Since there are really only so many ways to keep saying the same things about men’s hoops right now (injuries, a suspension, youth, horrendous shooting but just need to stay patient) and we haven’t heard anything on the coaching search in football yet, we’re thrilled to share a really bright piece of JMU athletics alumni news. Former Dukes soccer standout C.J. Sapong (@BigAfrika88 and a good follow) and his side, SportingKansasCity, won the MLS Cup yesterday. You can read all about the epic, ten-round penalty shootout to decide the title after the 1-1 draw here but we’re of course gonna focus on Sapong. He was the MLS Rookie of the Year two years back but had been up and down late last season and early this season. But Sapong scored a huge goal in SKC’s Eastern Conference clinching match last week and then converted his PK in the shootout and played strong throughout the match yesterday. Huge congrats to another proud Duke!
This is a young team and it’s a rebuilding year. Sorry, I just had to see it in writing to remind myself. The Dukes took a trip to Texas and lost a pair of games to Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State. I don’t know much about either school, but I tend to think of them as Texas’ own little version of a Michigan directional school. That may or may not be an apt comparison. Regardless, each team did what it had to in order to defeat the Dukes. read more…
It seems to me that if you’ve been paying attention to JMU football over the last few years, you had an understanding that Coach Matthews’ job was less than secure. Some of that insecurity is due to expectations built up over a successful run from 1999-2013 or at least the appearance of one. Matthews compiled a .606 winning %, appeared in the playoffs 6 times, and won one national championship. However, his tenure was not great across the board: There were 7 years that were marked by a record of .500 or worse in conference play. Was it reasonable to expect anything different over the last few years? (Note: 2010 and 2013 were years in which JMU was less than .500 in conference play). An argument could be made that while frustrating in any particular year, Matthews gave us exactly what was reasonable to expect given his career at JMU- moments of greatness while moments of futility. Just two short years ago, JMU got to the second round of the playoffs. This was only the third time this happened in Matthews’ tenure. In fact Matthews’ greatest run was from 2004 to 2008 which went championship, missed playoffs, first round loss, first round loss, semi-finals loss. This run was bookended on one side by 4 consecutive years without a playoff appearance and on the other side by two years without a playoff appearance. It isn’t rational to expect any different than what we know already from Matthews and what we know is that his tenure was marked by highs and lows. Does this mean Matthews should have been retained? I don’t think so but the reality is that our expectations should have been in line with Matthews’ track record read more…
Travel & Leisure published its list of America’s Best College Towns and Harrisonburg was judged to be one of the best. Because of course it was. The Friendly City officially ranked 5th on the list. As alums, we don’t need anyone to tell us that Harrisonburg is a great college town. While we could go on and on about the many things that make it so, Travel & Leisure gave the ‘burg high marks due to the high quality of its biking and beer. Can’t argue with that.
Harrisonburg was one of five Virginia towns on the list. This of course proves what I’ve always said, that the Commonwealth is the most college-towniest state in the Union. Or something like that.
Finishing in the top five is definitely an accomplishment though. Presumably Harrisonburg would have secured an even higher spot, had it scored better on the “degree to which it smells like dog food after even moderate precipitation” portion of the rankings. Regardless, it’s nice to see our favorite college town get the recognition it deserves.
JMU hoops is struggling at putting the ball in the basket. Yes, it’s a rebuilding year and yes, the Dukes are missing Semenov and Nation. They’ve lost four straight though and currently shooting 21.6% from three point range. That’s good for 350th best in the country. Out of 351 teams (LOL Miami). They shot 30% from the field and went 0-16 from behind the arc in Saturday’s loss to Richmond.
Kenny Brooks and the ladies saw their dreams for a perfect season come to an end with a loss to Mississippi State. They then dropped another one to Wright State courtesy of a three pointer at the buzzer. (Mental note: see if girl from Wright State can be the three point threat the guys need in Semenov’s absence.)
The Marching Royal Dukes and Dukettes made all of JMU proud with their performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Plenty of coverage here, here, and here (with video). JMU was even trending on Twitter.
Curt Newsome isn’t taking any chances now that his boss, Mickey Matthews has been let go. He reached out to Emory & Henry to express his interest in the school’s head coaching position.
Jeff Bourne explains it pretty clearly. Mickey Matthews was let go because JMU expected more wins. He also plays the cards close to his vest regarding the FBS elephant in the room.
Matt Brady offered a scholarship to a 6’8″ scorer who’s mom is a Duke. Bring it home for your alma mater mom.
And finally, there was some sad news. JMU alum, member of the 2004 National Championship team, and World’s Strongest Man competitor Mike Jenkins passed away in his sleep last week. R.I.P. Mike.
For the second time in as many years, Stephon Robertson has been selected as the CAA Defensive Player of the Year. It’s just the latest in a series of well deserved CAA honors for the redshirt-senior linebacker. Robertson ends his career with 3 All CAA First Team selections, one All CAA Third Team and a CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year award. And he’s one of the leading candidates for the Buck Buchanan Award, an honor given to the top defensive player in the FCS. And he’s one of my personal favorite players to ever put on the purple and gold. He doesn’t get an actual physical award for that last one, but I’m sure it’s something he’ll treasure always nonetheless.
Robertson started every single one of the 46 games the Dukes have played since 2010. He had 445 career tackles, more than any other active FCS player and the fourth most in JMU history. And his break out performance came in only his second career game. A game in which he had 13 tackles and one forced fumble. A game JMU won 21-16 over Virginia Tech. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Defensive lineman Jordan Stanton joined Robertson on the All CAA First Team defense and Dae’Quan Scott was selected on offense. Offensive lineman Josh Wells, safety Dean Marlowe, and defensive lineman Tyler Snow all made the second team. Marlowe was also recognized as a punt returner, earning a third team selection along with redshirt freshmen linebacker Gage Steele. And Stephon himself has hinted that Gage has the potential to be every bit as good as he was. It’d be a real treat if he was right.
This morning Athletic Director Jeff Bourne announced that Head Football Coach Mickey Matthews would not be retained by JMU and a “national search for a replacement” would begin “immediately.” While the staunchest old-boys club MM defenders may quibble about the tone of the announcement given all that Mickey has meant to JMU, we were stunningly impressed by the decisiveness and direction of this move from JMU’s administration.
First, a reminder: The decade and a half with Mickey have brought JMU football to its highest peaks ever. A National Championship, six playoff appearances, BFS, 21-16, and pretty much everything from ’08 (Landers, Scottie at UR, hail mary at ‘Nova). We’ve recruited better, been a conference and national player, and raised expectations to a level that ultimately, and correctly in our opinion, cost Mickey his job. It should be stated without equivocation that whatever happens from here on out, with apologies to McMillan, MM is the godfather of this program and we’ll be absolutely looking forward to that day five or ten years from now when JMU brings him back for induction into the JMU Hall of Fame and unveils a visor-throwing statute of the man.
Second, another reminder: A man lost his job today, his son may have lost his job today, and it’s entirely possible that most of the staff may have lost their jobs today. When any town has a few dozen people, including extended friends and family, put out of work, it’s not exactly time to rejoice. But when it happens in a small college town like Harrisonburg, even the most cynical and rabble-rousing of bloggers need to keep in mind this isn’t completely a Hallelujah moment.
But…we can’t stress enough how impressed we were by the apparent gameplan and execution that seemed to go down on this from the administration. With Bourne off chairing the FCS playoff selection committee this weekend we never thought we hear this quickly. And best of all, given JMU’s penny-pinching history, we really weren’t sure we’d see this go down with MM having one year at $231k left on his deal. This signals a big change at the highest levels. Rose wouldn’t have signed off on this, Alger clearly did, and that’s very exciting! Also, if you’re into tea leaves, this of course looks more like the move of a school in need of fresh energy that’s about to make a big move as opposed to a school continuing to monitor and maintaining the status quo. Same with the fact that Carr Sports Consulting, of the FBS report fame, will be assisting with the search for a new OBC. Gotta think they cast a wider net and are able to pass along info (like conference plans) more privately than JMU can on their own.
The only thing we’ll say about the conference situation today is that we confess we were overreacting, ok I was overreacting, to Bourne’s comments that “at this time, we’re looking for an FCS coach” and that “this is the best job in FCS.” Those comments came long after the “we expect to be involved in ‘post-season play’” instead of of ‘playoffs’ and after we’d seen JMU carry out a flawless and no-wasted-time plan they clearly had made contingencies for in advance. Overall, as much as we’ll miss the MM era, today couldn’t have been executed more perfectly from an overall JMU perspective. After all, it’s seriously hard to believe that 48 hours after that Towson game and 8 days after missing the playoffs again that we’re completely excited again about JMU Football?! That’s gotta be a good sign.
Look, we don’t know anything, and other than maybe the Daily-News Record’s intrepid beat writer @MatthewStoss, we’re not sure anyone else does either. But we do know a few things. First, generally we’d MUCH, MUCH rather have a hungry, possibly younger, FBS coordinator type than ANY of the more local, obvious JMU targets, most of whom are retreads. In most cases, we don’t want these guys because they have already proven incapable of adapting to the modern innovative game, much like the man we just let go. For example, beginning with names we least want to hear about that have already been mentioned and moving down, we don’t want to ever mention the following names on here again: Stinespring (ask any VT fan about that offense), London (proven twice he can only win with other players while proving nothing else), Lazor (nice guy been on lots of incompetent staffs in college and pros), and Ambrose (Towson coach, good coach, seems to be a huge asshole that players don’t like). e
On the other hand, Stoss’ confirmation of interest from University of Arizona Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith, a Franklin, West Virginia native make us happy. Same with current Oakland Raiders QB coach and former Duke Jon DeFillipo, though we’re not sure his resume is quite polished enough.
In general, even if we can’t quite “dream big” on what conference the Dukes may end up in, there’s no reason not to do so on the coaching search. Yes, budget is always an issue, but more than anything we just don’t want something that sounds like it’s just Bourne and “folks he knows” in the discussions or just an old, regional name of note. For that reason, we love the news from Stoss that Carr Sports Consulting is assisting with the search and hope it truly will take a look at LOTS of factors with a progressive viewpoint.
JMU lost to Towson 28-17 yesterday. It was the final game of a disappointing 2013 season for JMU. The Dukes finished 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the CAA. If you’re a glass half-full sort of person, you could rationalize the loss by saying that it came down to just a few plays. That’s pretty much true of every football game ever (except UNC-ODU, because ouch). The Tigers made the plays when they had to. The Dukes did not. And that’s your season in a nutshell. Over and over again, JMU made mistakes instead of big plays. Thus, they’ll be sitting at home watching the playoffs instead of playing in them. Again. read more…
Here we are. It’s the final football game of the 2013 season for the JMU Dukes. We can look back on the highs and lows some other time. For now, let’s focus on beating Towson and keep rootin. The game will be televised from coast to coast on NBC Sports Network. Consider this your open thread for all of the pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. And if you want to throw in some hoops talk while the Dukes take on Valpo, that’s alright too. Enjoy the games today folks and root fer Dukes!
Well, this is the end of a rather short, frustrating season from JMU football. There may be big changes on the horizon this offseason in the conference and coaching departments, but given JMU’s past actions, it’s probably equally possible we’ll see the administration continue monitoring and Coach Matthews back on the sidelines next year. But before we fully turn our attention to exciting hoops seasons on the men’s and women’s sides, we at least get one more chance to Root fer Dukes as JMU travels to (very likely) playoff-bound Towson riding a long winning streak over the Tigers.
These aren’t your daddy’s Towson Tigers. But oddly, there also not the juggernaut from last year either (that the Dukes somehow managed to defeat 13-10 with a last-second comeback spearheaded by Justin Thorpe – man that feels like it was ages ago). That loss to JMU is probably the horrible loss that Towson looks back on as having cost them a playoff berth and we expect they’ll be primed to try and come out with a springboard performance ahead of Selection Sunday. The Tigers still have excellent, do-everything RB Terrance West. But this year he’s fully the focal point of their offense and they’ve struggled at times throwing the ball following the graduation of QB Grant Enders.
On the JMU side, we have absolutely zero idea what to expect. But we truly hope that there’s something better than the garbage we all threw up watching last week. Maybe the boys really have packed it in for the season. But it also seems entirely possible they’ll want to show last week wasn’t them and now that the pressure’s off, maybe they’ll play loose and up to their considerable potential. We’d also like to think in Stephon Robertson and DaeQuan Scott’s last games, among others, their teammates wouldn’t let them go out like that, but seriously there’s just no way to know right now. In addition to the seniors, keep in mind that it’s also not out of the realm of possibility that this could be JMU’s last football game in the short-lived world of CAA Football!
This one is back on the national stage on NBC Sports Network at 3:30 Saturday.
Beer of the Week
This road trip has historically been one of our favorites. Many years this season-ender has been a big hit with our fellow Dukes fanatics as in the past it’s been a game where we’re looking to see the Dukes destroy Towson on our way to the playoffs. We’ve always enjoyed Towson’s VERY hospitable pro-tailgating policy. We’ve frequently brought along some Sierra Celebration this time of year as it’s always seemed fitting. This year, however, that’s just not gonna do it. This game calls for something more appropriate to the dumpster fire this season has become. You’ll need something strong and stout to get you through what could be a long, bittersweet afternoon and we’re going with Highlands’ Thunderstruck Porter. This NC brewery has a number of quality offerings, but nothing will get you through a sad day in sweeter fashion than this rich (think Mocha), smooth porter.
Dukes 31, Tigers 30 – Cam Starke at the gun for old time’s sake. No, it doesn’t make sense, but neither did much else about this season and wouldn’t it be perfect of the boys to pull off the one stunner they’ve never found after the cause is lost.