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A Defensive Day At Dukes' Scrimmage
HARRISONBURG - An hour before they began hitting, the James Madison football players started talking. Early on Saturday, it was obvious the Dukes were happy to see a crew of officials working their scrimmage at Bridgeforth Stadium.
“I snitched on him,” rising junior cornerback Jamaris Sanders said, jogging over from a huddle of officials he had just told to watch out for holding by wide receiver Marcus Charity.
“You might be starting first and 15 all day,” rising junior defensive tackle Sam Daniels mocked JMU offensive coordinator Jeff Durden, who had suggested Daniels might be less effective rushing the quarterback with an official making sure he lined up on-sides.
It was the defense doing most of the talking before Saturday’s scrimmage started. And when it was over, the defense had backed up that talk.
“There’s no question the defense dominated the scrimmage,” JMU coach Mickey Matthews said, a statement that surely will stoke the fires of the offense heading into next weekend’s scheduled scrimmage. “There were very few big plays.”
Matthews was particularly impressed with the play of the defensive line, especially tackles Daniels and Quintrel Thomas and defensive end Arthur Moats. Thomas had a fumble recovery.
Of course, it is worth noting the offense is somewhat of a patchwork project at present, with key players including tailback Eugene Holloman (knee) and left tackle Terrence Apted (shoulder) being held out of contact drills this spring.
Tailback Griff Yancey, a converted wide receiver who rushed for 665 yards and eight touchdowns last season after Holloman suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the year, also missed Saturday’s workout with the flu, Matthews said.
“We looked a little ragged on offense,” said quarterback Rodney Landers, who went 11-for-20 for 131 yards on the day. “We’re almost like a work in progress.”
With Holloman and Yancey out, freshman Corwin Acker and redshirt freshman Jonathan Rose saw the bulk of the action in the JMU backfield.
Acker, who enrolled at Madison this spring after sitting out last season, rushed nine times for 29 yards and scored two touchdowns, one from 5 yards out and one from the 1-yard line.
“I thought Corwin was OK,” Matthews said. “He’s like a lot of freshmen. He looks good one day. The next day, he looks behind.”
Rose, who appears to now be ahead of former backup Jamal Sullivan, carried 10 times for 36 yards.
Former Harrisonburg High School standout Patrick Ward, a rising senior, caught four passes for 79 yards and rising junior Bosco Williams had four catches for 62 yards.
Williams also hauled in an impressive - though questionable - 20-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Drew Dudzik. On a third-and-goal play, after penalties had backed the Dukes’ offense up to the 20-yard line, Dudzik lofted up a pass for Williams at the edge of the end zone. Williams went up and grabbed the ball, but appeared to come down out of bounds. The official, however, called it a score.
Dudzik finished 12-for-20 for 141 yards.
Saturday’s workout also provided a glimpse at how the Dukes, who went 8-4 last year and made their third trip to the Division I-AA playoffs in the past four seasons, plan to use highly-touted speedster Kerby Long. Long caught three passes for 28 yards and also carried the ball on a number of reverses and lined up at quarterback.
On the day’s first play, Landers hit Long on a crossing route in a third-and-long situation. On the next play, Landers dumped the ball to Long in the flat, where the former Fork Union quarterback and cornerback juked a defender to gain extra yards.
After the practice, Landers said Matthews’ declaration about the defense should motivate the offense.
“Oh it does,” Landers said. “We’re a competitive bunch.”
The Dukes play their annual spring game April 19 at Bridgeforth.
A Defensive Day At Dukes’ Scrimmage
By Mike Barber, Daily News-Record