Balanced offense sparks Dukes to victory
HARRISONBURG — Last week James Madison University’s football team mostly ran the ball, but on Saturday the Dukes showed they could be effective in the running and passing game.
The Dukes got off to a fast start and pulled away with a 56-21 win over Central Connecticut State at Bridgeforth Stadium.
JMU ran 312 yards and threw for 205 yards. Last week, the Dukes mostly ran the ball, and JMU quarterback Bryan Schor said it was nice to be able to throw the ball more against Central Connecticut State.
“They put a lot more guys in the box it seemed like,” Schor said. “It seemed like they really wanted to focus on taking away our run game. It was exciting to be able to pass the ball this week. We had a lot of protection, a lot of really good protection up front. A lot of time to throw the ball. So it was something we were really excited to do this week.”
The Dukes scored on their first possession. JMU needed only six plays to go 75 yards. Schor connected with Domo Taylor on a 21-yard touchdown pass to put the Dukes up 7-0 with 12:34 left in the first quarter.
JMU used a combination of runs and passes on the drive, including a 22-yard run by Khalid Abdullah on the second play.
The Dukes scored again on their next drive. They used six straight runs to set-up two big pass plays to finish off the drive. Schor connected with John Miller for 8 yards, and then threw a touchdown pass to Abdullah from 11 yards out for a 14-0 edge with 6:57 left in the opening quarter.
“I thought we were very sharp in the passing game in the first half,” JMU coach Mike Houston said. “I thought Bryan did a really good job with the scramble drill when he got in trouble and got flushed out, and I thought the receivers did a good job because that’s a drill we’ve worked every day — once he breaks out on the run how to operate once that happens.”
JMU capped the first quarter off with a nine-play 54-yard drive. JMU redshirt junior Cardon Johnson finished the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead with 1:25 left in the first quarter.
The Blue Devils responded with an eight-play 84-yard drive. Central Connecticut State’s Jacob Dolegala threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end K.J. Smith to cut the lead to 21-7 with 12:41 left in the first half. The key play of the drive was a 47-yard pass from Dolegala to Smith to start the drive.
The Dukes came right back with back-to-back touchdown drives. Facing a fourth-and-7 from the Central Connecticut 31, Schor completed a 12-yard pass to JMU junior tight end and Strasburg graduate Jonathan Kloosterman.
Three plays later, Schor threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Ravenel with 6:29 left in the first half.
On the Dukes’ next drive JMU was faced with a 2nd-and-16 from the Central Connecticut 33. The Schor-to-Kloosterman combination worked again, this time for 23 yards and a first down. On the next play Abdullah scored on a 10-yard run to extend the lead to 35-7 at the half.
Kloosterman finished with three receptions for 49 yards, all three of which resulted in a first down.
“I love throwing the ball to him,” Schor said of Kloosterman. “One thing he does really well is he gives me a lot of room to make mistakes. He’s a big body guy. So when he goes down the middle I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to throw him the perfect ball. If I’m a little late I can still throw it to him, and he can go get that ball for me.”
After a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by JMU’s Rashard Davis, the Blue Devils scored 14 straight points to cut the lead to 42-21 with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
Central Connecticut State’s Najae Brown intercepted a Schor pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown on the second of those scores.
The Dukes answered with an eight-play 75-yard drive, all of which were running plays. Johnson capped things off with a 2-yard run for a 49-21 lead with 13:58 left in the contest.
JMU finished with 517 yards of total offense. Schor was 17 for 21 for 205 passing yards and three touchdowns. Johnson finished with 121 yards rushing on 16 carries, and Abdullah had 113 yards on 19 carries.
“We just wanted to go out there and show physicality,” Abdullah said. “I guess that was the game plan, and I think that we did that today.”
JMU linebacker Gage Steele did not play due to an injury, but Houston said he expects Steele to be back for next weekend’s game against the University of North Carolina.
JMU junior Brandon Hereford replaced Steele and led the team with 12 tackles.
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org