James Madison defense has look of 'Steele'
(STATS) - Linebacker Gage Steele appeared in midseason form Saturday, collecting 14 tackles to help the Purple squad (defense) beat the White (offense), 58-39, in James Madison's annual spring game at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Steele, a fifth-year senior, impressed new coach Mike Houston with nine solo tackles and a pass breakup.
"I think that's the Gage Steele that some of our fans and alums remember from his freshman year," Houston said. "I think he has the potential to be a dominant defensive player. He was today and really shut down the run game inside the box."
The defense kept the offense off the scoreboard for the final 10 drives. Sophomore cornerback Rashad Robinson added eight tackles and an interception in the end zone, and junior linebacker David Ezeagwu had two of the Purple's seven sacks in the win.
For the White, junior quarterback Bryan Schor was 18 of 27 for 156 yards and redshirt sophomore Hunter Etheridge finished 7 of 13 for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Khalid Abdullah ran for 32 yards and a touchdown, while Quintin Reynolds caught four passes for 66 yards and a score.
"With spring scrimmages," Houston said, "usually when you end those, half your coaching staff is ticked off and half of 'em are really excited, so everybody knows which way that goes this year. As the head coach, I see so many good things coming out of this today. I'm excited about our program moving forward."
James Madison finished 9-3 last season, earning a share of the CAA Football title with Richmond and William & Mary. But the Dukes lost at home in the first round of the FCS playoffs for the second straight year, falling to Colgate.
Houston has replaced Everett Withers, who left to become the head coach at Texas State. Despite having great success in running the triple option offense at The Citadel, Houston has kept the Dukes, who are deep in the skills position, working out of a spread formation. They return seven starters on offense and nine on defense.
The first game of the Houston era is Sept. 1 when James Madison hosts Morehead State.