Plenty still at stake for Dukes against Elon

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University’s football team may have already clinched the Colonial Athletic Association title and a playoff berth, but they still have plenty to play for today when they host Elon University.

The Dukes are trying to become only the second team in program history to go undefeated in the CAA. The other time was in 2008.

“This team’s highly motivated that we have unfinished business,” JMU coach Mike Houston said. “They want to go undefeated in the CAA conference this year. So I think that’s the most significant thing that motivates them. The other thing is they know that if we are able to somehow win on Saturday against Elon that it will secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs. It should lock up a top 4 seed and maybe one of the top couple seeds in the country, which will be significant for having everybody have to come to Bridgeforth Stadium in the playoffs.”

JMU could also be playing without starting quarterback Bryan Schor, who suffered an injury in last week’s victory over Villanova. Freshman Cole Johnson replaced Schor during the game last week.

Houston said they feel confident no matter who the quarterback is.

The Football Championship Subdivision committee announced on Tuesday night that JMU was the fourth seed in the current playoff rankings. On Sunday the committee will release the final rankings and the playoff pairings.

The Dukes (9-1, 7-0 CAA) will also be honoring their 15 seniors on senior day against Elon. Houston said it is a special day for the team.

“Everywhere I’ve been the success of your team is dictated by what kind of seniors you have,” Houston said. “And I think the success of our program this year has a lot to do with those few guys that we are going to recognize on Saturday, and really the way they led ever since I got here in January all through to this current moment. The way they bought into our coaching staff. They motivated the rest of the team to stick together through the coaching change. I think this is a special group that we’re honoring.”

Houston said Elon’s defense has been solid throughout the season. The Phoenix are allowing 27.5 points per game. They do have a win over William & Mary and lost a close contest with New Hampshire earlier this season.

The Phoenix (2-8, 1-6 CAA) are led by linebacker John Silas with 73 tackles and defensive back Chris Blair with 72. Defensive linemen Daniel Everett and Dondre Howell each have three sacks for the Phoenix as well.

Houston said his team will need to be ready to play against the Phoenix.

“They’re a very good defensive football team, they have some young players contributing,” Houston said. “(Quarterback) Daniel Thompson is having a very good year. They run the football as well. I expect us to get their very best shot on Saturday, and I expect it to be a highly competitive CAA football game just like every other weekend is.”

The Phoenix are averaging just 12 points per game on offense, but Thompson has thrown for 1,435 yards.

Malcolm Summers leads the running game with 452 yards on 101 carries and two touchdowns.

JMU redshirt senior Mitch Kirsch said that even though the Dukes have already clinched a playoff berth and a CAA title the final regular season home game is very important to the team.

“I think its definitely cool to get a CAA ring, but we know this team is capable of more than just that,” Kirsch said. “I think especially for the seniors, this being our last home game, we’re trying to put up as many points as possible. Play our best possible game and give the fans a show.”

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

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