Experience big factor for JMU against Maine
HARRISONBURG — Facing adversity for the first time all season, James Madison University relied on its experience to pull them through in Saturday’s 28-10 victory over the University of Maine.
The Dukes trailed 10-7 early in the second half, but instead of getting flustered the players just kept doing what they were doing and knew things would eventually turn their way.
“One thing about this team is we try to stay level headed and composed,” JMU senior quarterback Bryan Schor said. “Obviously when they go up you would expect the offense to be like we really need to score. But we’re not that type of team. We looked around and said ‘all right, let’s get going here. Let’s do this.'”
JMU, the No. 1 ranked Football Championship Subdivision team and the reigning FCS national champions, faced plenty of obstacles last year and that experience helped once again against Maine.
Schor said that the experience the Dukes have also comes with confidence in each other to make a play when needed.
“You feel confident in those moments that your player is going to go out there and make plays,” Schor said.
When the Dukes got the ball back, trailing 10-7, the offense sputtered again and had to punt to Maine.
JMU head coach Mike Houston said he was really proud of the way the team stepped up after that.
“It gets a little dicey all there,” Houston said. “All of a sudden they got the lead. They got the momentum and they got the ball. But I thought our kids did a good job bowing our backs right there, getting a stop. And our offense did a good job of taking advantage of some really solid field position we got after that stop and converting and getting the lead back.”
The Dukes trailed for only four minutes of playing time.
Houston said he had warned his team before the game that they would face adversity and they needed to handle it well.
“We said there would come a time in that ball game where they got the momentum,” Houston said. “And that’s when we just really had to stick together the most. And just stick to doing what we do and just fight and claw. Because you got to get the momentum changed, because if you don’t things can get pretty bad with you.”
JMU redshirt senior safety Jordan Brown said the defense knew they just needed to keep stopping Maine and eventually the offense would take off.
“We saw that the offense was putting up yards and putting up plays,” Brown said. “We just needed to execute. And give them the ball as soon as possible. So they could put more points on the board.”
JMU won its first three games by an average margin of over 40 points.
Schor said that he believes the close game against Maine was exactly what the Dukes needed.
“I think it’s a really good thing for us,” Schor said. “And I think having a tough game like this and having to grind it out is really good for us. We didn’t start fast. So we had to find a way to just keep our heads down and keep plugging away until something opened up for us.”
It was the first Colonial Athletic Association game of the season for the Dukes. Houston said he expects more games just like it the rest of the way.
“Our kids understand what the CAA is like,” Houston said. “And no disrespect to anybody we’ve played previously but that’s the best football team we’ve faced this year. And they know that each week these games are going to be like that. There’s no easy game on our schedule left. And so it’s one where you celebrate every win you get because wins are hard to come by in this league.”