HARRISONBURG — James Madison University red shirt senior defensive lineman Andrew Ankrah was named a finalist Tuesday for the STATS Football Championship Subdivision Buck Buchanan Award.
Ankrah is one of three finalists for the award, which is given to the top FCS defensive player in the country. Jacksonville State defensive lineman Darius Jackson and Western Illinois’ linebacker Brett Taylor are also finalists for the award.
“Andrew is a player that really typifies what we’ve been defensively over the last couple of years,” JMU head football coach Mike Houston said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “When we got here he was coming off an outstanding sophomore year, where he put up some really solid individual stats. But to be honest he was not a very good football player. And he has worked very, very hard to change that over the last two years. And he has become a complete player and a dominant player at his position. He’s great against the run. He’s great against the pass.”
Ankrah, the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year, leads the Dukes with 7.5 sacks. He has 49 tackles, including a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss. Ankrah has forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles this season for JMU.
Ankrah recovered a fumble and returned it 23 yards for his first career touchdown in a 20-10 victory over Delaware on Sept. 30.
He is the 10th JMU player to be named a finalist for the award. JMU players have won the award twice. Derrick Lloyd won it in 2001 and Arthur Moats won the award in 2009. Moats currently plays in the National Football League as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Dukes have the top-ranked defense in the country, allowing just 8.8 points and 235.1 yards per contest.
“I think it’s a very deserving award for Andrew (Ankrah),’ Houston said. “And I’m sure Andrew, if he were here, would say that this is an award that would go to our unit, our defensive unit as a whole. So I’m very proud of him and of our defensive players.”
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: JMU set a new playoff record for attendance in last week’s win over Stony Brook.
The attendance for the game was 16,449. Houston said the crowd was a factor in the game.
“What a great atmosphere,” Houston said. “Bridgeforth Stadium was as loud as I’ve heard it. The band was rocking. The fans and alumni were into the game. I just thought it was a great atmosphere, a great college football game.”
JMU senior quarterback Bryan Schor said it’s a great feeling to play in front of such a crowd.
“The atmosphere was great,” Schor said. “A lot of times when you see December football being played they scan up the fans and the stands are kind of empty. We don’t have that here at JMU and we’re very lucky not to have that.”
The Dukes will be at home at 7 p.m. Friday against Weber State in the FCS quarterfinals. If the top-seeded Dukes win on Friday they would be at home again next weekend in the semifinals.
“We give our praise to JMU Nation,” Schor said. “We appreciate you guys coming out here. And having a crowd get up on third down and get up when there’s turnovers made and stuff like that. We really appreciate it, and going forward we hope to have the same type of attendance.”