Dukes look to build off season opener

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University’s football team will have quite a challenge today trying to top how they played in their season opener.

The Dukes host Central Connecticut State at 4 p.m. today at Bridgeforth Stadium. Last week the Dukes dominated Morehead State from start to finish in an 80-7 win.

JMU head coach Mike Houston said his team is motivated to continue playing at a high level.

“They’re motivated by their play on (last) Saturday,” Houston said. “The defensive kids are motivated by the way the offense played (last) Saturday. The offensive kids are motivated by the way the defense played (last) Saturday. Everybody’s motivated by the way our special teams performed. I think they understand that we have a chance to be a pretty decent ball team.”

The Dukes’ offense should be tested more by Central Connecticut State this weekend than they were by Morehead State. JMU ran for 498 yards and had 607 yards total in the victory over Morehead State.

Central Connecticut State lost 24-10 to Lafayette in its season opener. The Blue Devils allowed only 22 rushing yards, but did give up 316 passing yards. JMU’s offensive line had a solid game last week, and Houston said they will need to play very well again this weekend.

“They’re big up front,” Houston said of Central Connecticut State’s defensive line. “They’re going to move a lot. From a 3-4 (formation) they’re going to bring people all over the place. It’s going to be a deal where our offensive line’s going to have to execute at a high level. They’re going to have to be able to handle those moving pieces. They’re going to have to handle people rushing from different levels. So I do think we’re going to be challenged right there.”

The Blue Devils threw for 269 yards last week, but ran for only 85. Central Connecticut State 6-foot-6 quarterback Jacob Dolegala was 26 for 39 and had one touchdown pass in the loss.

“(Dolegala) throws the ball really well, runs decently,” Houston said. “We’re going to see better competition this week than what we saw last week. We’re going to see a lot more athletes. We’re going to see a lot more size.”

The Blue Devils are coached by Pete Rossomando, who is in his third year at the school. The Blue Devils were picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference this year.

Houston said he could not have been happier with how his team played in the season opener. He said that the best part about his team’s play was the effort that they gave.

“If we can consistently go out as a team and play at that intensity level and play as hard as we did (last) Saturday, every Saturday this fall, we’re going to be pretty hard to handle,” Houston said. “That was hands down the most impressive thing about the performance last Saturday.”

JMU junior quarterback Bryan Schor earned the starting position over redshirt junior Connor Mitch and made the most of it. Schor threw for 109 yards on 8 for 11 passing, and also led the team with 129 rushing yards on 10 carries.

“I was just really happy for Bryan to go out and play the way he did in the opener,” Houston said. “He’s worked very hard and he’s certainly been tested in preseason camp with Connor (Mitch) joining us. So for him to go out to be the starter and play the way he did I was very happy for him.”

Houston said that Schor’s ability to run with the ball makes JMU’s offense that much more dangerous and harder to defend.

Houston, in his first year at JMU, said he was very impressed with the atmosphere at Bridgeforth Stadium in his first game at the helm.

“It was pretty special,” Houston said. “That’s a pretty special opening atmosphere right there. Coming onto the field I thought we had great fan support with a full stadium for the kickoff. It was really rocking there for the first half. It was everything that I thought it would be – I think it lived up to it.”

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