HARRISONBURG — When James Madison University senior John Miller suffered a game-ending injury against Stony Brook on Saturday, someone had to step up — and D’Angelo Amos did.
The redshirt freshman, playing in his first-ever Football Championship Subdivision playoff game, returned a punt 49 yards in the second quarter to set up a crucial first-half touchdown for the Dukes. Amos typically is one of Miller’s blockers on punt returns, but against the Seawolves he needed to take a starring role.
“I was thinking just don’t let the team down,” Amos said. “They expect me to do my job regardless of where I am, whether I’m blocking for John (Miller) or returning punts for him. So I just knew that we couldn’t have a downfall at all on special teams, especially because our special teams are a big part of our team and getting our offense and defense going.”
It was Amos’ only punt return of the game, but it was a big play. JMU head football coach Mike Houston said he wasn’t sure how Amos would handle the situation, but he was proud of how he did.
“That was big, with John being dinged up,” Houston said. “And you get in playoff ball games and you never know how kids are going to react, but obviously he was able to handle the big stage (Saturday).”
Stony Brook head football coach Chuck Priore said Amos’ return, which came with the Dukes leading 9-0 late in the first half, was one of the biggest turning points of the contest.
Amos said he takes a lot of pride in playing on special teams. He plays on all four of JMU’s special teams units — kick return, punt return, kickoff coverage and punt coverage.
In the last game of the regular season, Amos made another big special teams play as he blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in a 31-3 win over Elon.
Amos, a Meadowbrook High School graduate and Richmond native, said he wasn’t really sure what to expect coming into the season, but he’s been pretty happy with how he’s performed.
“I didn’t know how much I would go in defensively as a safety or a rover,” Amos said. “But I knew that I would definitely work my way in on special teams and find my way on the field. And just make plays whether it was punt returning or running down on kickoffs.”
Houston said the 6-foot-1, 182-pound Amos has a lot of potential over the next few years.
“D’Angelo (Amos) has improved drastically throughout the year,” Houston said. “He’s another one of those guys that’s going to be a good football player when he grows up one day. But he’s improved so much throughout the year.”
The Dukes (12-0), the reigning FCS national champions, host Weber State University in the FCS quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday. The Dukes have won 24 straight games.
Amos said it’s a great feeling to be in the FCS quarterfinals once again.
“We don’t take it for granted, because we know a lot of teams aren’t playing right now,” Amos said. “We know there (are) only eight teams left. So we’re just very grateful to be one of those teams.”