HARRISONBURG — James Madison University’s defense had a little extra motivation on Saturday.
The Dukes’ defense didn’t feel like they had played as well as they could have in last week’s Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal win over Weber State University. They certainly made up for it in Saturday’s 51-16 FCS semifinal win over South Dakota State University.
The Dukes forced 10 Jackrabbit turnovers and dominated a high-powered offense from start to finish.
“After last game we wanted to get back on our P’s and Q’s,” JMU safety Jordan Brown said after Saturday’s win. “Last week we had a couple mishaps on a couple plays. So we really focused on the little things this week. And we wanted to put together a complete game. So I think the whole team came together and came up big. It was a fun game.”
Brown said that the biggest thing the Dukes wanted to improve on from last week to this week was technique.
“We were there to make the plays (last week), but just had a little slippage mentally,” Brown said. “So we wanted to come in and we wanted to focus on the little things in practice. And we harped on it day in and day out so we could put together a complete game like we did (Saturday).”
JMU head football coach Mike Houston said it all started with the play of the defensive line.
The Dukes had five sacks in the game, including two by Darrious Carter, which led to two fumbles.
“I thought it was the difference in the ballgame,” Houston said of the defensive pressure. “Certainly, with the talent that they had at receiver and tight end, we wanted to try to take away the run game and get (South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion) uneasy in the pocket. And that way you don’t have time to make accurate throws. And we got a hit on him on the first play of the game and we kind of kept on throughout the game.”
The defensive pressure helped lead to 10 Jackrabbit turnovers, including six interceptions.
JMU redshirt junior cornerback Jimmy Moreland said having a strong defensive line is a big advantage for the secondary.
“We know our D-line is one of the top D-line’s in the nation — in FCS,” Moreland said. “And they’re going to get pressure. All we gotta do is cover (the receivers) for like three or four seconds. I’m glad we got pressure early, got their quarterback feeling a little heat, feeling uncomfortable. We was able to make plays in the secondary.”
The Dukes have been playing at a high level on defense all season. JMU has the top-ranked defense in FCS and, hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game until the last two playoff games.
Carter said that he feels like the defense can get even better.
“I think once we start clicking no one can run the ball on us. No one can pass the ball on us,” Carter said. “And I think we can only get better from here. You can see how we’re getting better each game with the turnovers and the sacks and interceptions.”