HARRISONBURG — The last quarterback to beat James Madison makes the first start of his NFL career today.
JMU, coming off its bye week, is riding the nation’s longest active winning streak in all of Division I at 17 straight victories. The stretch spans a full calendar year and three weeks.
It includes the national title game win against Youngstown State and knocking out five-time reigning champion North Dakota State along the way. Add in a victory over FBS East Carolina this season, and JMU has combined to beat six FCS Top 25 squads and an FBS team during the streak.
The most recent loss suffered by the Dukes came on Sept. 17, 2016, a 56-28 defeat at FBS North Carolina. Then-Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky torched JMU’s defense for 432 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 24-of-27 throws.
Little did anyone, including JMU coach Mike Houston, at the time know that Trubisky would end up leaving UNC early for a crack at the NFL.
“Nobody did. I know North Carolina didn’t. He was a great athlete, but still,” Houston said.
He ended up being selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Bears in April’s NFL Draft.
Trubisky will start for Chicago on Monday Night Football against Minnesota. He replaces Mike Glennon, who opened the season as the Bears’ No. 1 quarterback, but threw five interceptions in those first four games.
“I feel like [Trubisky] owes me part of his signing bonus, you know,” Houston said with a grin. “We went into that ball game thinking we got to stop [former UNC running back Elijah] Hood and the other running back [T.J. Logan] because Trubisky was really unproven and so really, we loaded up on the run.
“We gave them some things in the passing game and he lit us up pretty good. I feel like that was kind of his coming out party, so he owes us a little bit.”
Trubisky went on to throw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns in his final season at North Carolina.
“I just thought his poise in the pocket was impressive,” Houston said. “He obviously had a strong arm, but the one thing we had questioned a little bit was his accuracy. But I thought he showed a lot of accuracy, especially on the deep ball that day with [former UNC receivers Ryan] Switzer and [Mack] Hollins.”
In the first quarter of that warm late-summer Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., JMU matched North Carolina score-for-score.
Dukes quarterback Bryan Schor threw it well and his 68-yard touchdown toss to running back Cardon Johnson on a swing pass gave JMU a 21-14 lead entering the second quarter against the Tar Heels.
“I just remember he was a really athletic guy,” Schor said of Trubisky. “I remember he made some really good decisions and that he has a really live arm.
“But what it came down to was Trubisky against our defense and me against their defense, so wasn’t really quarterback versus quarterback.”
Since that loss, Schor has only become more and more of JMU’s unquestioned leader and as the wins have mounted, he’s tried to keep it all in perspective.
“I think the one thing around here is that we don’t read into the hype too much,” Schor said. “We don’t listen to the polls.
“It’s always that we’re out here with each other for another day of practice. And I don’t know if we do that systematically or if it’s something Coach Houston does to make sure we don’t hear all the stuff, but it’s when you come our here for practice, you have to compete everyday, so you can’t focus on what’s really far ahead or what’s really far behind, you just focus on this week.”
Top-ranked JMU is back in action Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium for a Colonial Athletic Association clash with Villanova.