James Madison dominated the final three quarters to defeat the Saint Francis Red Flash 38-22 in Head Coach Everett Wither's debut in front of a crowd of 23,577 at Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field on Saturday.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Vad Lee (Durham, N.C./Hillside (Georgia Tech)) led the Dukes with 147 yards and two touchdowns on 14-31 passing. Both of Lee's touchdown passes came on connections with redshirt-senior Daniel Brown (Windsor, Va./Isle of Wright). His main contribution, however, came on the ground with a season-high 174 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Redshirt-junior Jauan Latney (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax) made it two Dukes with over 100 yards on the ground with 106 yards rushing on 16 carries. True freshman John Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) added 14 carries for 42 yards as well.
JMU (2-1) outgained SFU (1-2) 485-420 for the game. However, after the Red Flash reeled off 207 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Dukes adjusted to outgain their guests 417-213 over the final three quarters. Madison outscored Saint Francis 31-7 over that stretch.
Saint Francis rode its star running back Khairi Dickson, who entered the contest leading the NCAA in rushing. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground in the first quarter and finished the day with 216 yards on 39 carries. Marcus Bagley spelled Dickson when needed, adding 52 on nine rush attempts.
Zack Drayer finished with 128 yards passing, completing 11 of his 21 pass attempts. However, four turnovers proved costly for Saint Francis with three committed by Drayer. Freshman Jimmy Moreland's (Royal Palm Beach, Fla/Royal Palm Beach) second interception of the season resulted in a pick-six to put the Dukes on the board in the first quarter. Moreland also recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter after Drayer was stripped by senior defensive lineman Sage Harold (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes).
The Dukes started slow, conceding a 15-7 lead to the Red Flash at the end of the first quarter. JMU responded well though and outscored the opposition 17-0 in the second quarter to take a 24-15 lead into the half.
In the final seconds of the first half, redshirt-junior Xavier Gates (Harrisburg, Pa./John Harris (Kansas State)) got his hand up in time to block a 53-yard field goal attempt by Saint Francis to continue JMU's momentum and maintain the lead.
Points became harder to come by in the second half; on the first two drives of the half, the Dukes were pinned on their own 1- and 5-yard lines respectively. SFU managed to pull within two after Anthony Abeid's 30-yard touchdown reception with 4:13 remaining in the 3rd. Vad Lee, who made play after play with his feet in this game, quickly answered with a 76-yard scamper to the end zone less than a minute later.
The game was put out of reach following a punt that traveled eight yards, giving the Dukes excellent field position. Five plays later, Latney rumbled in for a touchdown from four yards out to put JMU up 38-22, the final tally.
Defensive contributions for the Dukes came mainly from senior safety Dean Marlowe (Queens, N.Y./Holy Cross), freshman safety Aaron Peak (Blythewood, S.C./Blythewood), redshirt-junior Ascene Jacques (Springdale, Md./C.H. Flowers) and Harold who each finished with 10 tackles. They were not the only players to make an impact on the defense as 23 different players recorded at least one tackle for JMU. Bishop Neal led Saint Francis with 14 total tackles, including 11 solo tackles, and a sack.
This victory gave James Madison a win over Saint Francis for the third season in a row. The Dukes edged out a win 24-20 in 2013 and breezed to a 55-7 victory in the first meeting in 2012.
JMU returns to the field next Saturday on the road at Villanova. The game is slated for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff from Philadelphia and can be heard on the JMU/nTelos Wireless Broadcast Network.
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Football wins home opener 38-22 over Saint Francis