(STATS) - Perhaps what was best about James Madison's spring game Saturday was the defending FCS national champion Dukes got a good look at the 2017 season and yet realized they will only get better.
The defense scored 22 of the final 24 points to beat the offense 53-39 at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
"I think we take away we still have a lot to gain," starting quarterback Bryan Schor said. "I think we still have a lot of things we can get better at, we saw some things today we know we can get better at. I think going into the late spring (and) into the summer, that's going to be a point of emphasis for us and I think it's going to make us a lot better."
In a scrimmage that lasted 90 plays, the scoring system was based off the results of various situations, including first downs, tackles for loss and turnovers.
The defense forced four turnovers on three interceptions and a fumble. Linebacker Gus Little had six tackles and collected the fumble, while cornerback Jimmy Moreland blocked a field goal attempt and safety Jordan Brown scooped it up for a 69-yard touchdown return.
The offense totaled 398 yards with Schor, the 2016 CAA offensive player of the year, completing 8 of 17 passes for 71 yards and Hunter Etheridge going 7 of 15 for 118 yards and a touchdown. Quintin Reynolds had 62 receiving yards, while Georgia Tech transfer Marcus Marshall carried the ball 12 times for 86 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown.
"We know how to play football now," second-year coach Mike Houston said. "Last year, I thought it was a very passive spring game. Today, I thought you saw a team that is highly competitive. I think you saw a pretty good defensive unit on the field today with our first group out there as well. I think you saw the explosion of Marcus Marshall, you saw improvement defensively, so I think you had good plays from both sides. There's a lot to be excited about."
After the game, the Dukes received their 2016 national championship rings.
In the 2017 season, they will return 12 starters off a team which finished 14-1 overall, 8-0 in CAA Football and as the No. 1 team in the STATS FCS Top 25.