Reynolds’ interception leads Dukes past Tribe

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University’s defense stepped up big when it had to Saturday.

The Dukes got a key interception by Taylor Reynolds late in the game and held on for a 31-24 Colonial Athletic Association victory over William & Mary at Bridgeforth Stadium.

“There’s not a bigger stop than Taylor Reynolds’ interception,” JMU head coach Mike Houston said. “That is a game-changer right there and that really kind of sealed the deal for us, being able to get the interception there when William & Mary is driving.”

The Dukes were clinging to a 24-17 lead with six minutes left as the Tribe put together a solid drive. William & Mary quarterback Steve Cluley ran for 12 yards on a fourth-and-3 from the JMU 43. He ran for 15 more yards on the next play to move the ball to the JMU 16.

Reynolds then came up with the play of the game as he intercepted a Cluley pass in the back of the end zone intended for wide receiver DeVonte Deadmon.

“I knew they were either going to try to run a feed or a slant to try to isolate me with (Deadmon),” Reynolds said. “He was a good player. So I just played my technique and the ball was there, and I just made the play.”

The Dukes took the lead early in the opening quarter. JMU had a seven-play, 49-yard drive stall at the William & Mary 16-yard line. JMU sophomore kicker Tyler Gray hit a 33-yard field goal to give the Dukes a 3-0 edge just three minutes into the game.

On JMU’s next possession, quarterback Bryan Schor had a pass intercepted by Corey Parker and returned to the JMU 18.

The Dukes defense was able to keep the Tribe out of the end zone. JMU’s Taylor Reynolds made a big stop on third-and-goal from the JMU 4. A William & Mary penalty moved the ball back 15 yards, and Tribe kicker Kris Hooper hit a 33-yard field goal to tie the game, 3-3, with 4:08 left in the first quarter.

“The stop there when we held them to a field goal after the interception I thought was huge,” Houston said. “I thought that showed a lot, and it probably fueled our defensive kids a bit.”

The Dukes (5-1, 3-0 CAA) responded with a quick eight-play, 76-yard drive. JMU’s Khalid Abdullah’s 4-yard touchdown run gave the Dukes a 10-3 lead with 1:23 left in the first quarter.

The Tribe (2-4, 0-3 CAA) tied the game at 10-10 with an 11-play, 75-yard drive. An 8-yard touchdown run Kendell Anderson tied the game with 10:54 left in the opening half.

JMU had a chance to take the lead midway through the second quarter. The Dukes had a 10-play drive stall inside the William & Mary 10-yard line.

Gray missed a 21-yard field goal to keep the score tied at the half.

The Dukes forced a three-and-out to start the second half, and then took the lead for good on the ensuing drive.

JMU used eight plays to go 44 yards with Abdullah scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run for a 17-10 lead with 9:58 left in the third quarter. Abdullah finished with 194 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns.

“Once again our o-line did a great job,” Abdullah said. “They opened up holes for me and Cardon (Johnson) when they allowed us to get there in some space and gain the yards that we got. So hats off to our o-line as well. I love those big guys they always do what they’re supposed to do.”

It was JMU’s defense that came up with the big play on the next drive. The Tribe put together a solid drive into the red zone.

On first-and-10 at the JMU 11, Cluley fumbled the ball and it was recovered by JMU redshirt sophomore Darrious Carter at the JMU 11.

“Overall, I felt like the defense came out and kept fighting,” JMU linebacker Gage Steele said. “We knew this was going to be a long game. I was happy with how the defense kept their head in the game, kept on fighting.”

The Dukes then put together one of its most impressive drives of the season.

JMU used 19 plays to go 89 yards. Johnson scored on a 2-yard touchdown run for a 24-10 with 10:55 left.

“I feel like we created a good momentum change right there,” Johnson said. “Being able to drive the ball that takes time off the clock and things were just going our way throughout that drive and we were able to run the ball, pass the ball. So just doing what we wanted to do and that helped us with controlling the game right there and continuing out the game.”

The Tribe responded with a 32-yard touchdown run by Cluley with 8:11 left.

The Dukes were forced to punt on the ensuing drive, but JMU punter Gunnar Kane had a career-long 66-yard punt to force William & Mary to start from its own 9-yard line.

The win keeps the Dukes undefeated in the CAA, and in good position as the season goes on.

“I wish I could explain how hard these CAA wins are to come by,” Abdullah said. “These teams are tough. We play in one of the toughest conferences in the country. So every time we go out there we just got to be on our ‘A’ game, and we got to rally around each other.”

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