HARRISONBURG, Va. — HARRISONBURG, Va. -- The Towson defenders thought they had Rodney Landers locked up. The James Madison quarterback had the ball on the Tigers' 23-yard line early in the fourth quarter yesterday with nowhere to go on third-and-four.
A stop there, even assuming the Dukes would add a field goal to their nine-point lead, would give the Tigers momentum.
But Landers slipped out of a tackle on the left sideline, then raced into the end zone unchallenged. That play was not only a microcosm of Towson's 23-13 loss to James Madison, but also its season: a strong defensive effort, bad breaks and disappointment at the end.
"That's the story of the season: We played hard for 60 minutes, but when we'd get a play for us, we'd get one against us," coach Gordy Combs said.
Added quarterback Sean Schaefer: "We have the best defense in the conference; we should have scored more for them, and a lot of that falls on me."
You'd be hard-pressed to hang yesterday's loss on Schaefer. He threw for 349 yards and a touchdown on 40-for-59 passing in the face of continuous pressure from the Dukes, who sacked him nine times.
But other than a methodical march in the first quarter, with Rasheed McClaude backing into the end zone from the 1 on the 15th play of the drive, the offense had little success finishing for the Tigers (3-8, 1-7 Colonial Athletic Association).
The offense didn't reach the James Madison red zone again until early in the fourth when Schaefer threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Lee to cut the deficit to 23-13.
With 4:58 left, Schaefer fumbled the ball away at the Dukes' 37 - the only turnover for either team - while trying to run from trouble. That ended Towson's last threat, and meant that its season ended with a five-game losing streak.
Towson linebacker Brian Bradford had 15 tackles to lead all players and add to his CAA-leading total. He finished with 149, unofficially. But Tigers running back Nick Williams was held to 25 rushing yards, leaving him with 1,985 for his career.
The Dukes (8-3, 6-2), who are ranked 14th in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), got most of their offense from Landers. He finished with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns and threw for 71 yards. Griff Yancey added 99 yards for James Madison, which outrushed the Tigers 260-0.
Towson 7 0 0 6-13
James Madison 10 6 0 7-23
First quarter JM-McGee 100 kickoff return (Stannard kick), 14:44. T-McClaude 1 run (Bencivengo kick), 7:36. JM-FG Stannard 36, 2:11.
Second quarter JM-Landers 18 run (kick failed), :21.
Fourth quarter JM-Landers 23 run (Stannard kick), 13:51. T-M.Lee 16 pass from Schaefer (pass failed), 11:35. A-13,661.
First downs 24 14
Rushes-yards 28-0 48-260
Passing 349 71
Comp-Att-Int 40-60-0 7-12-0
Return Yards 8 0
Punts-Avg. 7-38.4 8-42.4
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-40 13-88
Time of Possession 33:37 26:23 Rushing-Towson, N.Williams 7-25, McClaude 9-25, Team 1-(minus 1), Schaefer 11-(minus 49). James Madison, Landers 27-150, Yancey 15-99, Bolton 4-9, Baker 1-2, Dudzik 1-0. Passing-Towson, Schaefer 40-59-0-349, N.Williams 0-1-0-0. James Madison, Landers 7-12-0-71. Receiving-Towson, Harrison 11-95, Perry 6-75, M.Lee 6-51, N.Williams 6-14, Arnold 5-42, Cegles 4-62, Godlasky 2-10. James Madison, Caussin 2-31, B.Williams 2-10, Yancey 1-21, McCarter 1-9, Baker 1-0.