Added depth on defensive line helping Dukes’ defense

Darrious Carter

HARRISONBURG — JMU’s defense has picked up where it left off at the end of last season.

In the first two games the Dukes are allowing just 12 points and 268.5 yards per game.

JMU coach Mike Houston said one key for the defense has been having a better understanding of where they’re supposed to be on defense.

“As aggressive as were being with our play calling, with us fitting where we’re supposed to be somebody had to come free,” Houston said after JMU’s 52-10 victory over East Tennessee State University on Saturday. “We have pretty good speed on defense. We were able to match those receivers in man a lot of the night. And we were able to out-number them at the point of attack. So the combination of all those things means that somebody’s going to get loose.”

JMU held East Tennessee State to just 57 yards rushing and 175 total yards.

Mike Houston

The Dukes had eight tackles for loss, including two sacks. Six different players had a tackle for loss, five of those players were defensive lineman.

The defensive line has played a big role in JMU’s success early in the season. The Dukes have more depth this season on the defense than last year, and redshirt junior Darrious Carter said that has made a big difference this season.

“Usually on long drives after six, seven plays you feel a little fatigued, but today I felt like as a defensive line we felt really good up front and really fresh,” Carter said. “Most of us went the entire game as a result of that. We were all playing really hard and continued to play really hard throughout the game.”

Carter had 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack on Saturday. Ron’Dell Carter, a redshirt sophomore defensive lineman who transferred from Rutgers, has been one of the big added pieces to the defense. He finished with two tackles for loss in Saturday’s win.

Darrious Carter said that having so much talent on the defensive line has been a very good thing.

“I think we’re just pushing each other more as a defensive line to make plays rather than just have our head in our gap and do what we’re supposed to do,” Darrious Carter said. “So now it’s just more competitive to see who can make the most plays.”

As a defense JMU held East Tennessee State to just 5-for-15 on third-down conversions. Conversely, JMU was 10-for-15 on third downs on offense.

Houston said the team works a lot on third downs in practice. The first team offense goes up against the first team defense every Wednesday for a third-down period during practice.

“I hold my breath every time I trot ’em out there,” Houston said. “Because you’re putting a pretty active, aggressive defense out there against an offense that’s going to go right at ’em. And the competitive nature in those kids is they ain’t going to back down from each other. But the thing is that’s the only way they’re going to see the speed they’re going to see on game day, and have the ability to execute on those third-down situations. So it’s a great period for us every week.”