Kloosterman, Brown step up for Dukes
HARRISONBURG — Strasburg graduate and James Madison University true freshman tight end Jonathan Kloosterman and fellow tight end Brandon Brown were a perfect combination in Saturday’s 55-20 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Richmond.
The two were filling in for junior starting tight end Deane Cheatham, who is out with an injury. The pair combined for five receptions for 85 yards. Their work didn’t go unnoticed by JMU head coach Everett Withers.
“We gave Most Valuable Player to the tight end position because of the blocking that they did. And of course the pass receiving that they did,” Withers said Monday in his weekly press conference. “I thought those guys did a great job. Again it’s one of those situations where you don’t go, ‘oh my god, you lost your starter.’ The next guy steps up and does a nice job.”
Kloosterman had two catches for 37 yards, including a 20-yard reception on third-and-8 in the second half. He now has five receptions for 72 yards this season.
Withers said part of the reason that players adapt so easily if a player in front of them goes down is because of how the team practices.
“The way we practice is really fast. You can’t go a whole practice and take all the reps,” Withers said. “You can’t do it the way we practice. So the second guy in rotation has to be able to go in and play those reps and the accountability factor comes in to play. We expect him to play it like the first guy. Does that happen all the time? No, but that’s the expectation when a guy goes in the game. We don’t expect a whole lot of drop off. That’s the mentality you want in your program.”
The tight end position wasn’t the only that stepped up on Saturday. On back-to-back plays, defensive backs Aaron Peak and Dean Marlowe were ejected due to targeting penalties. That forced Marcell Johnson and Jordan Brown, both freshmen, into the game.
Withers said they changed their defensive game plan a little early in the second half, but went back to their original game plan as the half wore on and the two got more comfortable in the secondary.
The two combined for four tackles and one hit on the quarterback. The secondary played a big part in JMU’s game plan, which was to slow down a very strong Richmond passing game.
“I thought overall it was one of our best efforts in the secondary for the year,” Withers said. “It was a big challenge because Richmond had some very talented receivers. The quarterback is a very talented quarterback. I thought we did a good job of covering. We played a lot of man coverage. They hit some outside — one or two — but I felt like overall our guys really competed and were able to compete for balls and deny balls. I was really pleased at the effort of our back end guys.”
A DAY TO REMEMBER: Certainly, the player who had the biggest impact in the secondary and overall was Taylor Reynolds.
The redshirt sophomore cornerback returned two interceptions for touchdowns, totaling 101 yards, forced two fumbles and had eight total tackles. Naturally, Reynolds was named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been around that before,” Withers said of Reynolds’ day. “He was involved in 28 points one way or the other in the ballgame, and that’s a pretty big day. I credit that obviously to Taylor and his technique and his fundamentals, but I also credit that to our defensive coaches who are working those techniques and fundamentals in practice. The things that we do in practice, obviously they show up in the game. When that happens, that’s pretty neat to see.”
Reynolds now has 55 tackles on the season and three interceptions. Withers said he’s really playing better the last few weeks.
“He’s kind of that prototypical guy that you look for: size, speed, long arms, can run, has straight-line speed,” Withers said. “Now it’s just a matter of developing him. Corners have to have a lot of confidence. Some of that, you just have to build that confidence. Are they going to give up plays? Yes. I’ve never met a corner that hasn’t given up a touchdown. … On defense if you give up a play, it can’t affect the second one. I think that’s what we’re staring to see happen in some of our young DBs — is go back and play the next play. And Taylor is one of those guys I think it’s happening for.”
PLAYOFF INFO: The victory over Richmond was the sixth straight for the Dukes, who are now 8-3. JMU is now ranked in the FCS Coaches Poll at No. 22 for the first time this season, and moved up eight spots to No. 17 in the Sports Network FCS Poll.
JMU hosts Elon on Saturday in the regular season finale and Senior Day. The Dukes are expected to make the NCAA FCS playoff field, which will be announced Sunday, whether they win or lose this week. The Dukes will likely host a game on Nov. 29. JMU is currently accepting ticket orders in anticipation of a home playoff game. Season ticket holders have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to place their orders. Orders can be placed online at www.jmusports.com or by stopping by the ticket office in the Convocation Center or calling them at (540) 568-3853 during normal business hours. Ticket prices range from $12-100.
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or “mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org