#5 James Madison Dukes (5-0, 2-0 CAA) at Towson St. Tigers (2-2, and a ghastly 0-1 in CAA), 3:00 p.m. at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland.
Coverage: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and other affiliates around the country found here. Also on a good note, the announcing team will be the usually solid Brent Harris and the B’more homer Qadry Ismail, so if nothing else it should be a HUGE step up from last week’s shitshow.
Why Towson St. Should Scare Us More Than We Realize
They have a strong QB in Connor Frazier and a strong RB in Darius Victor (who may or may not play). That combo was strong enough to make it to #5 on this list from Hero Sports (who’s doing a nice job with FCS coverage), which clearly knows what they’re talking about based on #1! They’ve also got a Head Coach in Rob Ambrose who, while also taking TSU all the way to the title game (on Terrance West’s back mostly) a couple of years ago has also staked the best claim to replacing former Blue Chickens HC KC Keeler as the CAA’s King Douchebag. Finally, Towson St. appears to be a team that is impossible to figure out how good they really are by looking at the start to their season. They had a very respectable 28-20 loss to ECU in Week 1, beat creampuff St. Francis in Week 2, then won a tough one against a Holy Cross team that destroyed Albany (a team JMU let hang around), and then somehow, someway, inexplicably LOST 17-13 TO ELON last week. There is simply no way to make any sense of that morass and we’re just hoping the team that, again, LOST TO ELON last week shows up instead of whatever unit played ECU tough.
Towson and former O-Lineman Gavin Class are also dealing with one of the most confusing, heart wrenching, no-right-answer stories you’ll ever read as the young man fights to play the game again after heat stroke, a coma, and a subsequent liver transplant last year.
What We’re Looking for from the Dukes
Just a few items we’d like to see the Dukes get back to this week. First, on offense we’d like to see Vad get back to distributing more and being a bit more discreet about when he chooses to run the ball. The SMU game proved he can do it and it was vital in that contest, but we’d like to see him save his legs as much as he can the next two weeks before the stretch run. Second, on defense, maybe a little wrapping up and tackling after a soggy second half last week. And not to be forgotten, on specials it’d be nice if the outside guys could keep contain on the edge when covering kicks after some overzealous efforts and getting trapped inside last week against Pebbly Creek.
A Note on Tailgating at TSU
The Tigers have one of
the best, er, the only, tailgate scenes in the CAA outside of the ‘Burg. As you might imagine from a student body and alumni base made up almost exclusively of Preakness infield veterans and the most obnoxious of the “O’s, Strohs, and Natty Bohs” Orioles/Ravens crowd, they are generally and enthusiastically pro-tailgate. They also usually let visiting fans park in the lot right at the entrance to top of the visiting side (Lot 14 if I remember correctly). So load up on the BOTW and join what is usually a large DC contingent of Dukes fans in some Rootin’ for the Dukes’ Death Star this week.
Beer of The Week
Devil’s Backbone Turbo Cougar Blond Bock. I’ll be joining some fellow Dukes at The Festy at Devil’s Backbone’s incredible Basecamp near Wintergreen this weekend (where we’re arranging to have the Dukes game on TV right in the heart of the festival of course!) so DB only seemed natural. Turbo Cougar just sounds incredibly Towson to me, I mean, have you ever been to a weeknight show at the Recher?
Look, this game feels a bit trappish, but we’re starting to truly believe in the Dukes’ Death Star’s ability to just hammer through such things. Towson has shown themselves to be a possibly respectable, but unlikely to be special, unit through the early season. The Dukes look every bit the part of a true contender and this is just another opportunity to show the difference between the two.
Dukes 45, Tigers 20
The Dukes go on the road to face the Towson Tigers this Saturday. That means it’s time for our prediction contest. Most of you probably get it by now, but here’s an explanation for the newbies. Leave a comment with your prediction for Saturday’s game. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Let us know who you think will win this weekend and keep rootin!
The Dukes are rolling. JMU defeated Stony Brook by the score of 38-20 in a rain soaked Bridgeforth Stadium. The win moved JMU to 5-0 (2-0 CAA) for the first time in program history. The Seawolves fell to 2-2 (1-2 CAA). Khalid Abdullah lead the way with 114 yards rushing on just 17 carries. He also scored 2 TDs, to push his season total to an FCS best 8. His backfield mate Cardon Johnson, chipped in 87 yards and a TD, while Vad Lee ran for 91 and a score, in addition to throwing for 225 and a TD. Not a bad effort in the rain. Here are a few quick thoughts on the win.
500 Yards of Offense, Again
The weather was pretty ugly yesterday and at times, so was the play. Yet, JMU still produced 519 yards of total offense and scored 38 points. And it could have been more, had a late Vad Lee touchdown not been called back by a penalty. This was probably the most pedestrian performance of the season by the offense, yet it still averaged over 6 yards a play. It says a lot when as fans, we’re sort of underwhelmed by a 38 point effort. Behind a couple of great runs by Abdullah, the Dukes got out to an early lead. Then they just sort of went into autopilot and played out the string. It was never in doubt.
No Letdown, No Trap Game
Was I the only one worried that all of the hype surrounding this team last week was going to result in a letdown? Thankfully, it did not. In fact, JMU came out and pretty much stepped on Stony Brook’s throat in the first half. The team was intense from the get go and put the game out of reach in the first half. With the weather, ESPN being on campus, and the growing bandwagon, it would be easy to understand if the Dukes came out flat. Credit to all the coaches and players for making sure that didn’t happen.
Gage is Back and Reynolds Never Left
Gage Steele had a monster freshman season playing alongside Dukes all-timer Stephon Robertson. Last year he faced a number of injuries and never seemed to find his stride. He’s back to playing at the level we all expected him to now. Yesterday, he lead the Dukes with 18 tackles.
Taylor Reynolds on the other hand, had a more typical freshman season. After converting to corner, he show glimpses of real talent, but also struggled at times. He elevated his game last year and has been even better this season. Reynolds picked off one pass yesterday and batted down five more. He’s become one of the top cover corners in the CAA.
While the skill position players often get the glory, the interior line play on both sides often are the difference between winning and losing. The Dukes big guys have been carrying the load thus far. Yesterday, the offensive lineman opened up huge holes for Abdullah and Johnson. They also prevented the opposition from getting a single sack for the second week in a row and gave Vad Lee plenty of time to link up with his receivers.
On the other side of the ball, the Dukes defensive line had 3 sacks and helped hold the Seawolves to a modest 2.5 yards per rush. After a relatively slow start to the season, the line is now consistently pressuring QBs. And they’re doing it without Simeyon Robinson. Once he returns from suspension, the line should be even better.
It’s family weekend at JMU and Stony Brook is in town to play the Dukes. It’s a classic match-up of a top offense (good guys) against a stout defense (bad guys). A little rain never hurt anyone, so make yourself a Bloody Mary, grab your parents, put on a poncho and get ready to root. If you’re unable to make it to Bridgeforth, the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet and streamed via Madizone. Consider this your official open thread for all of your pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. Go Dukes! Keep Rootin’!
Let’s get this out of the way first. So now it looks like Joaquin was nothing more than a bunch of fear-mongering (and of course a ratings booster) and things will be just regular nasty rather than ark-worthy. Somewhere Jim Cantore’s blueballs must be aching him something awful on this one. In fact, Saturday in the ‘Burg is down to just “Occasional light rain. High 52. Winds NNE 10-20 MPH. Chance of rain 90%.” Bottom line is that Friday’s rain and potential for flooding given the saturation of the last week is the only real issue now. If BFS doesn’t look like this from a few years back by late-night tomorrow, Saturday may turn out to be no worse than a normal November game from a tailgating perspective. Good news for what’s usually a healthy crowd on Family Weekend. Dress warm, bring your raincoat, everything should be fine.
Stony Brook Seawolves (Receiving Votes) at #6 James Madison Dukes, Noon – Bridgeforth Stadium
TV coverage available via Comcast Sports Net (and it looks like MadiZone online too)
Not to Be Taken Lightly
Now that the weather seems unlikely to be a major factor on the field, our hopes are going up for a normal Dukes Death Star performance. But this is absolutely no time to get arrogant. Stony Brook, despite the general lack of name recognition, is a very solid team, possibly the second-toughest opponent left on the schedule. They are fourth in FCS in total defense, and while that’s a little slanted because their opening game against FBS and MAC-favorite Toledo was cancelled due to weather early in the 2nd quarter with them already trailing 16-7, one thing we know for sure is that the Seawolves (not a real animal) actually did do a fantastic job disrupting a lot of what the Dukes do in last year’s matchup on Strong Island. The Dukes trailed most of the day before pulling out a tight 27-24 win (not to mention the Dukes fell 41-38 in the true nail-in-the-coffin game for the Mickey era in ’13). Plus Madison oddly struggled a bit with Stony Brook’s big lumbering QB Conor Bednarski.
One tough thing for the Seawolves will be missing their best offensive player in RB (and one-time JMU commit) Stacey Bedell who is out this week with an injury.
Avoiding a Letdown
Despite their strong previous performances against JMU, coming off a 21-0 beatdown at the hands of William & Mary last week, the biggest concern for the Dukes may be in their own heads instead of anything Stony Brook will do. The Dukes have GOT to avoid resting on all the laurels they received this week after the big win in Dallas last week. Put simply, this game is a big one for setting up the rest of the season. The next two opponents (Towson and Elon) appear to be headed for the CAA cellar this year and if the Dukes can handle their business this week, they should have two more weeks to keep the bandwagon building among lost/apathetic alumni and rise into the top five before the Spatter stomping at Homecoming!
Beer of the Week
Otter Creek Backseat Berner IPA – It’s gonna feel like a cold, nasty New England day, so a fine Vermont beer seems in order. I just love this beer. Stanky (in a good way) with big tropical notes would be a good old-school way to describe this one. And the Vanagon cover art always makes me smile.
Look, we’re nervous about a letdown, but we don’t think Coach Withers is. He seems to have an amazing ability to keep the players focus on what’s in front of them, not what’s already happened. Stony Brook can’t score and the Dukes are lightyears ahead of where they were at this game last year. Also looks like the weather isn’t going to be bad enough to change anyone’s gameplan. Just keep that hammer down Dukes!
Dukes 45, Pebbly Creek 20
One Final Note
The DNR’s Matt Jones, who also blogs on JMU’s Rivals site, has been absolutely killing it the last couple of weeks. If you want more great Dukes content, check it out here.
Last week Jeremy came closest to predicting the winner & score of JMU’s win over SMU. As a result he earned the right to guest post. He’s a current student at JMU and he roots. Enjoy.
Alexa, can the Dukes win it all this year?
The answer didn’t surprise me in the slightest. Yes, we can win it all. This team is firing in almost every aspect of the game. We went down to Big D and brought home the W. The Worldwide Leader is featuring our man Vad this week on Sports Center. We have nationally ranked teams all over our great campus that are competing day-in day-out at such a high level. One thing still bothers this student, attendance.
As a freshman last year, I couldn’t wait until that first home game to see the stands filled with my fellow students. It did happen on home opener, but the shine began to fade rather quickly. My family decided to go all-in for the season. My parents quickly joined the Duke Club, season tickets the whole nine. I often wonder what could bring more students to games, not just football but all sporting events.
I attended so many events my freshman year of 2014-2015, Swimming, diving, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, etc. I have tried to maintain that commitment this year, it’s just frustrating to see so many people show up only to leave early. I’ve thought how could we engage and get more student participation at sporting events. Maybe one idea would be more night games. Who doesn’t love the bright lights of Bridgeforth Stadium with 24,000 strong rootin? More engagement with staff and events with athletes might enhance the awareness of how much the student-athletes appreciate the support from their peers. White Outs / Black Outs / Purple Outs / Merica Outs / Sons Out Guns Out / maybe could see a higher participation. I could clearly hear the proud DUKES in Texas over the weekend while streaming the game, why doesn’t it sound that loud here when we have home field advantage?
More in-state rivalries could help boost attendance as well. I fully understand in-state schools don’t necessarily want to put the Dukes on the schedule. Raffle off one of those un-used luxury suites for student’s use during the season. Anything is possible to make ALL athletic events more attended. I’m proud to be a DUKE, and wish more of my fellow DUKES felt the same.
What about a true student section that could help create an actual home field advantage? How about some temp bleachers right on top of opposing teams where we can be heard and seen? Put the students in one area that we can truly call our own, but before we do that WE MUST SHOW UP IN FORCE.
In closing, I do believe Alexa is right. I see a trip to Frisco, Texas in our future. And I sure plan on being there to support my DUKES!
After leading the Dukes on a late game winning drive against SMU, quarterback Vad Lee was selected as ESPN’s Big Man on Campus. Yesterday Jeannine Edwards and a crew from the worldwide leader spent the day shadowing Lee on campus. The footage was used to create the feature above which ran on this evening’s SportsCenter. And it was pretty damn cool.
Yeehaw! The Dukes went right into the heart of the Texas State Fair and took all of SMU’s newfound momentum under whiz-kid coach Chad Morris and dropped an absolute bomb on the whole dang place in a thrilling 48-45 victory. As much as these FBS games don’t really matter on paper to the Dukes’ playoff chances and ultimate goals, it’s hard not to think this is the signature win of the still-young Everett Withers era. There is so much to be excited about this game that there’s no way to get it all in one post and keep track of anything, but make sure you check out the highlights over at JMU Sports. (seriously, go to that link right now and enjoy every second, especially the end of that video!)
Where to even begin. Well let’s start with the end of that video package linked above where the players are singing the fight song postgame with exactly the same reckless abandon that we’re certain groups of Dukes fans gathered all over the country were. Pretty sure it’s getting misty here at JMUSB HQ.
The Defense! Vad and the Death Star Offense will get all the headlines, and for the most part deservedly so, but the defense really came to play last night. And don’t be fooled by the 45 points SMU put up. They put up 37 on TCU last week and their QB Matt Davis and WR Courtland Sutton are as good a players as the Dukes will see all year. We knew there were gonna be a ton of points in this one, but the defense made some key stops, especially when the momentum had swung to SMU after halftime, and the Defense made huge plays early to get JMU off to its customary fast start. The consistent pressure applied on the quarterback, and the five sacks that resulted, was particularly noticeable after that had been a real concern through the first three weeks. We had hoped that maybe the coaches had been holding something back against overmatched opponents, but the fury unleashed last night was thoroughly unexpected.
DE/LB Andrew Ankrah and DB Jordan Brown! We have to admit, these two redshirt sophomores were not the names we knew when the season started, but they are making plays all over the place. With guys like this developing so quickly, the ceiling for this defense is suddenly looking a whole lot higher this year.
The kicking game. One of the best compliments you can pay a kicking game is that you don’t notice them. And that’s exactly what’s going on with the Dukes. Ryan Maglio quietly knocked through two field goals and it seems the Dukes coaches understand what they have and don’t try to do much in this regard.
Ok, now onto the Death Star. And we’ll just let the numbers speak for themselves. Madison had a school-record 729 yards on 85 plays. Against an FBS team. And remember in our previews when we talked about how we thought Vad had likely been holding something back at the coaches’ behest in terms of his carries? Well, he carried the ball 20 times last night for a stunning school record 276 yards rushing. And when he wasn’t running it, he casually went 20-33 for 279 yards and 3 TD’s passing. When SMU scored to take the lead, the entire group I was watching with looked at each other, then at the clock which read 2:04, and then said, “they left too much time, we got this, Vad has this!” Seriously, that was the moment when I knew we’re on to something special this season. Because it was pure Rodney Landers ’08.
In four games this year, the Dukes yardage totals are 713, 618, 625, and 729. They are averaging over 50 points a game. Now read those two sentences again.
Our final “good” goes to JMU fans everywhere. First, in the stadium they were clearly audible on the broadcast and MUCH louder than the home crowd despite being outnumbered. Also seemed to be a great turnout from the Texas Dukes throughout the weekend’s events. And second, it was so great to see the nascent alumni watch parties that had really ebbed in the last couple of Mickey years seemingly headed back to full steam again last night. On that note, huge thank you to Old Town Draught House for hosting the first-ever NC Triad Dukes watch party. No that’s not a real thing yet, but it felt awful real to our small group and hopefully the Alumni Association will let us know what we have to do to be official. On the official front, great to see friends of JMUSB Sarah and Kara pulling off a solid event down the road in Raleigh too!
That blown lead and the inability to ice the game. We’re putting this in the bad because it’s obvious, but those extra 22 scholarships for SMU also contribute greatly to this so we’ll wait to panic on this till we see it happen again. It’s also important to remember that you live by the offense, you die by the offense. We play fast and we run lots of plays, many of them passing plays. You can’t just flip a switch and turn into a smash mouth group for the last eight minutes. And as fans who screamed about Mickey trying to sit on three-point second quarter leads, we can’t turn around and complain about 50 points a game when it makes things difficult down the stretch. As TCU’s Gary Patterson said after their shootout with Texas Tech, when you play this way, these things are gonna happen (i.e. both teams are going to score early, often, and late). The same goes for the griping about the interceptions. Vad was responsible for 565 yards and four TD’s – you don’t get to complain about the bad parts. It also stands to reason that when you run 85-100 plays every game, some of them aren’t going to go well. The point is most of our FCS competition simply can’t keep up like SMU over an entire game.
Alger’s hat. Really puts a cap on what was quite the week on the Athletics front for JMU’s President.