WILLIAMSBURG – Sometimes it takes the extraordinary to preserve the ordinary.
James Madison’s 38-10 win over William & Mary was no different than any of the recent meetings between the two rivals.
With the victory the Dukes have won four straight in the series and the last three by at least 28 points. But maybe Saturday’s contest isn’t a blowout if JMU safety D’Angelo Amos doesn’t track down Tribe speedster Bronson Yoder during the opening quarter.
“Plays like that separate a championship defense from any other defense,” Amos said afterward.
Yoder, one of the top kick-return men in the Colonial Athletic Association, took a snap at quarterback, faked a handoff and appeared bound for the gold-filled end zone at Zable Stadium. He had no Dukes defenders in front of him, and for someone with a 93-yard kickoff return for a score and a 98-yard kickoff return for a score already to his name this season, that much space normally means six.
Amos, one of the top punt returners in the FCS, had other ideas, though.
“That’s just constantly Coach [Curt] Cignetti, [defensive coordinator Corey] Hetherman, teaching us to always give 100 percent effort,” Amos said. “And if we can go get him, then to go get him and never give up.”
Amos finally brought Yoder the ground at the JMU 4-yard line, turning what could’ve been a 77-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead for the Tribe into a 73-yard gain and an extra chance for the safety and his Dukes teammates to prevent a William & Mary touchdown.
William & Mary couldn’t get the ball past the goal line on any of its three tries from inside the 5 and had to settle for a field goal thanks to tackles from JMU defensive tackle Mike Greene, linebacker Dimitri Holloway and another from Amos.
“I was like ‘Oh boy,’” Cignetti said as he chuckled and realized the significance of Amos’ hustle.
A touchdown for the Tribe would’ve also meant taking advantage of the interception JMU threw on the opposite end of the field a few plays earlier.
“We had thrown an interception the series before,” Cignetti said. “And it turned out to be a super, great play [by Amos] because we held ‘em and held ‘em to three points. That guy [Yoder] is pretty fast, but our man Amos is a little faster than people think.”
And that was just the start of a productive afternoon for Amos, who finished with five tackles, an interception and a pass breakup to go along with five punt returns for 125 yards. His 49-yard punt return in the first quarter setup JMU’s go-ahead touchdown that the Dukes wouldn’t look back from.
The 125 punt-return yards are the most he’s had in a game this season and the most he’s had in any game since his 183 punt-return yards against Villanova last year.
“It just builds confidence,” Amos, who uncharacteristically fumbled a few punt-return opportunities earlier this season, said. “So it’s definitely a much-needed game for our punt-return unit as a whole and it does give me a little bit more motivation and confidence going into the rest of the season.”