JMU Football Notebook: Woods, Agyei-Obese spark Dukes’ running game

Percy Agyei-Obese

James Madison University senior running back Taylor Woods and true freshman running back Percy Agyei-Obese each had a strong game in the Dukes’ 38-3 win over Rhode Island last weekend.

Agyei-Obese led the Dukes with 95 yards on 10 carries, while Woods had 75 yards on 12 carries.

“I thought both Taylor Woods and Percy (Agyei-Obese) gave us a little bit of a shot in the arm with the way they were able to get downhill carrying the football,” JMU head football coach Mike Houston said in his weekly teleconference Monday. “I thought our offensive line did a good job of staying on blocks, sustaining blocks and giving us opportunities.”

The Dukes (9-0, 6-0 CAA) have taken advantage of their depth at running back this season. They have used five different running backs throughout the year. Redshirt senior Cardon Johnson suffered a season-ending leg injury in the third game of the year. However, juniors Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall have split the bulk of the carries since then.

Agyei-Obese and Woods had combined for 53 carries before last weekend’s game against Rhode Island. Houston said he believes part of the reason they had success was because they have fresh legs.

Mike Houston

“I think that’s a big factor this time of the year,” Houston said of the pair having fresh legs. “And it’s something having been in postseason deals at various times throughout our career you understand that you get to this time of the year it’s a big factor — trying to save legs as much as you can getting to Saturdays. You got to prepare for the game. You got to save their legs. But I think that was a factor last week for both Taylor (Woods) and Percy (Agyei-Obese).”

KEYS TO DEFENSE: Houston said that he believes there are three keys to being a strong defense — third-down defense, red-zone defense and turnovers.

The Dukes are having success in all three areas this season. JMU leads the Football Championship Subdivision in turnovers (26) and red-zone defense (54.5 percent). They have also been solid in third-down defense (31.4 percent).

Houston said his staff does a good job of emphasizing the importance of turnovers to his team.

“I think our staff does a great job of not only talking about turnovers but it’s a big emphasis at practice each week,” Houston said. “And I think our kids play together in a manner that creates a lot of those turnovers from the pressure we put on the quarterbacks to the way we swarm and attack to the ball.”

The Dukes have 36 sacks this season as a team. They also have recovered eight fumbles and have 18 interceptions.

CHALLENGING OPPONENT: Despite the final lopsided score, Houston said Rhode Island gave his team quite a battle.

The Dukes led 7-3 at halftime, before pulling away in the second half. Houston said Rhode Island, who has just two wins this season, is much improved.

“I thought our kids came out ready to play,” Houston said. “It was really a back and forth hard fought first half. It was good to get into the locker room with a 7-3 lead. And then I thought the second half we came out and got a couple turnovers capitalized on those and turned them into points. And we were able to build a little bit of a lead and kind of took care of business form there.”

Houston said the play of the defense and JMU’s running game were the biggest factors in pulling out the win.

The Dukes have now won 21 straight games, the longest winning streak in Division 1. They are ranked first in both FCS polls.

JMU hosts rival Richmond on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on senior day.