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