No. 1 James Madison, Johnson race past ECU
(STATS) – It might seem foolish to think James Madison will be even better than last season’s FCS national championship team.
Running back Cardon Johnson and the top-ranked Dukes didn’t let up Saturday night as they opened the season with a 34-14 wrecking of host East Carolina.
Johnson scored on 85- and 80-yard runs and totaled a career-high 265 yards on just 17 carries. Quarterback Bryan Schor, the 2016 CAA Football offensive player of the year, added two touchdown passes for James Madison, which extended its winning streak to 13 games – longest in Division I – and improved to 6-20 all-time against FBS opponents.
“We’re 1-0 – that’s it, that’s it,” coach Mike Houston told his team afterward. “We ain’t done anything yet, we won one game. But I’ll you what, it was damn sweet.”
The victory was as thorough as the score.
James Madison didn’t trail in the first meeting between the two programs and held a 614-372 advantage in yards as 40,169 looked on.
Schor’s 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Carlton with six seconds left in the third quarter provided breathing room at 21-7. Then after the Dukes stopped an East Carolina drive into their red zone, Johnson put the game away with that 80-yard scoring burst early in the fourth quarter.
But it didn’t stop there as Georgia Tech transfer Marcus Marshall scored on a 70-yard touchdown run to push James Madison’s lead to 34-7 with 2:34 left.
Linebacker Kyre Hawkins and cornerback Jimmy Moreland paced JMU’s defense with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively. Rashad Robinson had two of the team’s three interceptions.
JMU was a slight favorite in the game – a rarity for an FCS team playing an FBS program. While East Carolina was only 3-9 in 2016, the Dukes aren’t the average FCS program, going 15-1 last season and setting their sights on winning back-to-back national titles.
The Dukes posted a 48-45 win at SMU in 2015 in their only other game against an American Athletic Conference opponent.
Next Saturday, JMU will face East Tennessee State in its home opener.