Dukes Fall in Season Finale at Towson

By: JMUSports.com
By: JMUSports.com

The James Madison football team battled throughout but could not overcome a few key plays against them and lost at No. 5/7 Towson, 28-17, Nov. 23. With the season finale loss, the Dukes ended at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association, while the Tigers end the regular season at 10-2 and 6-2 in the league.

Sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong had more than 300 yards of total offense , rushing for a career-high 136 yards on 26 carries. The 136 yards were the third most for a Duke this season. Birdsong was also 20-for-39 for 170 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Redshirt-senior linebacker Stephon Robertson finished with 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss, to finish with 141 tackes this season and 445 for his career.

For Towson, All-American running back Terrance West was limited to 100 yards but had three scores on 22 carries, more than 60 yards below his season average. Quarterback Peter Athens was 21-for-30 for 171 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

JMU got on the board first on its second drive, marching 73 yards in nine plays. On fourth-and-15 at the Towson 29, Birdsong found wide receiver Anthony Rose on a streak route down the middle for a touchdown. Kicker Cameron Starke hit the point after attempts and the Dukes led 7-0 with 6:24 to go in the first quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Towson looked to be stopped at the JMU 28 but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Tigers an extension to their drive. The hosts converted it, as running back Terrance West broke a tackle, bounced outside and went in from seven yards out and the game was tied at seven with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.

The two teams exchanged interceptions with Towson getting the second one at the JMU 33. West took it in from six yards out and the Tigers led 14-7 with 5:40 to play in the first half.

After a bad snap on a JMU fourth down gave the Tigers the ball at the JMU 45, Towson got one last score in the closing seconds of the half. Quarterback Peter Athens scrambled out of pressure and found Connor Frazier in the open and he went in for the 35-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 at the halftime break.

The Dukes got on the board in the second half with their opening drive, going 33 yards in 10 plays before the drive halted at the Towson 4. Starke came in and connected from 21 yards out to make it 21-10 Towson with 6:20 to play in the third quarter.

After a failed field goal attempt, the Dukes forced a Towson 3-and-out. Redshirt-senior Dae’Quan Scott caught the punt at the Towson 46, picked up a pair of key blocks and scooted into the end zone for his second punt return touchdown of the season. Starke connected again on the PAT and the lead was down to four at 21-17 late in the third quarter.

The final score of the game came early in the fourth quarter as West got in from six yards out again with just under 12 minutes to play for the final tally.

Overall the Dukes outgained the Tigers, 332-282, including 162 yards of rushing to 111. However nine penalties for 95 yards, including several at key times in the game, stymied JMU’s efforts.

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