J. Madison picks off Towson

2 interception returns for TDs spark 41-point rout in season finale

James Madison 55 Towson 14

college football


HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Towson and James Madison entered yesterday's season finale with identical overall records and were fighting for second place in the Atlantic 10 South, However, the two schools came into it with entirely different perspectives. Towson came from nowhere to become a contender while James Madison took a step back after last season's Division I-AA national championship season.

But yesterday the Dukes, hoping for an at-large bid, showed that they weren't ready to relinquish their crown. James Madison took control with six touchdowns in the first half and never trailed on its way to a 55-14 win over the Tigers before 11,635 at Bridgeforth Stadium.

"We sure didn't want to end it this way," Towson coach Gordy Combs said. "I think after the Thanksgiving holidays we'll have an opportunity to reflect on what type of season we had and I think we had an excellent season."

Freshman Sean Schaefer has led Towson (6-5, 3-5 A-10) all year, turning in the school's best performance at quarterback since Joe Lee's record-breaking 1999 season. But yesterday he made two critical errors that helped James Madison (7-4, 5-3) put the game out of reach early.

Schaefer threw two interceptions in the first half - both of which were returned for touchdowns - that were part of a 45-point first-half burst for the Dukes that enabled JMU to take a 38-point halftime lead.

After forcing a Towson punt, the Dukes took over at their 41 and a 12-play drive - highlighted by a fourth-down conversion in Towson territory, capped by Maurice Fenner's 3-yard touchdown run - put the Dukes on the board with 7:38 left in the first quarter.

At that point, James Madison began to roll. The Dukes needed just two plays on their next possession to go up 14-0 off Fenner's 45-yard touchdown run.

Within seconds they were on the board again when Clint Kent took Schaefer's pass 34 yards the other way for a score and a 21-0 lead with 2:31 left in the first quarter before Tony LeZotte intercepted a pass from Schaefer at the goal line and returned it for a 100-yard touchdown to put James Madison up 28-0 early in the second.

"It's tough to overcome those things especially the one that was 100 yards," Combs said of the two turnovers. "We're down knocking on the door and LeZotte makes a great play. That's why, if he's not the defensive player of the year, he's got to be first team [all conference]."

The Tigers' first scoring drive came when they were already trailing 28-0 midway through the second quarter. Schaefer connected with Marcus Lee for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 8:56 to go in the half.

Towson scored again late in the third quarter when Schaefer hit Andrae Brown on fourth-and-goal to make it 52-14 with 3:27 left in the third quarter for its final score of the day.

Despite dropping its final two games, Towson still had plenty of positive takeaways from this season, including Schaefer's 2,772 yards and 20 touchdowns, which were the best since Lee's 4,168 yards and 22 touchdowns six years ago.

"I feel like we've had a real turnaround," Schaefer said. "The team is starting to move up and hopefully we'll just keep getting better and better each year."

Towson 0 7 7 0-14

James Madison 21 24 7 3-55

First quarter JMU-Fenner 3 run (Wantuck kick), 7:38. JMU-Fenner 45 run (Wantuck kick), 4:02. JMU-Kent 34 interception return (Wantuck kick), 2:31.

Second quarter JMU-LeZotte 100 interception return (Wantuck kick), 11:40. Tow-Lee 19 pass from Schaefer (Halbruner kick), 8:56. JMU-Harris 5 pass from Rascati (Wantuck kick), 3:54. JMU-Hines 13 run (Wantuck kick), 1:11. JMU-FG Wantuck 21, :09.

Third quarter JMU-Hines 1 run (Wantuck kick), 10:38. Tow-A.Brown 1 pass from Schaefer (Halbruner kick), 3:27.

Fourth quarter JMU-FG Wantuck 31, 11:05. A-11,635.


First downs 13 23

Rushes-yards 32-89 48-294

Passing 176 96

Comp-Att-Int 16-32-3 12-17-0

Return Yards 0 175

Punts-Avg. 3-31.7 1-43.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0

Penalties-Yards 6-55 3-26

Time of Possession 28:47 31:13 Rushing-Towson, Schaefer 12-43, N.Williams 11-36, Corle 3-7, McClaude 4-5, Goldbeck 1-1, D.Harrison 1-(minus 3). James Madison, Fenner 16-95, Hines 14-67, Rascati 8-65, Banks Jr. 6-54, Landers 3-13, Boxley 1-0. Passing-Towson, Schaefer 16-28-3-176, Goldbeck 0-4-0-0. James Madison, Rascati 11-15-0-91, Landers 1-1-0-5, Team 0-1-0-0. Receiving-Towson, A.Brown 6-59, Lee 4-57, Corle 2-9, Yancey 1-39, Byroads 1-4, Ro.Brown 1-4, N.Williams 1-4. James Madison, Bransford 2-30, Boxley 2-26, Harris 2-16, Hines 2-8, Manley 1-7, Lawrence 1-5, Hinds 1-2, Banks Jr. 1-2.

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