No. 2 JMU's stingy defense sets sights on Richmond


No. 2 JMU's stingy defense sets sights on Richmond

Led by a grudging defense and coming off thrilling double-overtime victory, No. 2 James Madison heads to Richmond for an in-state matchup against one of the few teams with a superior head-to-head record against the Dukes.

Sitting alone atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings, the Dukes (5-1, 3-0) nearly lost that lofty perch their last time out but prevailed for a 27-26 win over William and Mary. To remain unbeaten they must go out on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) and beat a Spiders (4-3, 2-2) squad that averages a robust 35.3 points per game.

That hasn't always been easy for James Madison, which is on the short end of a 16-13 series matchup, though the teams have split 14 games played at Robins stadium. Last season in Harrisonburg, the Dukes racked up 297 rushing yards and seven quarterback sacks in a 31-7 triumph.

Redshirt junior quarterback Justin Thorpe is responsible for a good chunk of the Dukes running these days - not to mention, duh, winning. The dual threat option leads the team with 394 yards and four touchdowns while tailback Dae'Quan Scott has racked up 334 yards and five touchdowns on the season, including the go-ahead score against the Tribe.

Thorpe also directs a diverse passing attack where 13 players have caught pass, led by tight end Brian Barlow (16-237-1). James Madison has won 14 straight FCS games with Thorpe under center.

Yet it's on the other side of the ball where the Dukes truly make their mark. In five games against FCS programs, JMU has allowed only six touchdowns and an average of 10.6 points per game.

Playing in the Dukes 4-3 scheme, linebacker Stephon Robertson led JMU in tackles in four of six games, tallying a career-high 14 in a win over No. 12 Towson. Up front, Brandon Lee finished with a career-high eight tackles in the win over William and Mary while fellow defensive end Sage Harold had two sacks against Richmond last season.

The Dukes' defense will contend with Richmond's pro-style offense, helmed by senior quarterback John Laub, who ranks second in the CAA passing yards (246) and total offense (296) per game. Junior wide receiver Ben Edwards tops the conference with 51 receptions

Jerod Evans sizzles as No. 25 Hokies earn road win vs. Pittsburgh


Jerod Evans sizzles as No. 25 Hokies earn road win vs. Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- One of the nation's worst secondaries kept daring Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans to throw.

So he did. Over. And over. And over.

The junior shook off a right ankle injury to throw for a career-high 406 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 25th-ranked Hokies to a 39-36 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Joey Slye tied the school and Atlantic Coach Conference records by making six field goals to help the Hokies (6-2, 4-1) beat the Panthers (5-3, 2-2) on the road for the first time in 17 years.

Pitt came in with the nation's 120th-ranked pass defense yet played bump-and-run for most of the game, hoping its defensive backs could win more than they lost.

Didn't happen.

Instead, three Tech wide receivers topped 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history. Isaiah Ford's 10 receptions included his school-record 23rd receiving touchdown. Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 145 yards and a score and Cam Phillips added 109 yards on a night the Hokies piled up 556 total yards.

"It's a great feeling when you can do what you love doing and that's throw the ball up and down the field against a pretty good defense," Evans said. "One-on-one coverage. You can't ask for anything better than one-on-one coverage."

Pitt coach Narduzzi built his reputation as defensive coordinator at Michigan State by requiring his secondary to play physical. He's intent on doing the same at Pitt, even as the weeks pass and improvement only comes in sporadic bursts. Facing the Hokies, it was no different.

"We had guys in position to make plays," Narduzzi said. "We didn't make them. . There's not a whole lot of different ways to do it."

Evans left briefly in the third quarter after getting his right leg rolled up on but returned to lead a fourth-quarter surge that included Slye's sixth field goal. Slye joked it got a little bit boring knocking in chip shot after chip shot, though he's hardly complaining after the Hokies won at Heinz Field for the first time in five tries and assured themselves of a bowl berth for a 24th straight year, the longest active streak in the nation.

It's a notable streak, but bigger goals lie ahead. The Hokies will end the weekend no worse than tied in the loss column with North Carolina atop the Coastal. Virginia Tech owns the tiebreaker, having beaten the Tar Heels decisively this month

Maryland's Mark Turgeon signs contract extension through 2022-23 season

Maryland's Mark Turgeon signs contract extension through 2022-23 season

Starting the beginning of his sixth season with Maryland men’s basketball, head coach Mark Turgeon signed a four-year contract extension, Maryland announced Thursday.

The extension will take him through the 2022-23 season.

The Terrapins enter the 2016-17 season ranked No. 21 in the Preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and are coming off their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, which included their first Sweet 16 game since 2003.

In his five completed seasons with Maryland, Turgeon has earned a 114-59 record — the most wins for a head coach after taking over the program.

"Mark has built a program that we are incredibly proud of as he continues to lead the great tradition that is Maryland Basketball," Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson said in a statement. "I am proud of the academic and athletic success that the men's basketball team has achieved under Mark's leadership the past five years.”

“During his successful tenure in College Park, Mark has worked tirelessly to establish a nationally-recognized program that will annually compete for championships,” Anderson added.

In the team’s first two years with the Big Ten, Maryland boasts a 26-10 conference record and finished third last season (12-6) to Indiana and Michigan State, respectively.

MORE MARYLAND HOOPS: Melo Trimble talks season expectations and his return to the Terps