards on 159 carries. He has also thrown for 2,290 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception.

Withers said stopping Melville will be a big key for JMU’s defense.

“I think he’s obviously a very good threat with the ball in his hands running it and a very efficient passer,” Withers said. “This offense will be a challenge for us.”

Colgate’s top receiver this season has been John Maddaluna – 53 catches for 845 yards. John Quazza has 38 receptions for 465 yards, and Alex Greenawalt with 37 catches for 544 yards.

The Dukes (9-2) are allowing 184.4 yards per game on the ground, and 213.7 yards per game through the air.

JMU’s offense, which has struggled the last two games, will also be tested by the Raiders.

Colgate (8-4) is allowing only 139.6 passing yards per game, although it is giving up 245.8 passing yards per contest.

Withers said it is very important to be able to run the ball.

“You have to be able to establish the run to allow you to do some other things in your offense, and that’s what we want to do,” Withers said.

Sophomore quarterback Bryan Schor has thrown for 706 yards, most of which has come after taking over for Vad Lee, who is out with a season-ending injury. Schor has thrown five touchdown passes with only one interception.

The Dukes get one of their top wide receivers back for the Colgate game. Rashard Davis returned to practice this week after missing a game due to adult chicken pox. Davis is second on the team with 36 catches for 547 yards and four scores.

“He practiced (Sunday) night and was at full speed and excited to be back,” Withers said. “So getting him back is big for obviously our offense and his productivity in our offense.”

The Dukes are averaging 44.8 points and 549.7 yards per game this season.

Colgate has won six games in a row after a 2-4 start to its season.

“I think they were a good football team even when they lost the first few games of the year,” Withers said. “They just basically found a rhythm, I believe, in what they wanted to be. They’re a run-first team. They throw the ball well, but they’re a run-first team. They’ve played really good defense over the last six games also.”

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