Dukes rally past Black Bears

Bryan Schor

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University’s Division 1 nation-leading win streak was in jeopardy Saturday.

The Football Championship Subdivision No. 1 ranked Dukes trailed for the first time all season early in the second half. The Dukes’ offense came to life and rallied for a 28-10 victory over the University of Maine in a Colonial Athletic Association football contest. It was JMU’s 16th straight victory.

“I thought everybody did a good job of not panicking, sticking together, sticking to the game plan, overcoming some adversity,” JMU head coach Mike Houston said. “And just finding a way there in the second half. And I do think that our physicality and our offensive line there in the second half wearing down their front allowed a couple of runs there to pop there in the second half.”

Trailing 7-3 at the half, Maine put together a solid drive to start the third quarter. The Black Bears converted a third-and-8 from the Maine 29-yard line on an 11-yard pass from Chris Ferguson to Jaquan Blair.

Two plays later, Maine running back Josh Mack ran for a 60-yard touchdown to put the Black Bears up 10-7 with 13:12 left in the third quarter.

It was the first time JMU, the reigning FCS national champions, had trailed all season.

“We expected it to be a really tough game,” JMU redshirt senior Jordan Brown said. “We knew how good Maine was and how physical they were. We just kept telling each other we got this. Just stay together, keep grinding and we’ll come out on top.”

The Dukes (4-0, 1-0 CAA) took the lead back for good later in the third quarter. JMU put together a three-play, 40-yard drive.

JMU quarterback Bryan Schor completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to David Eldridge for a 14-10 lead with 9:12 left in the third quarter.

“I think as the game went on we got more and more comfortable,” Schor said. “And we kind of had to grind it out and wait for something to pop. We continued to get the looks we wanted. And we just started executing on our plays. And things started to string together a little bit.”

Once the Dukes had the lead, JMU’s defense took care of the rest. The Dukes held Maine to just 104 yards for the rest of the game.

The Dukes pulled away for good in the fourth quarter.

After an interception by JMU’s Rashad Robinson, the Dukes drove 48 yards on just five plays. A touchdown pass from Schor to Taylor Woods from 9 yards out extended the lead to 21-10 with 12:07 left.

Houston said the interception by Robinson was a big play in the game.

“I felt like we got the crowd back into it,” Houston said. “We got the sidelines pretty amped. And when you get that going things start to steamroll with you.”

On the next JMU possession, the Dukes went 81 yards on nine plays. The Dukes capped the drive off with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Schor to true freshman Ezrah Archie with 6:24 remaining.

Archie finished the game with eight receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. Archie started for the first time in his career in place of John Miller, who was out due to injury.

“He’s playing really well,” Schor said of Archie. “For a true freshman to come in here in a big stage and make the tough catches that he had, I think he had eight catches (Saturday), that’s pretty impressive. For him to step up in John Miller’s shoes when John Miller couldn’t play as much, and be competitive, really helped us out (Saturday).”

The defense for both teams shined in the first half.

The Dukes were held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time since Dec. 5, 2015, a second-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game against Colgate.

JMU finally put together a solid drive in the second quarter. The Dukes went 89 yards on 11 plays.

Schor connected with tight end Jonathan Kloosterman for an 11-yard touchdown and a 7-0 edge with 8:28 left in the first half.

The Black Bears (1-2, 0-2 CAA) scored in the final minute of the first half. They put together a 10-play, 33-yard drive.

JMU held Maine to a 40-yard field goal by Brandon Briggs to cut the lead to 7-3 at the half.

Schor finished 21-for-31 passing for 281 yards. Junior Marcus Marshall led the running game with 135 yards on 19 carries.

The Dukes finished with 472 total yards, while holding Maine to just 299. Junior cornerback Curtis Oliver led the defense with 12 tackles.

Houston said the game unfolded mostly like he thought it would and he was happy with how his team responded.

“(Maine is) a tough bunch to handle, but I’m very pleased with the way our team played,” Houston said. “And we felt like it would be one of those that you really had to gut it out and really fight and claw. And just find a way to kind of break it open. And that’s what the kids did.”