Oct. 10, 2009

Courtesy of Richmond

HARRISONBURG, Va. - Junior FB Ben Keating scored his third touchdown of the day to put No. 1 Richmond up midway through the fourth quarter and senior NT Martin Parker forced a turnover on James Madison's final possession to seal the Spiders' 21-17 victory over the 13th-ranked Dukes Saturday in Harrisonburg, Va.

The win extended the FCS's longest overall winning streak to 14, the longest road winning streak in Division I football to nine games and improved the reigning National Champions to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in CAA Football.  The road team has been victorious in each of the last six meetings between the conference rivals - the last three games in the series have been decided by a total of 12 points.

James Madison (2-3, 0-2) scored on consecutive possessions late in the first half to seize its first lead of the day at 17-14. It's a lead the homestanding Dukes held until Keating's six-yard TD reception put the Spiders back up with 7:20 left, silencing the sellout crowd of 16,098 at Bridgeforth Stadium.

But thanks to a 22-yard return by Lee Reynolds, James Madison was set up for a potential game-winning TD drive at the 37. Griff Yancey, Jamal Sullivan and Justin Thorpe methodically moved the Dukes downfield with running plays as the clock ticked away.  The only pass on the drive was an 18-yard completion from Thorpe to Julius Graves putting the ball at the seven with less than a minute remaining.

Thorpe took a QB draw on the next play, made a move inside and Parker stripped the ball from his right hand.  Junior LB and Preseason CAA Football Defensive Player of the Year Eric McBride pounced on the loose ball to seal the victory.

Senior QB Eric Ward finished the game 16-for-26 passing for 165 yards and a TD, while senior RB Justin Forte had 94 yards on 18 carries.  Junior WR Kevin Grayson reeled in three catches for a game-high 78 yards, moving to fourth on the Spiders' all-time receiving list (2,068 yards).

Senior LB Colin McConaghy set a career-high with 14 tackles (2.0 TFL), while McBride was in on 11.  McBride and senior DE Nicholas Battle each recorded sacks, while junior DB Justin Rogers and senior DB Seth Williams each had interceptions.

The Spiders forced three turnovers, while playing turnover-free on offense.

In much similar fashion, Richmond sealed its 17-16 win at James Madison in 2007 when former safety Stephen Howell intercepted a Rodney Landers pass' on the Dukes' final possession.

Richmond wasted little time drawing first blood, marching down the field with an efficient five-play drive that ended with a Keating one-yard TD run.  Ward opened the game by completing a 43-yard strike to Grayson on the first play from scrimmage.  That score marked the first time this season that Richmond cashed in points on its first offensive possession in a game.

The Spiders widened the lead to as much as 14-3 with one minute left in the first quarter when Keating scored again from one-yard out, but it was all Dukes before the half.  JMU seized control with back-to-back touchdowns and took a 17-14 advantage into the break.

Backup QB Drew Dudzik, who later left the game with an injury, connected with Rockeed McCarter on a dazzling 38-yard score as McCarter leaped and got a foot down in the corner of the end zone.  Then, with the Spiders using back-up punter Brett Weigand after an injury to senior Brian Radford, Richmond had a punt blocked by JMU's D.J. Bryant and Corwin Acker scooped up the loose ball and returned it 15 yards for a score with 2:24 remaining.

Thorpe finished seven-of-15 passing for 87 yards and threw both interceptions and Yancey was the Dukes's leading ground-gainer with 16 carries for 74 yards.  Dudzik was three-of-six passing for 68 yards.  The Dukes held a 281-264 edge in total offense, but the Spiders owned the time of possession (31:12-28:48) for the fifth time in as many games this season.

The Spiders return to action next Saturday, staying on the road with a noon kickoff at Maine.  The game can be seen live on Comcast SportsNet.