JMU football notebook: Houston pleased with Dukes on bye week

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University head football coach Mike Houston said the Dukes had a great week of practice during their bye week last week.

Houston said they used the week to work on some fundamentals, and trying to get better for this week and the remainder of the season.

“Offensively, we kind of reinforced some things that we really hit during preseason camp,” Houston said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We really worked on getting our pad level back down on the offensive line. Really worked on re-energizing coming off the ball there with that group. I thought we cleaned up some things with the routes with receiver, and worked on some mechanical stuff with our quarterbacks, just a few small things so we don’t develop bad habits.”

Houston said that defensively the biggest thing they worked on was communication in the secondary and doing a better job with coverages and playing together.

Houston said the biggest emphasis last week was with the special teams. The Dukes have had some trouble on special teams this season, including giving up an onside kick in a win over New Hampshire.

“We spent a lot of time working all of our core four plus our onside kick and hands team,” Houston said. “Just re-evaluating the way we’re doing things, going back to ground base, step one with our teaching and fundamentals, with our blocking and stuff there. I think we see lots of room for improvement on our special teams. I’m happy with the way some of them are playing. I think there’s some others that should be performing at a higher level. Hopefully we’ll see some fruits of that labor this Saturday.”

Run stoppers: One thing JMU has done well all season has been stopping the run.

The Dukes are allowing just 139.1 rushing yards per contest.

“We always focus on establish stopping the run,” JMU redshirt senior linebacker Gage Steele said in an interview last week. “We want to make the other team one-dimensional. I think the key to our success on defense has been the coaches come up with a great game plan and the players are buying into it.”

JMU has given up points and yards late in the game in its last three games, but the Dukes were already ahead by a wide margin and held on each time for the victory.

The Dukes switched to a 4-2-5 defense this season, and it has worked out well.

High offensive expectations: JMU’s offense has put up impressive numbers this season. The Dukes are averaging 44.4 points and 514.9 yards per game.

The Dukes showed that they can pass as well as run with a big game through the air against New Hampshire two weeks ago.

JMU quarterback Bryan Schor said that the offense takes a lot of pride in scoring touchdowns on as many drives as possible.

“I’m pretty picky when it comes to scoring touchdowns,” Schor said in an interview last week. “It kind of aggravates me a little but when we have to kick a field goal. It’s kind of depressing for me and I think the offense feels the same way. I think that’s a good feeling to have.”

JMU is averaging 316 yards per game on the ground and 198.9 yards through the air.

“The way we attack it is that every drive that we got out there we want to score touchdowns. It’s something we say to each other is the team that’s going to stop us is ourselves,” Schor said. “Every time we get the ball we’re going to try to score a touchdown. If we don’t then we’re not going to be too happy about that drive.”

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