Dec 17 / Todd

Dukes Destroy South Dakota St., Return to Frisco!

Someone’s starting to look a lot like a certain other heroic RB!

So it was a big, bad Missouri Valley team. And the Dukes were banged up. And they were underdogs in the desert by kickoff. And they turned an insane FIVE first quarter turnovers into just seven points.

And none of that meant a darned thing to the boys in purple! Needless to say, we are beyond thrilled that this team stepped up in an enormous way, with a big assist from a raucous Bridgeforth December crowd, and silenced all the doubters. Wait, what’s that you say? The defending champs riding a 26-game winning streak, including a true road game at the team they face next, are an early 3 point dog? Haha, well we’ve got 19 more days to worry about all that. Today we’re here to celebrate Saturday’s surreal performance with the good, bad, and ugly.

The Good

10 – That’s right, there are two digits in the number of turnovers JMU caused on Saturday. When the Dukes scored only one TD off the five in the first quarter, we were nervous that would haunt them. Little did we know they were just getting warmed up! This number is obviously the thing that made this game surreal, but it was a HUGE credit to Bob Trott’s game plan.

Outpost Buttons – TeeDee the Squirrel making a tiny cameo on this week’s button was outstanding and for those that collect them, seems sure to make this one a favorite.

Next Man Up – No doubt I’m going to go on way too long talking about these guys on the pod tonight, but Bryce Maginley,  Justin Bethea, and Landon Word were absolutely outstanding filling in for numerous injured Dukes. Filling in for Curtis Oliver, the fifth-year senior Bethea held up beautifully in one-on-one coverage all night, including a great play on SDSU’s all-everything Tight End when the game was still competitive. Kyre Hawkins was shaken up for a while in this game and Word didn’t miss a beat. That’s another transfer getting comfortable. And oh by the way, Maginley made arguably the biggest play of the night with that massive hit that caused the fumble that set off the avalanche of turnovers and set the tone for what JMU was willing to give physically to win this ballgame. Also, his pops is also going to be a fixture of “cool” at Dukes games for the next few years!

Pass Rush – In case you forgot JMU has some athletes that, when turned loose in the game plan by Bob Trott’s masterful scheming, can wreck havoc. We’ve seen the Dukes consistently play their base defense without a lot of blitzing most of this year. But they clearly decided to show SDSU QB Taryn Christion he wasn’t the only one with quicks. Carter, Ankrah, Urquhart, Robinson were fantastic and it was fairly clear early in the game that Christion was shook that he was getting run down from behind by linemen and linebackers. Brown, Moreland, and Robinson all got their own chances so the Jacks never knew where the rush was coming from. Yes, rushing so many opened lanes for the running game and an occassional slant pass, but as fans this was so so so much fun to watch the Dukes attack all night.

Raven Greene – If you’re gonna break the all-time JMU record with your 14th career interception, might as well do it in style! Raven’s interception return for a long TD was the icing on the second half BFS party.

Riley – The Dukes would love to get John Miller back in three weeks, but with Alls and Eldridge cranking it up lately, this offense is starting to hum the last two weeks. And oh yeah, almost overnight Riley Stapleton has gone from in/out of the lineup to a near-unstoppable force of 6’5″ FCS beast!

Jimmy ‘effin Moreland – There are many reason Jimmy is one of our all-time favorite Dukes players, and all of those reasons were on display this week. Get a PI call? No worries, just make a one-handed pick 40 yards downfield next. Get beat inside for a TD? Again, just forget it and put it behind you like all the great DB’s, then go back out there pick off two more, get a half a sack, and spend most of the night in one-on-one press man coverage against the 1st team All American WR. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jimmy was probably the player most responsible for crushing the souls of the Bunnies this week when the realized JMU’s #2 corner was better than anybody on their team.

Marcus Marshall – Not sayin’, but just sayin’, these last two weeks sure did look a hell of a lot like playoff Khalid didn’t they? And his biggest play of the night wasn’t even on offense, but rather the huge 40 yard kickoff return after SDSU had closed to 14-10 right before the half. That return set the stage for the biggest score of the night as the Dukes marched right down (thanks Riley) and punched in another TD in less than a minute.

JMU’s in-stadium media/music person – Whoever you are, that stroke of brilliance at the start of the fourth quarter was breaking out the old Alabama classic “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas” (you gotta have a fiddle in the band) was next level stuff!

Students! – Again, that was incredible work by the students on attendance and involvement.

The Bad

Injuries – When you only have 63 scholarships and you play 15 games two years in row, there’s simply no way to get through unscathed. But JMU has a lot of question marks we’ll all be following over the next two plus weeks.

The Ugly

Frisco ticket crunch – It just sucks. No way around it. When the Frisco Stadium is smaller than Bridgeforth and you’re matching up with an equally great fanbase like NDSU, there’s just gonna be a lot of disappointed and/or priced out fans. Yes, we wish against wishing there was some way they could move this game to SMU or the Cotton Bowl or hell, sell out the lower bowl of Jerry-World, but the NCAA cabal, as usual, doesn’t give one single shit about FCS or fans or anything else except making the most money with the least effort ever. It’s already a joke that the stadium is hot garbage compared to either BFS or the FargoDome. It’ll be awesome that it’s sold out and will be as intense as any FCS/1-AA title game has ever been, but it sucks for fans.


Dec 16 / Rob

Gameday: JMU vs. SDSU

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been up for hours and are ready to go already. But it’s still a few more hours until JMU and SDSU kickoff in Bridgeforth. A date with North Dakota State in Frisco for the whole enchilada is on the line. If you’re in the ‘burgs, stay warm and root like crazy. If you’re anywhere else, do the same. Now it’s time to Lock the Damn Gates!

Go Dukes!

Keep Rootin!

Dec 14 / Rob

JMUSB 2017 Playoff Preview #3: JMU vs. South Dakota State

The JMU Dukes are in the FCS semi-finals for the second year in a row. This year, instead of going on the road to Fargo, the Dukes will play host to the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University. The winner moves on to Frisco to play for the National Championship. We’re pretty sure you don’t need us to tell you how big this one is. Let’s get to it.

The Basics

Match-up: #1 JMU Dukes 13-0  vs. #5 South Dakota State Jackrabbits 11-2
Kick-off: 4:30 PM on Saturday, December 16 in Bridgeforth Stadium
Weather: Highs in the 40s during the day and dropping into the 20s
Broadcast: ESPNU or streaming via ESPN3

How We Got Here

The Dukes had a win for the ages over Weber State. If you don’t know about that come from behind victory, we assume you ended up here accidentally and will be hitting the back button before you get this far. So we don’t need to rehash the game great detail. Let’s just say it was one of the most exciting JMU games we’ve ever seen. In it, the defense was lights out for the first half, made two costly mistakes to let Weber take the lead, and then returned to its dominant self for one of our personal favorite three and outs in recent history. The offense was solid most of the night, despite struggling in the red zone. Then with the game on the line, they were unstoppable. And Ratke. He made a decent kick. read more…

Dec 14 / jmusport

Guest Post: Darts & Pats

Isaiah won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here’s an awesome edition of Darts & Pats, JMU football style.

As a JMU alumnus and former player I follow the team and JMUSB very closely during the season. Every week I throw out a prediction not thinking I’d win, so now that I actually have to write something I’ll just wing it. Also most of you are probably reading this at work, so it will be short enough that you remember the cover sheet on your TPS report.

In spirit of the “Darts and Pats” section of the Breeze I hope you enjoy this.

A “chill bro” dart to Weber State’s head coach, Jay Hill, for trying to ice Ethan Ratke before the game winning field goal… He should have known the Redshirt Freshman already had ice in his veins.

A “shooters shoot” pat to the entire JMU football team for keeping your composure to score 11 points in the last 3 minutes to win… unlike me I thought my heart was going to explode

A “Lock The Damn Gates!” pat to JMU Athletics on securing Mike Houston with a huge contract extension. JMU loves winning and isn’t afraid to open up the checkbook. I wouldn’t completely agree with Curt Dudley and his comparison to the Yankees since they basically buy championships… But we know it will be a great return on investment especially when you consider the upcoming recruiting class.

An “enjoy it while it last” dart to the SDSU players grinning during last week’s postgame presser. JMU and UNH might be in the same conference, but we have proven to be a different breed.

A “that’s ironic” pat to Daktronics for supplying Bridgeforth Stadium with the huge video display and awesome graphics. For those who don’t know Daktronics is a tech company based out of Brookings, SD just like SDSU. I didn’t know this either until a friend mentioned it to me (thanks Gumby)… Regardless it’s going to look great skinning the jackrabbits alive for 60 minutes Saturday.

Last but not least a “thanks for holding the door” pat to JMU Residence Services for keeping the residence halls open until Sunday for students with game tickets. This game is for a trip to Frisco, so the stadium needs to be rocking for all 4 quarters. The game is on a national broadcast, so we can showcase the best team and fans in the nation.

With all that being said I really enjoy reading this blog every week and respect the work that goes into it. I placed my t-shirt order for the current JMUSB campaign and look forward to wearing it in Frisco… I already booked my Airbnb – Go Dukes!

Beer of the Week: When I was a student at JMU I stuck to the motto “if it’s wet I’ll drink it”, but I’m no longer a savage… I live in Austin, TX now, so I recommend a local favorite Live Oak HefeWeizen… for those elsewhere around the country grab a Sam Adam’s Winter Lager.

Dec 13 / Todd

Head Coach Mike Houston Signs 10-Year Deal

Christmas came early! Or you might say, on its first night, Hanukkah showed us it ain’t playin’ in 2017! Because JMU’s newly beloved Head Ball Coach Mike Houston signed a 10-year extension that “keeps” him at JMU through 2027. You’ve probably read the news story already or you can read it here but just a few thoughts.

  • Yes, a bigger school can still buy him out. But it’s pretty clear when Houston said JMU was the best “non-P5” job in America, he wasn’t kidding. With this move, he took all but the cream of the G5 crop out of the mix. In other words, he ain’t going to Texas State or Louisiana-Lafeyette or ODU. And yes, 5 or 10 years of success and bonuses at JMU probably work out financially in Houston’s favor compared to 3 years and a pink slip at UTEP.
  • If he gets bought out Tressel-from-YSU-to-tOSU style by a Power 5 program, that will clearly be based on his sustained success, which means we’ll all be very happy Dukes by that time and say thank you!
  • Needless to say, with National Signing Day a week away, this should be a huge boost in recruiting immediately by taking all the Bobby Wilder/Scottie Montgomery/Rich Huesman/Danny Rocco horsecrap talking points about “Houston’s outta there” way way way off the table.
  • 10 years is an enormous commitment from both sides and JMU’s vision is to be applauded. First and foremost AD Jeff Bourne, but even Charlie Kind and Jon Alger. This type of thing is way out of the norm for JMU’s traditional operations and credit where due to the leadership team for thinking creatively about how to keep a great asset to the university. On a governance and execution note, it also should not go without saying that doing something so unusual (for any Virginia public school) probably required some serious backchannel (and maybe even closed session) work with the Board of Visitors. That alone is a heavy lift and solid work. But the fact that all of those conversations had to have been taking place over some period of time and then the announcement came basically out of the ether is a credit to the process as well.
  • Don’t yell at us, but seriously, 10 years also allows for a couple tough years along the way, like say when JMU is transitioning to FBS. Just sayin’.
  • Finally, here’s Houston’s quote: “James Madison is a special place. Amanda, our boys and I want to be here and consider this home,” Houston said. “JMU approached me in in the second half of the regular season to discuss an extended contract. During negotiations, there was significant interest from multiple FBS programs. Throughout the process, JMU was proactive in wanting to make a long-term commitment while ensuring that our staff could remain intact. I’ve turned down opportunities at the FBS level, and I did it because I believe in James Madison University.  I believe in the leadership of Jeff Bourne, Senior Vice President Charlie King and President Jonathan Alger. I believe in their vision for our university and our athletics programs.  I also believe in our student-athletes, everyone in athletics who supports us and the passionate fan base that cheers for us. I am committed to ensuring that the JMU football program is one that is a reflection of our outstanding institution.  I’m committed to staying here because JMU is different.” We’d heard from some Valley friends that are friends with the Houstons that in their opinion he and his family were legit about loving the area, and with a quote like that, we’re just going to take the man at face value, something that is just so refreshing in a cynical, skeptical college sports landscape.

Now let’s all get ready to ROOT on Saturday!

Dec 13 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. South Dakota State

It’s the FCS semi-finals. The Dukes against the Jackrabbits. Y’all know how this works by now. Leave a comment below with your prediction for Saturday’s game. The person who comes closest to nailing it, gets to write a guest post. Easy as pie. Let’s go.

Dec 12 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Curt Dudley and a Win for the Ages

With all the excitement over the weekend, we go a little long on this week’s podcast. We don’t think you’ll mind though. The great Curt Dudley joins us to talk about all things JMU-media related, then we take a look back at one of the greatest wins in recent JMU football history, before looking ahead to the semi-final matchup with South Dakota State. Finally, we close things out with a little sports bucket list discussion.

Thanks again to our podcast sponsor Pale Fire Brewing. Drop in for a beer next time you’re in the ‘burg.

Subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via Bumpers or iTunes.

Dec 9 / Rob

JMU Beats Weber State in a Classic

Wow. Really, just wow. It’s been a few hours now and I still have no idea what just happened. The Dukes defeated Weber State 31-28 in an contest that was almost too good to be true. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but I swear JMU was dead and buried before scoring a TD and 2-pointer to tie, and closing things out with a career long 46 yard field goal at the gun to win. That can’t be though. Can it?

Yes. It really happened. And before we do anything else, let’s pause and appreciate the sheer amazingness of what we witnessed. I mean, deep thoughts and elegant prose aren’t what you expect from JMUSB, but we’re at a complete loss here. That game was simply too good to even attempt to put it into words. Let’s just all agree that we witnessed a classic. A gift that keeps on giving. I swear if you ask me about that game 25 years from now, it’s going to put a smile on my face. I don’t think I’m alone.

Here’s the Good, Bad, and Ugly from the miracle victory. read more…

Dec 7 / Todd

JMUSB 2017 Playoff Preview #2: Weber St. @ JMU

The Basics

Weber St. Wildcats (11-2, 7-1 Big Sky) at JMU (12-0, 8-0 CAA), 7:00 p.m. Friday at Bridgeforth Stadium

Coverage: ESPN2. Dukes get the national spotlight as the only football game on that night!

Weather: 32 degrees, overcast, light wind (basically perfect Valley December football and whiskey weather!). Rob says bring a stadium blanket or a seat cushion for the bleachers. I say no need for a big coat if you layer enough under a purple hoodie, have a neckwarmer or scarf, hat, gloves, hand warmers, and whiskey.

Weber St. FAQ’s

WSU is bigger than you think with over 26,000 students. It’s also a public despite originally being founded by the LDS Church (it was later transferred to the state of Utah). It’s located in the beautiful Wasatch mountains. Hotelier J. Willard Marriott, Trailblazers star Damian Lillard, and the bassist from Panic! at the Disco appear to be it’s most famous attendees. It was named “Weber” after the county in which it resides with the county itself being named after some old fur trader. Overall, the timing of WSU’s growth from Normal School to University in many ways mirrors that of JMU.

How Weber St. Can Win

By sticking to their gameplay.  Honestly, this is the first team all year that we can say if they are better able to execute their own gameplan the Dukes, JMU could be in trouble. One of the most important things for Weber is to control the clock and the pace of play. They are time-of-possession monsters and if they can keep from turning it over and keep JMU’s offense off the field, things could get dicey. As we’ve seen all year, the Dukes offense will eventually- given enough chances- find their way to a scoring drive or three. But if they only get 5-7 chances all night, that bodes well for the Wildcats. They need to put QB Stefan Cantwell on schedule and in a position to use his savvy playmaking ability to succeed.

Weber St.’s game defensively is very similar to JMU’s. They have talented depth in the secondary so they’re willing to let those guys play and commit to stopping the run. If they can a) stop the run and b) actually hold up against Alls, Stapleton, and co. on the back end, JMU will have to get creative.

Lastly, Weber is strong on special teams and they need to keep that up. There coach is off the Urban Meyer coaching tree and takes this element of the game as seriously as JMU. Both teams, but especially Weber on the road, need to avoid any big mistakes in the kicking and return game.

How JMU Can Win

This uni combo is back. Hopefully the replicate the UNH performance and this is the last week with black in the combo!

Executing the gameplan and winning the turnover battle. Do those two, and avoid any crazy fluke plays, and the talent and home-field advantage should win out. That said, “executing the gameplan” on offense HAS to involve finding some semblance of a running game. Even if it’s Schor and some end-arounds, they’ve got to find a way to not get in 3rd and longs and force everything onto Schor and the downfield passing game against this team. With Weber’s talented secondary and JMU’s struggles rushing, it also might help to find Kloosterman and Cheatham in some matchups with linebackers over the middle.

Defensively, JMU needs to just do what it does, with a particular emphasis this week on avoiding letting any huge plays (think Maine, UD) break. Keeping Cantwell in the pocket will be big too.

High hopes for Amos and Ratke to step up this week and for O’Kelly to just keep it rolling mate!

Beer of the Week

We’re going with a little something special this week. Pod listeners know one of us had the good fortune to have a great time in Nashville, Tennessee over Thanksgiving weekend. And the beer highlight was definitely getting the chance to visit Bearded Iris brewing over in the Germantown neighborhood. This is a true hidden gem of American beers right now – basically the Veil or Aslin of Nashville for our Virginia hopheads. And this week’s selection is a silky glass of 8.2% goodness, the “Attention Please! DDH w Vic Secret & Mosaic.” Yup that whole thing is the name but don’t bother trying to figure it out, just enjoy a ridiculously tasty Double IPA if you ever get the chance.

Whiskey of the Week

But of course this is also a December Friday night in the Valley. Temps will be below freezing throughout the game which calls for a special addition. In this case, it’s a Monkey Shoulder night. Ahh, who are we kidding, it’ll be Dickel in the flask. As always, as much as we joke, don’t be an @sshat and don’t overdo it (at all) if you’re driving after the game.

Official JMUSB Prediction

We’re rolling with Vegas this week. The smart guys say an O/U of 38.5 and Dukes by 10 and a hook. That equates to about 24-14. We’re thinking with the cold weather and what’s on the line, this might be a tad high. We’ve got 23-13 Duuuuuuuukes!

Dec 7 / jmusport

Guest Post: Weber is a State?

Hart won last week’s prediction contest. Here’s a fun little piece to get y’all fired up a bit before Friday’s game. 

Somehow I won last week’s prediction contest and now I’ve been tasked with writing a guest post as is tradition with the JMU Sports Blog.  It is my first time winning despite several years of predictions and I sense that I might be on a Redneck roll.  I’m tempted to start playing lottery scratch off tickets so I can win $100 and buy two 12-packs and a tank of gas with it.  Then I could be caller number five on a radio station and win a 4 day/3 night beach vacation.  Maybe not.  I’ll just chalk it up to being lucky.

Well, there is only one thing to write about this week and that would be the FCS playoff game against Weber State.  If you are anything like me, you didn’t know jack squat about Weber State until they became the next team in between the Dukes and another FCS title.  My first thought was to contact their administration and inform them that Weber is not a state and suggest that the name get corrected if they want to be taken seriously as an institution of higher learning.  Since I didn’t know anything about Weber State I’ve put in 72 solid hours of research to find out a bunch of facts that mean very little to anyone except the diehards in JMU nation.

  1. Weber State has an All-American TE by the name of Andrew Vollert.  At 6’5” he reminds me of JMU’s Mike Caussin who excelled as a receiving TE in a lanky body.   Vollert leads Weber State with 56 catches and had 62 last year.  This guy has me worried a little bit because LB’s are too slow to cover him and CB’s will be tied up with WR coverage on the outside.  JMU safeties Greene and Brown will need to have senior savvy games discerning between run support and play action passing to the TE.  Even with good coverage they may struggle to defend passes with his significant height advantage.  Check out his highlight videos.  He is legit.
  2. read more…