HARRISONBURG, Va. - No. 15 James Madison used a mix of run and pass and several key touchdown returns for a 38-14 home win over Central Connecticut State in the season opener for both teams, Aug. 31. JMU moved to 14-1 in home openers under head coach Mickey Matthews with the victory.
Redshirt-senior running back Dae'Quan Scott posted his 13th career 100-yard rushing game with 15 carries for 120 yards. He moved up to seventh on JMU's all-time rushing list with 2,412 yards. He had nearly 200 all-purpose yards, adding 63 return yards and one reception for 14 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong was 10-for-18 for 115 yards and one touchdown while running nine times for 55 yards, a pair of scores and a two-point conversion. Senior linebacker Stephon Robertson and redshirt-freshman linebacker Gage Steel led the defensive effort with 12 tackles each.
CCSU quarterback Andrew Clements was 10-for-24 for 127 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while running back Rob Hollomon was held to jsut 66 yards on 27 carries.
Birdsong scored the first two touchdowns for the Dukes on the season via the ground. The first was a 1-yard plunge that was set up by a 35-yard strike to Arlandis Harvey that put JMU at the CCSU 5. The second was a mix of pass and rush, with Birdsong scrambling in from six yards out to go up 13-0 late in the first quarter.
CCSU got on the board late in the first half with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that took up 5:36 on the clock. Quarterback Andrew Clements connected with Darnell Jones from 14 yards out and the margin was trimmed to 13-7 with 3:03 to play in the half.
Once the Blue Devils cut into the deficit, JMU turned the tide quickly with 25 unanswered points over a stretch of seven minutes of game time, a span of the last minute of the first half and the first six minutes of the second half.
JMU responded to the CCSU score on the ensuing kickoff, as DeAndre' Smith returned the ball 42 yards to the Central Connecticut 45. From there, JMU dominated with the quick rushing game to get in striking distance before Birdsong connected with tight end Dean Cheatham on a wide-open 3-yard touchdown. Birdsong then tacked on the two-point conversion on a run and Madison led 21-7 at the intermission.
After JMU's defense forced a three-and-out on CCSU's first second-half drive, the special teams struck pay dirt, as Scott posted his first career punt return touchdown with a 54-yard scamper, putting the Dukes up 28-7. It was the 15th JMU punt return touchdown in stadium history.
Turnovers then became the late key for JMU as junior safety Dean Marlowe intercepted a Clements' pass and returned it to the CCSU 3. However, the Blue Devils held and Cameron Starke connected on an 18-yard field goal to push the margin to 31-7 with 9:56 to go in the third. The final points on the board for the home squad came courtesy of redshirt-freshman cornerback Taylor Reynolds as he took his first career interception 51 yards to the end zone and the lead was up to 38-7.
The Blue Devils did put together one final score, as Nick Sangiacomo hit Tyrell Holmes with a 5-yard touchdown pass with just over five minutes remaining in the game for the final margin.
Madison heads on the road next week to take on the Mid-American Conference's Akron Zips. Kickoff at InfoCision Stadium is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.