Too close for comfort: Dukes hold on for win over upset-minded Towson

In another road battle, the #6/7 James Madison football team held off a pesky Towson squad for a 17-13 Colonial Athletic Association win, Oct. 9. The Dukes are now 4-1 and 1-1 in CAA play, while the Tigers fall to 1-5 and 0-3 and league action.

Towson got on the board first to open the game on the game’s first possession. The hosts moved the ball in 12 plays from their own 27 down to the JMU 6 before the Dukes’ defense halted the drive. There, Nick Wallace converted the 23-yard field goal attempt to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.

The teams exchanged possessions before Madison hit the scoreboard in quick fashion. Senior quarterback Drew Dudzik scrambled on the first play for a 24-yard gain to the Towson 44. Then Dudzik went aerial, hooking up with redshirt-freshman Dae’Quan Scott for a 44-yard strike in the end zone. Redshirt-freshman Ben Hopewell converted the point-after attempt to give JMU a 7-3 lead with just over five minutes to play in the opening quarter.

A punt-catch interference penalty gave the Dukes the ball on the Towson 29, and JMU made it count for another tally on the scoreboard. This time, it took seven plays to reach the end zone, including a key third-down penalty against the Tigers in the end zone. On second down at the Tigers’ 1, Dudzik stepped back and found a hole behind the left side of the line and plunged in for a 14-3 Madison lead late in the first period.

Towson took advantage of a similar JMU catch interference penalty to get the ball at its own 41 late in the second quarter. It took them just four plays to go the 59 yards, capped off by Dominique Booker’s 21-yard run. Wallace hit the point after and the lead was trimmed to 14-10 with 2:55 remaining in the half.

After the Dukes went three-and-out to start the second half, Towson took over at its 27. The Tigers controlled the ball for the next 4:29, going 52 yards in 11 plays. The drive halted at the JMU 11, and Wallace then hit a career-long 38-yard field goal to cut the JMU lead to just one, 14-13 with 8:36 to play in the third.

Towson punted and pinned the Dukes back on their own 1-yard line. JMU fought its way out of the end zone and pushed down the field, going 94 yards in 17 plays while holding the ball for just over seven minutes. A busted gadget play led to a 21-yard field goal by Hopewell to again make it a four-point lead at 17-13 with 9:41 remaining in the contest.

JMU outgained Towson 317-259, including putting together 181 yards on the ground, and held more than a seven-minute advantage in time of possession.

Redshirt-senior Jamal Sullivan had a season-high 26 carries for 88 yards while Dudzik was 12-for-22 for 136 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Scott led the receivers with two catches for 61 yards and his first collegiate touchdown. Junior linebacker Pat Williams led all tacklers with 14 tackles, while redshirt-freshman Stephon Robertson had 13 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.

Booker and quarterback Chris Hart were the rushing leaders for Towson, going for 74 and 72 yards, respectively. Hart was also 8-for-24 for 92 yards through the air, hitting Alex Blake for four receptions for 49 yards. Frank Beltre had 13 tackles to pace the Tigers.

JMU returns home to Bridgeforth Stadium for another CAA battle next Saturday, hosting top-10 ranked New Hampshire. Kickoff for the Homecoming game on CAA Television is set for 3:30 p.m.

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