JMU Athletic Communciations
NEWARK, Del. – Andrew Ankrah never hesitated.
The James Madison senior defensive end wouldn’t give up on the play.
And as Delaware running back Kareem Williams buried his head after Joe Walker’s intended backward pass skimmed off his hands and fell to the ground, Ankrah was alert. He turned Delaware’s miscue into a catalyst for No. 1 JMU’s 20-10 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the Blue Hens at Tubby Raymond Field on Saturday.
“I thought that play was the most pivotal play in the ballgame,” JMU coach Mike Houston said. “And probably did win the game because it swung the momentum heavily in our favor.”
It was a 23-yard scoop-and-score for Ankrah. As soon as he secured the bouncing ball, he took off on a sprint untouched into the blue-painted turf while the opposition walked around as if the play was an incomplete pass.
Referees reviewed Ankrah’s touchdown to confirm Walker’s throw was indeed directed backward, and the call stood.
“It was the running back screen and the quarterback just happened to throw the ball behind the running back, so I figured it was a live ball,” Ankrah said. “I just took it and ran.”
The score gave the Dukes a 14-10 edge with less than seven minutes to go in the second quarter, and more importantly, all the success it needed to never lose the lead again.
Throughout the contest, the Dukes leaned on their defense, which stymied Delaware.
Ankrah’s fumble recovery for a touchdown was the first of three turnovers forced by JMU in a game when its offense struggled.
JMU senior safety Raven Greene recorded the 11th interception of his career when he picked off Walker on the Blue Hens’ possession immediately following Anrkah’s touchdown.
The Dukes took advantage and turned it into points when junior kicker Tyler Gray converted a 39-yard field goal to close out the half.
“I felt like it was great for us to go into [the locker room] knowing we capitalized on a turnover,” Greene said. “And with how much we preach turnovers we know it’s pivotal in games.”
While the defending FCS champion was able to score 10 points off turnovers, Delaware wasted their opportunities early in the game following mistakes by the Dukes.
The first two JMU possessions resulted in turnovers – an interception thrown by senior quarterback Bryan Schor and a fumble given away by junior running back Marcus Marshall. Those plays set the Blue Hens with the ball at the Dukes’ 42 and 40 yard lines, respectively.
But the defense came up with consecutive three-and-outs with only the second resulting in points – a Delaware program record 55-yard field goal for kicker Frank Raggo.
“If you go down 14-0, and I’ve had that happen before, it’s really, really tough, especially on the road to climb out of that,” Houston said. “So to have two turnovers there in our own territory and only give up three points, it was obviously a big boost for everybody.”
The third turnover JMU forced came early in the third quarter when Delaware had driven past midfield, but Greene knocked the ball loose from Blue Hens running back Kani Kane. Junior cornerback Jimmy Moreland recovered it.
“I really felt like there were moments in this game where we had a little momentum, in the sense that we might be able to push or breakthrough,” Delaware coach Danny Rocco said. “But that never happened.”
JMU held Delaware 229 yards of total offense and just 89 yards passing. The Dukes also forced seven three-and-outs, with three of those three-and-outs coming in the fourth quarter.
Schor tossed for just 93 passing yards – the fewest since Houston arrived. But Schor used his legs and combined with junior running back Trai Sharp to remain competitive on the ground.
Sharp ran for a career-high 185 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries. Schor ran for 39 yards on nine attempts.
“It turned out to be the slugfest that we anticipated coming into the ballgame,” Houston said. “Good to get the win.”
With its victory, JMU (5-0, 2-0 CAA) extended the nation’s longest active winning streak in Division I to 17 consecutive wins, which also ties a CAA all-time record. Delaware drops to 2-2 (0-1 CAA).