JMU Football Notebook: Healthy Kloosterman key for Dukes’ run game

HARRISONBURG — Jonathan Kloosterman is finally healthy again and his return to the lineup is playing a big role in James Madison University’s success.

HARRISONBURG — Jonathan Kloosterman is finally healthy again and his return to the lineup is playing a big role in James Madison University’s success.

The senior tight end had some key blocks on JMU’s game-winning drive Saturday in a 20-13 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the University of Richmond. The Dukes put together a 71-yard drive in the final minutes to win the game, with running back Trai Sharp having 54 rushing yards on the drive. Sharp scored on a 7-yard touchdown run with 44 seconds left for the game-winning score.

JMU head football coach Mike Houston said Kloosterman’s ability to block is a big key to the run game.

“I know everybody talks about what a great receiver he is in the red zone and stuff like that, but he’s as important to our run game as any offensive lineman we have,” Houston said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “He’s the guy when we run the (isolation) stuff, he’s the guy loading up on the linebacker inside. He may be the guy blocking the five technique on the zone play. He may be the guy sealing a linebacker for (JMU quarterback) Bryan (Schor) on the quarterback keep. He just does so many things in the run game.”

The 2014 Strasburg graduate missed two games due to an illness earlier this season. Houston said even when Kloosterman came back he wasn’t able to practice, he just played in the games. Houston said it’s making a difference having him back at full strength and practicing.

Freshman tight end Clayton Cheatham filled in for Kloosterman, as did Nick Carlton earlier in the season. But Houston said it’s not quite the same as having Kloosterman on the field.

“Clayton (Cheatham) has done a great job and Nick (Carlton) did a great job, but they’re still young,” Houston said. “And they’re still learning nuances. And they’re not as big and strong. Jonathan — there’s a reason why he was an All-American last year. He’s a solid part of our running offense.”

STELLAR DEFENSE: JMU’s defense slowed down one of the top passing offenses in the country on Saturday against Richmond. However, Houston said a big part of that success started with stopping the Spiders’ running game.

“I thought the big thing on Saturday, was they had ran the ball so well the week before against Villanova,” Houston said. “We wanted to be sound in that respect. And I thought we were able to do that. And that allowed us to be very aggressive in the drop back game.”

The Dukes (10-0, 7-0 CAA) held the Spiders to only 20 rushing yards on 19 carries. JMU held Richmond to 304 passing yards, which was 53 yards under average.

Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta entered the game with 3,212 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. Houston said Lauletta still made some nice passes, but they were able to limit Richmond’s big plays.

“I thought overall our guys did a great job of getting the receivers on the ground, not giving up the big plays,” Houston said. “The longest pass play of the day was 25 yards. Coming into the game they had so many 70, 50, huge, chunk yardage pass plays. So I was really, really pleased we were able to limit the explosive plays on Saturday.”

SPECIAL PLAY: One of the biggest plays of the win over Richmond came on special teams.

Richmond tried a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter, but JMU senior Kyre Hawkins was able to make the tackle and give the ball back to the Dukes.

“We work the stuff there on the back side every week, and (JMU senior) Jordan Brown did a great job of setting a firm edge, which is very important,” Houston said. “I thought Kyre (Hawkins) played off the blocker very, very well, and really just made a one-on-one solid tackle there at the point of contact.”

Houston said a play like that is really a team effort and everybody did their job.

“(JMU junior) Curtis Oliver was there to kind of help clean it up at the end,” Houston said. “We have guys assigned to the fake, and they did a good job of being there. Their eyes were in the right spot. They were very physical at the point of contact and hit it for no gain.”