James Madison wins defensive battle over Towson

Mark Selig, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

HARRISONBURG, Va. -- For 56-plus minutes the defenses for Towson and James Madison traded stops in Saturday's Colonial Athletic Association football game. In the final moments, the team's two quarterbacks took over.
After Towson's Grant Enders led a 92-yard touchdown drive, JMU's Justin Thorpe got the last word, captaining his own eight-play, 79-yard drive that finished with his 9-yard scramble into the end zone with 1:24 remaining. The touchdown -- Madison's first of the afternoon -- put the Dukes ahead 13-10, the eventual final score.
"It was the nightmare I had worried about from the beginning of the game," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said of JMU's final scoring drive. "We did a tremendous job defensively of containing (Thorpe) for three quarters and 14-so minutes. You miss, he'll make you pay. That's why he is who he is."
Towson had one more chance to tie (with a field goal) or take the lead (with a touchdown), but JMU safety Dean Marlowe made his second interception of the day, allowing the Dukes to run out the final 44 seconds.
"I ain't gonna sound cocky, but I'm just a ball-hawk," Marlowe said. "I mean that's just in my mind. I mean where the ball is, I have to be there. I was just successful at that."
No. 5 JMU improved to 4-1 overall, 2-0 in the CAA, as 14th-year coach Mickey Matthews earned his 100th career victory. No. 12 Towson, which won the league title last year and was the preseason pick to repeat, dropped to 2-3, 1-1.
The Colonial Athletic Association's two stingiest defenses lived up to their billing.
Entering Saturday, Towson allowed a league-low 288.5 yards per game, while JMU allowed 289.2. Madison was tops in points allowed per game (14.8).
"I thought Towson played really well," Matthews said. "Didn't surprise me. If you had watched the tape you would have thought that -- I thought they were really good going into the game. I thought yards and points would be hard to come by and they were."
Down three points at James Madison and facing a fourth-and-1 situation on their own 18-yard line with 8:52 remaining, the Tigers called for a quarterback sneak and picked up the first down.
Quarterback Grant Enders then continued to lead what had been a hapless Towson offense on a 14-play, 92-yard touchdown drive that lasted 7:24.
But after the game he was still upset about his team's three turnovers.
"They're good but it just came down to mistakes -- mistakes that I made," Enders said. "When you turn the ball over three times, you can't expect to beat any defense like that. ... They did a good job of being in the right places, but it came down to us making mistakes."
Enders finished 20 for 32 for 147 yards. Sophomore tailback Terrance West picked up 112 yards on 28 carries, and Enders added 37 yards on the ground, including his 7-yard bootleg run to give Towson its only lead of the day, during the fourth quarter.
Madison, of course, came back with a TD drive of its own on a day when two Cameron Starke field goals had been its only offense until the final minutes.
"They have a heck of a defense, that's all I can say," Thorpe said. "We just made a play at the end of the game. It was a low-scoring affair, and we got the 'W.' "
JMU remains the only CAA team that Towson has never beaten since joining the CAA in 2004. JMU extended its all-time series lead to 18-5-1.
Junior tailback Dae'Quan Scott, who missed JMU's last two games with a high ankle sprain, picked up 85 yards on 22 carries.
The Dukes will host William and Mary next week, while Towson hosts Maine.
Notes: The CAA had five teams ranked in the BCS top 25 this week. This was the only CAA game this week pitting two ranked teams against each other. ... The game was televised on NBC Sports Network as part of the conference's new deal with the network. ... The NCAA granted Thorpe a sixth year of eligibility last week, making the Richmond, Va., native a redshirt junior for the rest of this season. ... JMU sophomore Marquis Woodyard was hit in the head while trying to catch a deep pass midway through the second quarter. He did not return to the game. Matthews said after the game that Woodyard suffered a concussion but was doing well.

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