WILLIAMSBURG — William and Mary might have discovered some stability at quarterback and welcomed back an important piece of its passing game. But that wasn't enough to overcome James Madison's relentless ground game and several grievous mistakes.
The Dukes controlled the ball and the clock for long stretches on the way to a 20-14 win Saturday at Zable Stadium in the CAA opener for both teams.
James Madison (3-1, 1-0 CAA) won for the seventh time in the past eight meetings in a showdown between the teams picked to finish 1-2 in the conference.
The trio of Dae'Quan Scott, Jauan Latney and quarterback Justin Thorpe keyed a JMU rushing attack that totaled 271 yards and contributed to a 10 1/2-minute advantage in time of possession.
Tribe (2-2, 0-1 CAA) quarterback Michael Graham and the passing game showed life in the second half, but the offense didn't do enough to consistently challenge JMU.
Graham, making his first start, completed 14 of 26 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He threw for 204 yards and both scores in the second half, buoyed in part by the return of all-conference wide receiver Ryan Moody.
Moody tore the ACL in his left knee last spring, but practiced full-bore last week and saw his first game action of the season. He caught three passes for 82 yards.
All-CAA tailback Jon Grimes led the Tribe with 70 yards rushing, but gained only 17 in the second half. The Tribe netted just 37 yards rushing, thanks to sacks and a botched snap on a field goal attempt.
Cameron Starke's 34-yard field goal with 4:17 remaining gave JMU a 20-7 lead. Just as important, it capped a seven-minute drive that came entirely on the ground and was illustrative of the Dukes' effort.
Graham and the Tribe answered with a 79-yard touchdown drive, as he hit tight end Alex Gottlieb for a 10-yard scoring pass with 1:25 remaining.
W&M's last chance failed when JMU's Daniel Brown cleanly recovered Drake Kuhn's almost perfectly executed onside kick attempt, and the Dukes ran out the clock.
Trailing 10-0 at halftime, the Tribe offense finally gained some traction to start the second half, but a field goal attempt went awry when Andy Topping's high snap went through holder Brent Caprio's hands and Kuhn fell on the ball.
JMU did nothing with its possession and pinned the Tribe at its one-yard line. But Graham and the offense fought its way out, with Moody and D.J. Mangas making big catches. Mangas outfought JMU cornerback Leavander Jones for a 38-yard touchdown catch-and-run to make it 10-7.
The Tribe got the ball back, but tailback Keith McBride, spelling Grimes, had the ball jarred loose by Stephon Robertson and Anthony McDaniel recovered at the W&M 24. Scott scored five plays later to push the lead to 17-7 early in the fourth quarter.
After a fairly even first quarter, JMU struck. Just short of midfield, Thorpe found Kerby Long open on a deep corner route near the right sideline on the first play of the second quarter. Long had an easy catch, then scooted away from Terrell Wells for the final 15 yards of a 52-yard touchdown play.
Thorpe completed 3 of 4 passes for 69 yards and the score, and he did not attempt a pass in the second half.
Starke, who kicked the winning field goal at the gun in the previous week's 27-24 win at Liberty, tacked on a chip-shot field goal midway through the quarter for a 10-0 lead.
That came at the end of a 45-yard drive exclusively on the ground. Scott and Latney did most of the damage, though Thorpe picked up a key third-down conversion to keep the drive alive.
Meanwhile, the Tribe's offense grew increasingly sluggish. Graham completed just 2-of-8 passesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun