JMU Athletic Communications
NEWARK, Del. — Over the last two weeks, Trai Sharp has leaned on his teammates.
Sharp’s father, David, passed away on Sept. 16 in North Carolina, while the James Madison running back rushed for 130 yards in the team’s win over Norfolk State.
Since then, both coaches and players have said the team rallied around Sharp. The junior spent a few days at home to be with his family for the funeral, but returned in time to play Sept. 23 against Maine.
“I have the best teammates in the world,” Sharp said. “Waking up every morning, I’ve got text messages from them. I’ve got calls from them. Calls from their parents.”
So when the Dukes needed their talented rusher to tote the ball repeatedly, in a 20-10 win Saturday at Delaware, Sharp was ready.
He carried the ball 36 times for a career-best 185 yards and a touchdown — JMU’s lone offensive touchdown of the day.
“As the game went on I knew it was going to be a ground game. I just trusted my O-linemen,” he said.
Twenty seven of Sharp’s 36 carries came in the second half, which he said forced him to think of those teammates that supported him. He fought for each yard as Delaware’s defense loaded the box late in the game.
“You just never want to let your teammates down, so I’ll do whatever for them,” Sharp said. “Just their backing me helped me.”
Junior Marcus Marshall started the game at running back, but Sharp finished at the position for the Dukes.
Coach Mike Houston said the flow of the game fit Sharp’s running style better.
“The kind of zone-run game that developed there [Saturday] and the kind of defense they were playing,” Houston said. “With the subtle cuts and stuff, Trai has a little more experience and was seeing things a little better. He kind of had the hot hand, so we went with him.”
Sharp had a long of 59 yards in the first quarter.
O’Kelly Can Run
A 21-play, 74-yard drive for JMU was aided by Harry O’Kelly’s fake punt on the fourth snap of the series.
O’Kelly, who uses an Australian rugby-style kick, tucked the ball instead of booting it away, and advanced 9 yards to convert a fourth-and-7 from JMU’s own 18-yard line.
“We have it set up to where he has the ability to read it,” Houston said. “And [Delaware] did not secure the edge at all, so he had the chance right there to get the first down and did a great job of executing it.”
The punter also kicked it well Saturday, averaging 43.5 yards per kick and pinning Delaware twice on four attempts inside its own 20.
Win Streak Continues
JMU’s win over Delaware gave the Dukes their 17th straight victory, which extended the nation’s longest active winning streak in Division I and tied the Colonial Athletic Association all-time record for consecutive wins.
The Dukes have also tied a school record with seven straight road victories.
“I think it’s a lot of things, but the biggest thing I think is that they try to do it together,” Houston said of his team. “You’re going to have days where your offense is going to go out and play great, and you’re going to have days where your defense is going to go out and play great.
“It really doesn’t matter. The only thing that we care about is us winning.”