HARRISONBURG – Rising senior safety Jordan Brown scored a touchdown and intercepted to pass to lead James Madison’s defense to a 53-39 win over the offense in Saturday’s spring game at Bridgeforth Stadium.
In the third quarter, soon-to-be junior cornerback Jimmy Moreland blocked a field goal and Brown recovered the ball, before returning it 69 yards into the end zone for his touchdown – the score pulled the defense within one point of the offense.
Madison used a non-traditional scoring system for the scrimmage, so Moreland’s blocked kick plus Brown’s touchdown was an eight-point play (two for the block and six for the touchdown).
A series later, Brown picked off second-team quarterback Cole Johnson and returned it all the way down inside the 20-yard line, which gave the defense a late third-quarter advantage. Interceptions were worth three points.
“We had a corner blitz on, and off that, I just had to read the quarterback,” Brown said. “So on the slant, I just drove on it.”
The defense had the offense’s number from the start.
Rising sophomore safety Adam Smith intercepted rising senior quarterback Bryan Schor on the first drive and third-team quarterback Hunter Etheridge was picked off by redshirt freshman safety D’Angelo Amos in the second quarter.
“I think we need to play better than we did today, but the spring game is always tough,” Schor said. “It’s tough to play against the defense that you’ve played against 14 times, but credit to the defense. They did a really good job and when the plays presented themselves for them, the defense made those plays.
“If the hardest thing to know coming out of here is that we have a really good defense, well, that’s something I love to hear. I think they played really well today.”
Schor finished 8-of-17 for 71 yards, playing only in the first half.
In four 12-minute quarters, the defense limited the offense to 398 total yards. In 2016, JMU’s offense averaged 507.5 yards per game.
“We really worked on our chemistry,” Brown said of the defense’s entire spring. “We had some new guys come in to fill roles, but I think overall we came in with maturity and it helped our chemistry.
“After today, I’d definitely approve of how far we’ve come because it was a rough start at the beginning [of the spring], but once we figured out our roles, we started rolling.”
The biggest positive for the offense on Saturday was Georgia Tech transfer running back Marcus Marshall’s breakaway speed.
Marshall carried 12 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. The score came on a 50-yard sprint past the defense after a one-cut move at the line of scrimmage.
“That’s kind of my game,” Marshall said. “That’s what I’ve been doing since high school. Speed, one-cut and go.”
Marshall was one of three newcomers to put together a solid debut.
Maryland transfer linebacker Gus Little led the defense with six tackles and early enrollee defensive tackle Marcus Hawkins had five tackles.
After the game, JMU’s 2016 team was presented with its national championship rings.
“What a special day for JMU,” second-year coach Mike Houston said. “We got to see a glimpse of the 2017 Dukes today and reflect back a little bit at 2016 with our graduating seniors who were back with us.
“What a special scene and special moment, not only for those kids on the field, but for their families. It’s something, I don’t think they’ll ever forget.”