Brown, Dukes Breeze, 40-13
JMU Tops Albany For CAA Win
HARRISONBURG — Albany football coach Bob Ford predicted in the week preceding his team’s game with James Madison that his defensive backs might struggle to match up with Daniel Brown, the Dukes’ 6-foot-5, 220-pound emerging go-to-when-in-doubt wide receiver.
Seeing Brown in person didn’t change Ford’s opinion.
“We struggled to have a matchup with him,” Ford said with a laugh. “When you’ve got a kid 6-5, and I think all our defensive backs are about my height, so you’re giving a lot away in height — and he’s a good receiver. It isn’t just he’s a big guy who goes up in the air to the ball.”
He can do that, too.
Brown caught five passes for 84 yards and tied the JMU record for receiving touchdowns in a game with three, and the Dukes breezed past the Great Danes for a 40-13 victory Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Bridgeforth Stadium on family weekend.
“He’s kind of like an outlet when everything’s hitting the fan, and you’ve got to do something with the ball,” JMU quarterback Michael Birdsong said of Brown. “You look for that big guy running down the field. I mean, that helps. And he’s a great route-runner, too. It’s not just throwing it up to him. He’s knows how to get open. He knows how to get defenders off him, and he’s pretty fast for a big guy like that, too.”
Tailback Dae’Quan Scott also got in the JMU record book Saturday, breaking kicker David Rabil’s points record of 231. Scott, a senior from Staunton, passed Rabil when he scored a touchdown on a 3-yard run to put the Dukes (4-2 overall, 1-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) ahead 19-3 with 11:54 left in the first half. Scott now has 234 career points. His reaction to having record was measured.
“I feel fine,” said Scott, who rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and went over the 3,000-yard mark career for his career. “It’s just a number, though. I didn’t win nothing. I haven’t gotten a championship. I didn’t even know I was about to break it.”
Khalid Abdullah, a true freshman playing in his third game, also ran for 87 yards, breaking tackles by the handful on 13 carries and scoring his second career touchdown — a 38-yard run with 11:18 left in the first quarter to put JMU up 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion.
“He is just really strong,” Dukes coach Mickey Matthews said. “To be so young, his muscles have muscles … is kind of the best way to describe him. He’s strong, really strong.”
Abdullah was part of a balanced offensive day for Madison, which threw for 249 yards and ran for 211 on the way to 460 yards of total offense on 70 plays.
Birdsong, a sophomore, completed 18 of 28 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns — all to Brown, who is coming back from tearing four ligaments and dislocating the patella in his right knee against West Virginia last season.
The first touchdown was 41-yarder across the middle that Brown ran into the end zone from about 20 yards out. It put JMU ahead 12-3 with 5:26 left in the first quarter. Touchdown catch No. 2 was a 12-yarder at the 6:06 mark in the second quarter to make it 26-3 JMU. Brown’s final TD reception was a 2-yarder to make 40-13 with 2:10 left in the game.
“He’s just so big and so fast,” Matthews said of Brown. “... When he’s covered, he’s open. And the other thing I would say about Daniel. I’ve coached guys as big as him and as fast as him, but he has as much deep-ball skills, maybe the best I’ve ever [coached].”
Brown said he and Birdsong are building a rapport. It’s taken longer than expected, though, because Brown missed much of preseason practice with a pulled hamstring.
“I think it’s continuously building,” Brown said. “It hurt not being in, in the summer with the pulled hamstring. I know that affected a lot of the relationship we had. But Michael’s easy to read. He’s a pretty good quarterback. I have the easy part; he’s got the hard part.”
On defense, JMU held Albany (1-5, 0-2) — in its first season in the CAA — to just 81 yards rushing (324 yards of total offense), and redshirt freshman linebacker Gage Steele had 18 tackles, 13 solo. The JMU record for tackles in a game belongs to Clyde Hoy, who had 26 against Towson in 1981.
“I just try to go out there and do whatever I can for my team,” Steele said. “Getting the tackles the best I can, and whatever happens, happens.”
The Great Danes hung around late into the third quarter, making 26-13 on a safety. (Birdsong was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.) It was part of a rough third quarter for JMU, which ended a 13-play, 52-yard drive at the 11:26 mark with a missed 44-yard field goal by Cameron Starke, who also missed an extra point Saturday. JMU had three drives in the third — they started on the Dukes’ 21-, 2- and 10-yard lines — and they ended in the missed field goal, a punt and a safety.
Matthews replaced Starke with Graham Sharples after the missed goal because Starke complained of a groin issue, which Matthews said has bothered the senior for several weeks. It’s unclear whether Sharples will replace Starke — who also missed a PAT and a field goal last week against Delaware — full time.
“We may have to make a change. I really don’t know. I hate to ever — [Starke’s] not kicking very well,” Matthews said. “The other kid, Graham, has really always pushed him in practice, and we’ll just have to see where we are. I didn’t take him out because he had missed; he said he couldn’t kick anymore. He said after he missed that field goal, he said his groin was really hurting. The Akron game was the same deal, so it must be chronic where it’s a situation that’s really bothering him. We’ll just have to see.”