Dukes not taking Norfolk State lightly
HARRISONBURG — Even though Norfolk State University enters this week 0-2, James Madison University football head coach Mike Houston said he expects a challenge from the Spartans when the two teams meet today at Bridgeforth Stadium.
Houston said that Norfolk State showed improvement from their opening loss to Virginia State University (14-10) to last week’s loss to William & Mary College (20-6).
“We do anticipate them giving us some problems this week,” Houston said. “We’re going to have to have a great week of practice. It’s a week where we hope again that we see improvement from last week to this week. And hope that we see a better JMU football team this week than we saw last week.”
Norfolk State is coached by Latrell Scott, who was the head coach at the University of Richmond in 2010. He was also an assistant coach at JMU in 2012 and at the University of Virginia in 2009.
The Dukes are coming off a 52-10 victory over East Tennessee State University, in which they held the Buccaneers to only 57 yards rushing and 175 total yards.
Houston said he was very pleased with the play of his defense, especially with the pressure they put on East Tennessee State quarterback Austin Herink.
“We had constant pressure on the quarterback all night long,” Houston said. “We took away the run game. I’m very pleased with the way that group is playing right now.”
The Dukes are allowing just 12 points per game.
JMU will face a Norfolk State offense that has struggled in its first two games. The Spartans are averaging eight points and 243.5 yards per game.
Norfolk State has used two quarterbacks. Juwan Carter has thrown for 227 yards on 18-for-38 passing, while Tripp Harrington has thrown for 61 yards on 9-for-18 passing.
Houston said he was impressed with Norfolk State’s receivers. Marcus Taylor has eight receptions for 83 yards to lead the way. Isaiah Winstead has five catches for 66 yards and George Wahee has four catches for 45 yards.
“(Taylor) and (Wahee) both have outstanding speed at the wide receiver position,” Houston said. “And (Winstead) the big tall freshman had a big game last week. I think both quarterbacks run very, very well. On the offensive line, they’re big, they’re athletic. And they have big, strong running backs.”
Aaron Savage has led the way on the ground for the Spartans with 98 yards on 10 carries.
Houston said Norfolk State’s defense will be just as challenging. The Spartans are allowing 17 points and 325 yards of offense per game.
The Spartans are led by defensive lineman Chris Lee, who was an All-Mid Eastern Athletic Conference selection last year. Lee has 12 tackles this season.
“Their defensive line has tremendous size,” Houston said. “(Lee) is a big, strong, physical presence in the middle and they have another tackle in the interior that’s just like him. They have two athletic ends. Both their linebackers are about 230 pounds. So you’re talking about a big front and both safeties are very aggressive. They’re very solid in the run game. So all in all I think that you have a defense that is big up front, as well as the back end, is very aggressive, solid schemes. So I think we’re going to have to play really, really well in order to move the football on Saturday.”
Moving the football hasn’t been much of a problem for the Dukes the last couple years.
JMU, which is ranked No. 1 in both Football Championship Subdivision polls and has a 14-game winning streak, is averaging 43 points and 520 yards per game.
Last week when East Tennessee State focused on stopping the running game, the Dukes showed how strong they can be through the air. JMU senior quarterback Bryan Schor threw for 304 yards.
This week Schor and the Dukes’ offense gets another valuable piece back as tight end Jonathan Kloosterman returns to the lineup.
Kloosterman was suspended for the first two games of the season for a violation of team rules on Aug. 17.
“Certainly it’s good to have him back,” Houston said of Kloosterman. “Jonathan is an outstanding player and he’s an outstanding young man. Everybody makes mistakes in life. He made a mistake, he was held accountable. He’s learned from that. He has had to go through a lot of things along the process, earned his way back on the field representing James Madison University this week.”