James Madison’s offense put together three long second-half scoring drives, and freshman cornerback Jimmy Moreland (Royal Palm Beach, Fla./Royal Palm Beach) blocked a potential game-tying field goal in the final minute as the Dukes posted a 31-28 non-conference football victory at Lehigh Saturday.
After JMU overcame a 21-10 halftime deficit with touchdown marches of 66, 99 and 98 yards, Moreland blocked Lehigh placekicker Ryan Pandy’s 27-yard field goal attempt with 51 seconds remaining to give first-year Dukes’ coach Everett Withers his initial JMU victory. The Dukes are 1-1 heading into their home-opener next Saturday (Sept. 13) against St. Francis. Lehigh, a Patriot League member, was playing its season-opener.
Moreland came around the left side to solidly block Pandy’s kick after the Mountain Hawks had driven from their 25 to the JMU 10 during the final 4:32. JMU had gone ahead by the final margin during the previous possession on redshirt-senior tailback Jauan Latney’s (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax) 6-yard scoring run to cap an 11-play, 98- yard series.
During their opening drives of the third quarter after a 38-minute weather delay, the Dukes had pulled to within 21-17 on freshman tailback John Miler’s (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) 9-yard run to complete a five-play, 66-yard drive. Madison went in front 24-21 at the2:40 mark of the period when sophomore wide receiver Rashard Davis (Charlottesville, Va./Charlottesville) caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Vad Lee (Durham, N.C./Hillside (Georgia Tech)).
JMU finished with 606 yards of total offense (322 rushing, 284 passing) and out-gained Lehigh 310 yards to 208 during the second half. Both teams had 296 total yards at halftime.
Miller finished with 106 rushing yards to lead a balanced JMU ground attack. Sophomore tailback Khalid Abdullah (Newport News, Va./Heritage) ran for 86 yard and Lee for 68. Lee completed 20 of 37 passes for 284 yards and wasn’t intercepted while senior wide receiver Sean Tapley (Jacksonville, Fla/Raines (North Carolina)) was the Dukes’ leader in catches with seven for 49 yards and Davis had five for a career-high 123 yards and two scores.
To start the game, the Dukes went three-and-out on the first drive. Lehigh marched it down the field, going 49 yards in eight plays. The Mountain Hawks punched it in on a 1-yard carry by Brandon Yosha and the converted PAT made it 7-0 Lehigh less than four minutes into the game.
JMU responded on a drive of its own, but it stalled at the Lehigh 4. Redshirt-junior kicker Connor Arnone (Williamsport, Md./Williamsport) hit from 21 yards out to trim the lead to 7-3 with 7:48 to go in the first.
After forcing Lehigh to punt, JMU got it done quickly on the second play of the drive with an end around as Davis picked up two early key blocks and blazed 76 yards for the touchdown. Arnone’s PAT was good and the Dukes had their first lead of the season at 10-7 with 5:40to go in the initial period.
JMU went for a surprise onside kick but was unable to recover, giving the Mountain Hawks the ball at their own 48. Lehigh made the most of it, capped off by 16-yard touchdown pass from Nick Shafnisky to Josh Parris, as the hosts had the lead again at 14-10 late in the first.
Lehigh put together another drive, but the JMU defense held up and forced a 41-yard field goal attempt by Pandy that hit the left upright and stayed out, keeping it at 14-10 early in the second quarter. Sparked by a 46-yard run by Abdullah to open the drive, JMU stalled out at the Lehigh 11. Arnone’s 27-yard attempt sailed wide right and the score remained 14-10 with 9:24 to go in the first.
Lehigh went up 21-10 with a late second quarter touchdown pass, as Shafnisky found Derek Gaul for a 23-yard touchdown with 43 seconds to play in the half.
JMU went to answer moving into scoring position with seconds to play. A fade route throw from Lee to redshirt-freshman Ishmael Hyman (Manalapan, N.J./St. John Vianney (Kansas)) was close but ruled incomplete at the back of the end zone. The Dukes then went for it and Lee came up just a yard short of the end zone as time expired in the first half.
To start the second half, the JMU defense forced a Lehigh 3-and-out. After earning a first down, JMU went deep, as Lee connected with senior DeAndre’ Smith (District Heights, Md./Wise) for a 46-yard completion to put the ball at the Lehigh 9. On the ensuing play, Miller evaded two would-be tacklers to score from nine yards out to cut the lead to 21-17 less than three minutes into the second half.
Backed up to its own 1 after a punt, the Dukes put together a huge 99-yard drive in nine plays. The final connection was a 35-yard strike from Lee to Davis to give JMU a 24-21 advantage late in the third.
Lehigh came back down the field and put points on the board, retaking the lead 28-24 on an 8-play, 63-yard drive, finished off by a 14-yard run by Rich Sodeke. This set up the dramatic final JMU 98-yard drive for the victory.
Madison returns home for its 2014 home opener at Bridgeforth Stadium, hosting Saint Francis, Sept. 13. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m., and tickets can be purchased by contacting the JMU Ticket Office at 540-568-3853 or going online to JMUSports.com/tickets.