|« Crimson Escape With a Chance to Win Ivy||Villanova Tops Towson »|
Landers-Led Dukes Win Ninth Straight over W&M, Clinch Tie for Crown
No. 12 William and Mary won the coin toss yesterday before its Colonial Athletic Association showdown with top-ranked James Madison and deferred to the second half.
Not a wise choice on this day.
The decision gave JMU the ball first, and the Dukes, behind quarterback Rodney Landers, were off and running (and passing) to a 48-24 blowout that clinched at least a share of the CAA championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
Landers accounted for 357 yards of offense – the fourth-highest total of his career – and four touchdowns to help JMU (7-0, 9-1) win its ninth straight game before 14,330 at Bridgeforth Stadium.
“When Rodney gets playing in that rhythm, when he’s running the ball that effectively and the play-action [pass] is there like that, he’s very difficult to stop,” JMU coach Mickey Matthews said.
“Rodney Landers is [Tim] Tebow good. He could play [QB] for the Florida Gators tonight. The guy can throw the ball and is a great ball-handler. Sometimes I hear the plays, and I’m not sure if he’s handing it off or not.”
Before leaving midway through the fourth quarter, Landers completed 14 of 19 passes for 212 yards and three TDs. The senior from Virginia Beach also ran 18 times for 145 yards and one score.
“He’s a great football player,” W&M coach Jimmye Laycock said. “He can do so many things. The biggest thing is we were not able to stop them. We didn’t look so good on defense. I don’t know if it was us or them.”
One game to go: JMU finishes the regular season on Saturday at Towson (1-6, 3-8), but even if the Dukes lose, they have the tiebreaker advantage over No. 6 Villanova (6-1, 8-2), having beaten the Wildcats earlier this season.
Should JMU beat Towson, the Dukes likely will be awarded the top seed in the playoffs for the Football Championship Subdivision, which would mean home field for the first three rounds. The final is at Chattanooga, Tenn., on Dec. 19.
“That’s a huge advantage,” said JMU tailback Eugene Holloman, who rushed for 130 yards on 23 carries and scored twice.
“We love playing at Bridgeforth. Having our fans behind us when we come running out of the tunnel.”
Added defensive tackle Sam Daniels, “When we play here, we play our best football. But we’ve got to take care of business at Towson first.”
Before the home folks, JMU rolled up 540 yards of offense in beating W&M (5-2, 7-3) for the fifth consecutive time.
“I can’t really think of too many negatives,” said Matthews, whose club scored on eight of its first nine possessions. “We did have to punt once.”
Still in the hunt: Though its five-game winning streak ended, W&M remained in contention for a playoff spot, but the Tribe must defeat No. 7 Richmond (5-2, 8-3) on Saturday in Williamsburg to do it.
“Our playoffs start next week,” said W&M QB Jake Phillips, who was 16 of 30 for 187 yards and two TDs but was sacked three times. “That’s how we look at it.”
The Tribe trailed 24-10 at intermission but couldn’t get any points from its first three possessions of the second half, while the Dukes kept scoring.
JMU held the Tribe to 76 yards on the ground, including 48 on nine carries by freshman Jonathan Grimes, about half his average.
“We were a preseason pick for the bottom of the league, and we had zero players getting any preseason honors,” Laycock said. “I think our guys have done a heck of a job to get to the point where our next game against Richmond is a big game.”
Two TDs for Turner: Sophomore Marcus Turner caught TD passes of 50 and 34 yards from Landers in the first half, doubling his career total in the process. He was filling in for injured regulars Patrick Ward and Kerby Long.
“I think I could have probably caught a couple of those passes, as open as he was,” Laycock said.
Turner had three catches for 103 yards.
JMU drubs W&M
By John Packett, The Richmond Times-Dispatch