BLACKSBURG – James Madison quarterback Drew Dudzik scored early in the fourth quarter and the Dukes withstood two Virginia Tech fourth-quarter drives deep into their territory to stun the Hokies 21-16 in a non-conference game played on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
The loss marked the Hokies’ first against JMU and it also snapped Tech’s 32-game home winning streak against non-league foes. The Hokies fell to 0-2 on the season, which marks the first time they’ve started a season 0-2 since 1995 – the year they won their remaining games, including the Sugar Bowl against Texas.
“I make no excuses,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “James Madison ran the option well, particularly late in the game. Their quarterback [Dudzik] handled things great for them. Defensively, they are athletic. Then we didn't take advantage of a couple of opportunities.
“That’s about it. They’re a good team and we didn’t take advantage of opportunities.”
Turnovers doomed Tech in this one. The Hokies committed three, including a Tyrod Taylor interception with 2:48 left in the third quarter. That turnover led to an eight-play, 62-yard drive by the Dukes, one that ended with Dudzik scoring on a 12-yard run with 13:45 remaining that gave JMU a 21-16 lead.
Tech embarked on a long drive following the Dukes’ score, driving all the way to the JMU 17. Beamer elected to go for it on fourth-and-2, but Taylor’s pass to Jarrett Boykin in the end zone was a little late and knocked away by Leavander Jones.
“At that point, we were having trouble slowing those guys down,” Beamer said of his decision to go for it. “We had it there. We just need to execute it.”
“I was trying to give Jarrett a chance to get his hands on the ball,” Taylor said. “I thought we had it. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Yet the Hokies held the Dukes on the ensuing possession, giving themselves another opportunity, and again, they embarked on a long drive, going all the way to the JMU 12. But on second down, Darren Evans received a jarring shot from JMU’s Stephon Robertson and fumbled. Jones recovered for the Dukes, thwarting the Tech drive with 5:23 remaining
That marked the Hokies ‘ third turnover of the game. JMU then managed to milk the clock all the way down to 13 seconds, converting on third down twice. The Hokies stopped the Dukes at the JMU 48, and they tried to block the punt of David Skahn. But Davon Morgan just missed and ended up roughing the punter, which gave JMU a first down. The Dukes then ran out the clock.
“I’m disappointed,” Taylor said. “Frustrated. 0-2 is just a bad start. But I believe this team has the talent to bounce back and get back on its feet. I know we have the talent to go out there and play better than we did today. We just have to go out and prove it.”
“We shouldn’t have lost the first game [Boise State] and we shouldn’t have lost this game,” Tech tailback Ryan Williams said. “It goes down to the players and the staff. Everyone is in this. We’ve got to get better as a whole and better as a team and bounce back.”
Williams paced Tech’s rushing attack with 91 yards on 20 carries, and Taylor rushed for 86 yards on 13 carries. The senior from Hampton, Va., completed 10-of-16 for 124 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled once.
Tech’s first score came on a 9-yard scoring strike from Taylor to Boykin with 3:24 left in the first quarter. The Hokies’ other scores came on field goals by Chris Hazley, who booted a 30-yarder and a 41-yarder in the second quarter and a 28-yarder early in the third quarter that gave Tech a 16-7 lead.
JMU finished with 235 yards of offense, though 77 of that came on Dudzik’s touchdown pass to tailback Jamal Sullivan in the second quarter. Sullivan caught out of the backfield and broke several tackles on his way to the end zone.
“We’re a better football team than an 0-2 record,” Beamer said. “But this season certainly is not over. It’s a long season and I expect us to be better. We’ve got some guys hurting right now, but I expect us to come back and be a better football team.
“I’m disappointed and I know our football team is, too. I believe in this team and I believe in what they ‘re all about. I believe in the character of this team. I believe in our ability. We’ve just got to get things squared away here.”
Tech returns to Lane Stadium next Saturday to face East Carolina. Kickoff is slated for 1:30.
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