The Dukes dropped a heartbreaker to the Delaware Blue Hens yesterday, falling 30-23 in overtime. It’s been over 24 hours and I’m still at a loss for words. Or at least I’m at a loss for words or thoughts that make any sense at all. Maybe I’m still in shock. The fact is that JMU lost to what appears to be a middle of the CAA pack Delaware team at home. Vad Lee and the Dukes showed some real toughness to rally twice to tie late in the fourth quarter to force overtime. They had to rally because they basically sleepwalked through the first three and half quarters. And then they had to rally again, because after they tied it at 16-16, the defense surrendered an 86 yard TD pass three plays later. This 86 yard TD pass is not be confused with the 75 yard TD pass Delaware had on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Did I mention that I might still be in shock?
On paper, this was a game that JMU should have clearly won. Save a couple boneheaded penalties, dumb mistakes, missed extra points, dropped TD passes, completely blown defensive assignments and missed tackles on long TDs, backward punts, and questionable playcalling, they probably would have won. Or maybe I just typed a list of things losing teams do over the course of a football game. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from JMU’s loss. read more…
It’s a beautiful day for a beautiful game. JMU and Delaware kick off at 4:00 in Bridgeforth Stadium. If you’re unable to make it back to the ‘burg, you can tune in via Comcast Sportsnet or catch the stream on Madizone. Consider this your open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. Enjoy the game everyone and Go Dukes!
The JMU Dukes welcome their old pals the Delaware Blue Hens to Harrisonburg this weekend. It’s the Blue Hens first trip to Bridge forth since its been expanded. And it’s a crucial game for both teams. After dropping a tough one to Villanova last Saturday a win would get the Dukes back to .500 in CAA play. Delaware has yet to play a league game thus far, but would obviously love to start off CAA play on the right foot.
Match-up: unranked JMU Dukes (2-2, 0-1 CAA) vs #25 Delaware Blue Hens (2-1, 0-0 CAA)
Kick-off: 4:00 PM Saturday, September 27 in Bridgeforth Stadium
Weather: Sunny with a high of 77
How They Got Here
You know the story for the Dukes. They suffered a blowout loss to an FBS program, came from behind to defeat a Patriot League team on the road, overcame a slow start to win against an NEC program, and then let one get away against Nova. Delaware also got crushed by an FBS foe, falling 62-0 to Pitt, cruised past a lesser FCS program in Delaware State, and then came back to defeat Colgate, a Patriot League team. In short, both teams have had similar starts to the 2014 season. I suppose we could attempt to argue that JMU looked better in its crushing defeat at the hands of an FBS opponent, but that would be like, well, attempting to argue that JMU looked better in its crushing defeat at the hands of an FBS opponent. When you get to that point, it’s really just best to let it go. read more…
The Dukes dropped a tough one last Saturday. A tough one against preseason CAA favorite Villanova. On the road. And as a result, the percentage of fans who expect JMU to make the playoffs fell to a season low 51%. Maybe that’s an accurate assessment. Or maybe it’s just early in the season and we’re all a bit reactionary. In any case, the Dukes get back at it this weekend with a big game against our old friends the Delaware Blue Hens. Win on Saturday, and the Dukes will still be on track for the playoffs. Lose and the margin for error slips considerably though.
Chase Kiddy won our prediction contest last week. He decided to write about the athletic department cuts brought about by Title IX. Give it a read and then give him a follow on twitter at @ckiddysports.
Some introductions are in order. My name is Chase Kiddy (yes, that really is my legal name), and I’m a recent JMU grad still living in the metropolis that is Harrisonburg, Virginia. Like Todd (ed. note: only covered one game), I come from the long and distinguished line of Breeze writers that opted for moderate Internet fame over a life of newspaper reporting. I had a stint as the Sports Editor with the Breeze, where I wrote a pretty popular column that some of you might have seen links to across social media (probably this one, where I snarkily wonder aloud where the keg-parties were on Saturdays that were causing so many students to leave the games). I was a National Columnist of the Year finalist in 2012, which is something I’m particularly proud of, since I started writing sports commentary for publication in… well, 2012.
Often at the same time, even on the same days that I was working on JMU’s biweekly newspaper, I also worked for the Athletic Department as a Sports Communication practicum student. Which, as you might imagine, was a little awkward at times. I’m looking at you, A.J. Davis.
I enjoyed the experience though. The whole point of JMU’s surprisingly little-known Sports Comm. program is to expose students to the whole range of Athletics Communication, which means learning about journalism, broadcasting, crisis communication, and more — regardless of what your intended career niche is. And for me, being able to look behind the curtain on both sides of the aisle was a particularly positive experience.
One of the more interesting tidbits I picked up while in Sports Comm was when we were looking at the Title IX cuts that took place back in 2006. Plenty of you are old enough to have already been alumni and watched the slimming down take place eight years ago, but for the younger audience: JMU, realizing it was wildly out of compliance with the Federal Equality “Title 9” Act, elected to cut 10 varsity sports, seven of which (swimming, cross country, indoor and outdoor track, gymnastics, wrestling and archery) were men’s sports. There’s a very well-done article from the New York Times which I highly recommend for further reading. read more…
JMU and Delaware have played some big games over the years and we’re all set for a crucial one this Saturday. The Dukes are looking to bounce back after a tough loss to Nova and prove that they’re ready to compete for a playoff spot. We’re actually pretty confident heading into this one. But we want to know what you think. Leave a comment letting us know which team you think will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to predicting it correctly (winner & score) will get to write a guest post.
JMU fell to Villanova 49-31 on Saturday. Predictably, the Chicken Littles in our fanbase went nuts. While I tend to join those folks on #CAA4lyfe issues, I’m unquestionably going the other way this time and choosing to see some silver linings in this Dukes performance. Rob and I were both traveling different spots this weekend (tip of the cap to The BierGarden in Asheville for giving up a prime tv for two JMU fans amidst of see of Georgia and Georgia Tech partisans) and as you know we’re old, and there just isn’t enough time to go through this one with our usual “thoroughness.” Check out the DNR’s fantastic Matt Jones here for that. Yes there was bad (defensive meltdown, gashed for huge plays on the ground, penalties, a forced INT late, and one of the worst missed Pass Interference calls you’ll ever see that proved to be the turning point in the game), but we’re just covering the good today (I’m sure 04 and company will cover all the bad in the comments if you care to wait a few hours)
Bottom line on this one is that the Dukes played their asses off, made some great plays, but eventually ran out of gas, showed their inexperience, and ultimately lost going away to a better team, indeed the one team in the CAA that is likely in true contender status already. JMU was a 20.5 point underdog by kickoff and it just about turned out that way, but this was truly a game that was more competitive than the final score. You can freak out about the meltdown from the mid-3rd on, but we choose to take some enjoyment and hope out of the fact the Dukes even managed to get out to a 24-14 lead in the third quarter at all.
Progress. That’s what we want to see each week and we’re starting to see it. Honestly, if you penciled this in as a W before the season, then good for you, but this was JMU’s toughest remaining game (as further evidenced by Towson struggling with NC Central and Charlotte and Elon engaging each other in an offensively challenged rockfight) and the Dukes absolutely competed. They gave up two long, long running plays to Villanova, but for the most part actually looked more stout at the line of scrimmage against the run and did a decent job of limiting Nova’s biggest weapon, QB John Robertson (oh yeah, in case you didn’t notice, he’s pretty darned good).
The offense IS ready and DOES have potential. 31 points is 31 points. Against a top five team. Yes, the defense set them up a bit in the first half, but three passing TD’s in the second quarter alone was exactly the type of explosiveness we’ve all dreamed of for years. And about those three Villanova turnovers that some fans called “lucky” for JMU in the first half. The muffed punt was lucky. The Dukes took those other two including that fabulous play by Stallings. Once the Dukes lost him and were without a healthy Steele, you could really see the dropoff in our defense, but hopefully those guys are both on their way back soon (glad to see no hesitation from the Dukes trainers about Stallings status after he so clearly suffered a head injury; and man was he ballin’ before that!).
But we’re betting if you gave Nova coach Andy Talley some truth serum, he’d tell you he was awful nervous about the Dukes potential after seeing Lee, Hyman, and company play like no Dukes team we’ve seen in a while in that first half. The way JMU had the ability to really trade punches for a while was something we take only encouragement from about moving forward with the season. Finally, one quick note about the season and next week. If you remember from our season preview, we said getting out of the first five weeks at 3-2 was both a challenge (with MD and Nova on the schedule as likely L’s and close games likely with Lehigh and UD) and crucial to the season. Well, the Dukes have one to go in that stretch as old rival the Blue Chickens come to BFS this weekend and there’s every reason to think they can still do it. Huge game this week and we all need to put this one behind us and focus on the rootin’ at hand!