James Madison Tops Eagles in 2015 Season Opener
James Madison quarterback Vad Lee threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for more than 100 as the 12th-ranked Dukes topped the Morehead State Eagles 56-7 Saturday night in both squad's season opener at Bridgeforth Stadium.
MSU junior slot receiver Jake Raymond was the bright spot for the Eagle offense, amassing 130 yards on 11 catches. That was only 10 shy of his career high for yardage, and he notched 152 all-purpose yards.
"We had a lot of fight in us, and I thought we played very hard," Head Coach Rob Tenyer said. "We had a few poor plays at the end of the first quarter and gave up a late score in the second quarter or else it very well could have been 14-14 at the half. I felt we were moving the ball well and then just kind of sputtered sometimes. We have to be better on third downs."
Khalid Abdullah, one of three Dukes to garner more than 100 yards on the ground, finished with 102 and three scores on 20 carries. Cardon Johnson led the way with 123 yards on 14 attempts, and Lee rushed for 105. The hosts finished with a school-record 713 total yards.
"I mentioned to JMU's media folks that Lee probably threw the ball better than we thought he would," Tenyer said. "He can be a real weapon for them."
Junior quarterback Austin Gahafer concluded 18-of-31 for 173 yards. He also scored the Eagles' touchdown on a one-yard scamper in the second quarter. MSU, which has ranked in the Pioneer League's top two in fewest sacks allowed the last two seasons, only surrendered one tonight.
Junior linebackers Ryan Bennett (11 tackles) and Matthew Brewer (10) led the defense. Senior cornerback Justin Grier picked off a Lee pass in the end zone in the first half, and the defense totaled eight stops behind the line of scrimmage. Junior punter Pat DiSalvio averaged 40 yards on eight punts.
"Our defense played so hard tonight," Tenyer said. "We may have just gotten a little worn out, but they did a good job."
The Dukes led 14-0 after a period and moved ahead 21-0 before MSU got on the scoreboard. Gahafer finished a nine-play, 61-yard drive by going untouched off right tackle across the goal line.
Morehead State returns to Virginia next weekend to face VMI at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
"For me, it's all about how we can get better heading into next weekend. We did play a lot of people tonight, and I think overall we have more depth than we have in the past. We have about 70 players in our program now with game experience. I expect us to score a lot of points on offense this year, and our defense will continue to get better. I like our team, we have more speed and more toughness this year."