LEXINGTON, VA., SEPT. 15 -- Joe Purzycki was forced to watch from the press box here yesterday, which may have been close enough for the James Madison coach as he saw his Dukes get bushwhacked, 24-21, by Virginia Military Institute at Alumni Memorial Stadium.

With Purzycki suffering from extreme dizziness caused by an inner-ear infection, VMI scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to topple James Madison for the first time since 1985 before a homecoming crowd of 7,850.

The winning points came with 2:38 left on Wade Hawkins's 31-yard field goal that topped off the Keydets' second consecutive 80-yard drive of the last half.

Erasing a 14-0 halftime deficit, VMI (2-1) ran 95 total plays to JMU's 56, had a 24-10 advantage in first downs and capitalized on four second-half JMU turnovers.

"We didn't give the offense an opportunity to get back out on the field, because of their long drives," said defensive coordinator Jim Pletcher, JMU's acting coach for the day.

VMI, celebrating its 100th year of football, was led by sophomore quarterback Tony Scales's 135 yards rushing. He guided the Keydets' wishbone on a 15-play march at the start of the second half to cut James Madison's lead to 14-7, the first points by the Keydets against the Dukes since 1987.

JMU (0-2) countered quickly on an 80-yard run by quarterback Eriq Williams for a 21-7 edge with 2:41 left in the third. Williams, also a sophomore, led the Dukes with 126 yards on the ground, but completed just six of 20 passes for 122 yards out of the Dukes' new multi-bone attack.

VMI drew to within 21-14 on a six-yard halfback-option play from Eric Walker to Al Carter early in the final quarter. It was the first scoring pass for the run-oriented Keydets in 14 games.

"Maybe the defense got a little tired on the field," said JMU junior Shane Henson, a part-time outside linebacker from Germantown, Md. "I thought we were playing well as a defense, but . . . man, it just bothers my mind."

Taking advantage of JMU's ineffectiveness on offense, the Keydets fashioned a 16-play venture, culminating with Carter's three-yard run to tie the game at 21 with 4:29 remaining.

JMU, which blew a late lead against Liberty last week, facilitated Hawkins's game-winning field goal when Williams fumbled at his team's 20.

"Our running game was nonexistent," said JMU fullback Willie Lanier. "Their main objective was to take away the fullback game. You take away the fullback game and you take away the running game."

Following a scoreless opening quarter, the Dukes reached the end zone on Lanier's one-yard plunge with 14:56 left in the half.