HARRISONBURG — It wasn’t even close to Bryan Schor’s best game.
He didn’t throw for a touchdown. He didn’t run for a touchdown. He threw an interception on James Madison’s opening possession and his 93 passing yards were the fewest Schor had since becoming the team’s full-time starting quarterback last season.
But even without flashy numbers next to his name in the box score, Schor still did enough to help the top-ranked Dukes to a 20-10 road win at Delaware this past Saturday.
The senior signal-caller, as he’s done throughout his career, extended plays and prolonged drives with key pickups on third down.
Schor did enough to melt the clock and help the Dukes win the battle of field position as soon as they took a second-quarter lead.
“It’s kind of the thing that broke our back,” Delaware coach Danny Rocco said of Schor. “His ability to convert on those third-down scrambles allowed them to keep the ball and shorten the field and wear down our defense.”
JMU was 7-of-17 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down. Schor moved the chains for six of those eight critical conversions.
Four conversions came on the ground, two came through the air.
His 7-yard keeper on third-and-7 in the first quarter came the play immediately ahead of running back Trai Sharp’s 59-yard carry into Delaware territory. The snap after that, Sharp scored on a 6-yard run.
“I thought we had a better answer or solution than what showed out there today. He’s a very, very unique athlete,” Rocco said. “He knows what he’s capable of doing, and he utilizes his entire skill set. He’s a very accurate thrower. He makes good decisions.
“And he does it every week. He flat-out does it every week. I thought we did a little better job preparing our guys for that and obviously we didn’t get the result that we wanted.”
On a third-and-7 in the fourth quarter, Schor dropped back to pass before being flushed to his right by Delaware defensive end John Nassib, but when there was nowhere to throw the ball, Schor avoided the 6-foot-6 edge rusher and made a break to the left. Another defensive end, Bilal Nichols, tried to chase down Schor from behind, but wasn’t quick enough.
That’s when the fleet-footed quarterback began to dart up the field before spinning off a defender just past the first-down marker.
“It’s definitely a challenge going against him,” Nichols said. “He extends plays and creates a lot for their offense, so coming into this week we were aware of that and we knew we had to shut him down.
“So there are definitely a couple of plays from a personal standpoint that I wish I could have back on him where I felt like I probably could have made the play.”
Eventually, JMU had to punt on that drive, but it pinned Delaware deep in its own territory and inevitably led to the Dukes gaining improved field position for their next series, which resulted in a field goal. Those three points put JMU ahead by two scores.
From the start at Delaware Stadium, it wasn’t going to be an easy 60 minutes for Schor. Between Delaware’s stingy defense and a wind that made it difficult to throw, he had to steadily manage the offense in order to lead his team to a win.
“Anytime either one of us were going into the wind, it made it difficult to kick it and it made it difficult to throw it,” Houston said. “So the conditions did have an impact.”
But Monday after Houston had the weekend to evaluate the tape, he said his entire team, which includes his veteran quarterback, handled the difficulties of a strong opponent, on the road and in tough conditions, well.
“The elements are what the elements are and it’s whoever functions best in those elements that wins the ballgame,” Houston said during the Colonial Athletic Association coaches teleconference Monday. “And if you don’t have a tough-minded football team that’s prepared for that, you can lose a game like that on Saturday if they let it affect them mentally.
“But I really feel like our kids responded.”