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JMU’s Scott taking on heavy workload
Dae’Quan Scott’s legs have been a little weary after game days the past few weeks.
“It’s nothing outrageous that I couldn’t handle,” he said, citing the recuperative effects of sessions in the cold and hot tubs.
The workload for Scott, James Madison’s senior tailback, has increased significantly in the past three games. It hasn’t necessarily been by design, but Scott isn’t complaining.
After 15 carries and 120 yards in the opening game, Scott had 27 for 107 yards in a 35-33 loss to Akron. Then came a 32-carry, 190-yard effort in a 24-20 victory over Saint Francis. He topped that with 35 carries and 176 yards in last week’s 34-7 victory over Charlotte.
His 148.3-yard average ranks second in Football Championship Subdivision entering Saturday’s CAA Football opener at Delaware (3-1).
“That’s just the way it’s fallen,” he said. “I don’t request the ball. The coaches know I would love the ball in my hands, but ‘Give me the ball,’ I would never say that. (Quarterback Michael) Birdsong has the ability to throw the ball just as well as I can run the ball.”
No. 14 JMU (3-1) traditionally has been “lopsided” toward the run game, as Dukes coach Mickey Matthews termed it. JMU has installed a fast-paced offense with more passing this season, with goals of a 50-50 balance and more than 90 plays.
The run-pass ratio after four games is 64-36. The Dukes are averaging 81 plays.
The increase means more running and passing plays. Matthews wants Scott, who ranks third on the school’s career rushing list with 2,886 yards, to touch the ball more. But this many times really wasn’t the plan.
“I didn’t realize he’d carried it so much until after the game (against Charlotte),” he said.
JMU’s backfield has been depleted by injuries. Backups Jainard Lambert (ligament in thumb) and Jauan Latney (dislocated kneecap) were unavailable last week.
The Dukes had planned to redshirt true freshman Khalid Abdullah but used him and Dejor Simmons to spell Scott last week. Abdullah had 13 carries for 61 yards.
Simmons had eight for 32 as the Dukes amassed 522 yards of offense.
Matthews said the Dukes intended to throw the ball more against Charlotte, but a rainstorm changed the game plan. Birdsong still was 20 for 28 for 201 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
He is averaging 192.8 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. JMU is averaging 252.2 yards on the ground, the top mark in the conference.
“I think (Scott is) one of the elite players in the league,” Delaware coach Dave Brock said. “He can hit a home run. He can kill you with singles.”
Scott is 5-foot-9, 215 pounds. He put on 10 pounds during the offseason, but that was more to increase his strength than anticipation of more carries in the new offense.
Keeping him healthy — he had an ankle issue last season (781 yards) and a nagging shoulder issue as a sophomore (1,304 yards) — has been a goal, and Matthews doesn’t see Scott logging such a high load as the season progresses.
Either way, he’s fine.
“It’s just the way the defense has been playing us,” Scott said, “and how well our offensive line has been blocking.“
BY TIM PEARRELL Richmond Times-Dispatch