W&M (5-3, 2-2) held JMU (5-3, 2-2) scoreless in the second half and allowed just 120 total yards in the final 30 minutes.
After a 28-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Brent Caprio to junior wideout Tre McBride gave the Tribe its first lead of the contest late in the third quarter, sophomore safety Jared Velasquez sealed the victory with a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown with 7:33 remaining. It stands as the second-longest interception return in school history.
The win improves W&M’s record to 4-0 at home this season, while it marks the second time in the last five years that the College has defeated JMU on homecoming.
In addition to holding the Dukes to just 298 yards of total offense, the Tribe’s defense recorded 10 tackles for a loss and posted its second pick-six of the season. Junior safety Ivan Tagoe registered a team-high nine tackles with 2.0 tackles for a loss, while junior defensive tackle Jasper Coleman recorded a sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Senior defensive tackle George Beerhalter and sophomore linebacker Luke Rhodes also tallied a sack apiece, while sophomore cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson blocked a field goal that jumpstarted W&M’s go-head touchdown drive.
Senior quarterback Brent Caprio was outstanding in relief of starting signal caller, Michael Graham, who left the contest midway through the third quarter with an injury, as the Somers Point, N.J., native completed 6-of-8 passes for 88 yards with a touchdown. McBride also came up big with a career-high 10 receptions for 84 yards with a score, while junior running back Jarrell Cooper totaled a career-best 88 rushing yards on 28 carries.
After neither team scored in the first quarter, JMU took a 7-0 lead when Dae’Quan Scott caught a screen pass from quarterback Michael Birdsong and took it 40 yards into the end zone early in the second quarter.
W&M narrowed the margin to 7-3 with a 29-yard field goal by John Carpenter with 3:53 left in the second quarter.
Although JMU outgained W&M in the opening half, 187-131, the Tribe held the Dukes to just 32 rushing yards (on 16 carries) and controlled the time of possession, 17:14-12:46.
James Madison looked as if it would extend its lead midway through the third quarter, but Houston-Carson blocked Cameron Starke’s 31-yard field goal attempt and W&M then marched 77 yards on 11 plays for the go-ahead score. In addition to throwing the 28-yard touchdown strike to McBride, Caprio completed 5-of-6 passes for 70 yards on the drive.
Velasquez’s interception return for a touchdown put the game out of reach, as he picked off Birdsong’s pass on a third-and-10 and raced 90 yards down the Tribe’s sideline for a touchdown.
Birdsong finished the game 18-of-34 for 208 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Scott totaled eight catches for 87 yards with a score. Linebacker Stephon Robertson led the Dukes with 15 tackles, 5.0 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
The Tribe will return to action when it hosts No. 20/22 New Hampshire next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. It will be the third consecutive week in which W&M has squared off against a ranked conference opponent.