As hard as it it to believe, it’s been almost six years to the day since we started this project. It’s even harder to believe, and unbelievably surprising to us at least, that we’re still doing it. Harder still for our spouses to believe we’re still doing it, and I don’t mean that they’re happy. We haven’t hung in there for money or notoriety (haha). Never expected to. But the most surprising thing isn’t that it’s enhanced our love for JMU Sports – that was there from the beginning and I’m still not sure that alone would’ve been enough all this time – but rather the completely unexpected community we’ve been lucky enough to become a part of just by regularly writing about mid-major (not a value judgment) athletics at our alma mater. And to that amusing, sharp, colorful, oddball group of folks, we just want to say our sincerest thanks on this day (with all due respect of course…). Some of them we still don’t know in person, some of them we’ve met a few times, some of them have become dear friends, and some of whom we’ve known forever, but you’ve all enriched our middle age immeasurably and we’re grateful.
We’re gonna use twitter handles where we can for the pub and not to out anyone that isn’t a pro. And we also thank each and everyone one of you who’s read over the years, including those of you who’ve taken the time to comment and share your opinions.
The JMU Folks
@JTPartlow21 – Probably the first person outside those we knew going in that got what we were trying to do. From wondering who this goofy freshman who talked Briar Woods all the time was to relying on you completely for draft analysis, Dukes-in-the-pros news, and translating “young/cool” into “old head/uncool,” we say thanks.
@JMUswag – What can we say, you’ve been there from the beginning, your infinite interests are the best and we’re glad to call you a friend these days.
@bpmarkowitz – Smart, funny representative of a small but growing group of JMU grads that have jobs that allow them to choose to stay in Rockingham County after graduation. Unheard of in our day, great to see now and bodes well for the future of the fanbase. He’s also just into cool shit.
@Michael_2Clutch – the purest form of Guru when it comes to JMU recruiting news.
Magoo and Tremonkey – you know who you are and we miss you both.
@Dukie95 for the reality checks, the MRD knowledge, and the UD road trip (special thanks to A for putting up with us too)
The Koz’s – never thought we’d know anyone more passionate and earnest about this than we are.
Meredith, Dave, and Liz from the Duke Club – for putting up with us, getting what we’re about, listening, and even (thanks Liz) responding patiently to impatient emails when some other administrator has done something to make us sharpen our pitchforks despite the fact we ain’t big enough fish to warrant such professionalism.
@chadreep – Pep Band Prince – a true-purple Duke.
We I apologize in advance for whatever thing I say again during the April-July timeframe (i.e. realignment season) that makes you put us back on double-secret probation. Very much deserved. Start Wearing Purple remains genius.
Bo and Austin – Old friends that have bled purple with us through all types of JMU sports times.
@CurtDudley – JMU’s admin has absolutely no clue what a brilliant face they have fronting and running their in-house media empire. As good as you’ll find in the biz and we, JMU Nation, are lucky to have him. Perfect balance of toeing the line, promoting the brand, but remaining plugged into the base.
@SteveBuckhantz – from the Boulevard (Rick and Billy) Woodgrill days to now, our only celebrity fan. Thanks for letting us have fun with that JAC card. Dagger!
The Pros – DNR past and present including @MarkRSelig (doing serious work in Missouri these days) and @MatthewStoss (miss the Modcast!) and the new guys @Nsunderland4 and @mattjones36 – all did/do good work when stuck between a fanatical fanbase and a slow-moving, obstinate administration in the small Valley fishbowl.
CAA (and ex-CAA) Traveling Circus (we know
our my CAA hate is annoying but nothin’ but love for y’all)
@GheorghetheBlog, @batogato – Our favorite old school William & Mary duo, you make it hard to hate the Pantless Griffons. And of course @wmsportsblog – our favorite new school William & Mary crew who have fully embraced our low-tech, source-free methods!
@defiantlydutch – all things Hofstra, Mets, Isles, and music made before cd’s were invented.
@jcrooklyn – angry Blue Hen, funny guy
@Kevintresolini – UD’s pro reporter
@VaBeachRep – we really hate ODU, but if you’re into Baltimore crime reports, the Bills, fast food discussion, or frugal personal finance, he’s your man! Plus he’s a just a good dude.
@Harry_MiniumVP – he’s an actual ODU pro, and he probably hates us, but somehow we seem to have worked out a mutual unspoken agreement to consider each other reliable sources over the years, mainly cause he always gets it right on ODU/CUSA/conference realignment stuff and we don’t trash student-athletes.
@FairbankOBX – another semi-retired pro we like
@sdearth – This former Duke knows more about tennis in the state of Virginia than anyone. Ever.
@MasonFanatic – We will throw hot dogs at you and “GMCC” will never die, but you do have staying power!
@NUHF – serious man, real job, but still knows everything about the old-school CAA and the Northeastern Huskies.
@BGMull – Pro’s pro. Used to cover UNCW, knows literally everything about CAA, SoCon, and southern college sports in general, great literary tastes too.
@LadySwish – the ultimate expert on women’s college hoops throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. Also plugged into when teams are doing good work off the court. Another labor of love production we admire.
Coach Antoinette Lucas – our first ever “insider.” Thankfully you’ve become so much more than that. Now quit whining, get outta that mud puddle, and pedal damn it.
@4TWest4 – one of the few five-year players where we’ve seen their entire career. Helped us bridge the gap to the new era and keep us into the program after Coach L got the boot.
@kzarchin – our first Field Hockey intro, way back in our day and now back again
@surfsmurfmama – THE tailgate captain of the most underrated sports-related party for a JMU program.
@HustleBelt – The MAC with a sense of humor and a long-time to supporter/sympathizer of #JMU2FBS
@wzzntzz – You are our Patronus. #badtouch.
@RichPriz and Uncle Ron – Our original supporters, our friends, JMUSB contributors, and our tailgate partners in crime. Here’s to the long haul.
@ZPriceisRight – our Paduan. Too old to complete the training he is.
Shan and Jess – No words. We really do care more about you than this thing even when we don’t show it or we duck out of family events to make 36 hour road trips to Dayton or Chattanooga or just to the ‘Burg for Gameday. Ok, maybe that’s not really showing it at all, but trust us, we care more.
Finally, all the people we just forgot that we shouldn’t have and hopefully all the crazy folks we have yet to meet if the CAA ever ends up in the rearview. And with that, we say Happy Thanksgiving and get ready to ROOT fer Dukes!
CAA Football announced its award winners and All CAA teams today. JMU QB Vad Lee won the Offensive Player of the Year. Fans of other CAA teams (cough, Richmond) might cry foul because Lee missed 3 games due to injury. They might have a point.
With 3 fewer games under his belt, voters were forced to estimate how productive Lee would have been over the final 3 games, and then compare those estimates against the rest of the league’s full season results. Otherwise, they’d be forced to simply go off the fact that Lee only had 1 more yard of total offense than his closest competitor. That’s right, despite missing over a quarter of the season, Lee had more total yards than any other player in the CAA. He averaged 375 yards of total offense per game. That’s 102 more than anyone else. Game set match. Lee was as deserving as any CAA player in recent memory. His injury also leaves us with one particularly painful “what if?” scenario, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Lee was also recognized as first team All CAA. Joining him on the first team was WR Brandon Ravenel and OL Mitch Kirsch. On the defensive side, DL Andrew Ankrah and CB Taylor Reynolds were selected to the All CAA first team. Cardon Johnson, Deane Cheatham, Alex Mosley (ed. note: Saturday’s jumbotron video of Mosley stating that the first time he walked into D-Hall was his favorite JMU memory, immediately became one of my favorite JMU memories from the 2015 season) and Raven Greene earned second team honors. Punter Gunnar Kane earned a third team nod. All in all, a pretty good haul for the Dukes.
The JMU Dukes are going dancing. We all knew JMU had done enough to earn a bid to the 2015 FCS playoffs. We just didn’t know who’d they’d face first. The FCS Playoff selection committee made it official this morning and granted the Dukes the 5th seed. With the seed, the Dukes earned a bye next week and the right to host a home game next week. They’ll face the winner of the match-up between the CAA’s own New Hampshire Wildcats and Colgate from the Patriot League. Here are a few quick thoughts on the bracket. read more…
We’re writing this just before the Selection Show so we’ll have bracket breakdown later, but of course we’ll be on Twitter @JMUsportsblog during the announcements if you want our real-time reactions (or at least us retweeting funnier people than us).
Well really these first two should go in “Great.” First, the Defense and Special Teams with HUGE, game-changing, game-winning, (possibly seed-clinching) plays! Brandon Ravenel ran the opening kickoff back for a TD with some great blocking and his own great vision and speed. Needless to say, when the Dukes spotted the Wildcats the customary first-drive TD right after this, the blow was softened. Then CB Jordan Brown made a great break on a ball to the outside, stayed in bounds after making the interception and returned it for a pick-six. And then to seal the game just when it looked like we might be headed for another last-second nervy finish, the Dukes caused a fumble by the Villanova QB and Taylor Reynolds scooped and scored from distance. Say anything you want about poor tackling, soft schemes, and all the rest, but when you get three scores from your D/ST, you lose the right (at least for a week) to complain about them. And these were “made plays,” not fluky things. And that doesn’t even take into account another great play by Raven Greene with an interception or the beautifully designed and executed surprise onside kick the Dukes recovered. It was also clear on both INT’s that the players understood what the offense was trying to do and baited the QB into the mistake – and that deserves full credit to JMU’s defensive coaches. We’ve been arguing in the stands for weeks that if you’re going to give up huge yardage and points playing a base defense, you might as well take more chances and hope you make enough big plays to balance out the negatives. That worked to perfection on another day the offense looked more than mortal.
The Duke Club – we’ve always wondered whether they love or hate us, and maybe we’re still not sure, but when you’ve been members a long time, you’re bringing 20-25 friends and family (including a dozen future Dukes), and it’s a week with no students, they can help you out! Huge thanks to them for a parking upgrade that allowed a lot of old friends from around the country (NY, TN, NC, etc.) to have a memorable day in the Valley!
The season – Pretty sure most of us had an expectation between 8-3 and 9-2 before the season. Check. An FBS win? Check. Overcoming the loss of one of the nation’s best players? Check. Earning a decent spot in the playoffs? Likely check. And that’s without mentioning the preseason loss of three players on defense, two of whom likely would have been enormous contributors. Coming back from the Lee injury/UR-loss-on-Gameday low to right the ship? Check. So quit whining and get ready to ROOT as hard as you ever have in the tourney.
The Crowd – All things considered – lower stakes, students on break, potential home game next week – the crowd was pretty great. Filled in nicely on Godwin side and in the end zone where we moved today to accommodate the day care we were running as you’ll notice in the above picture. It was a beautiful day and of course the MRD alums helped a bunch, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the solid turnout. Gotta imagine actual ticket sold were really strong to make up for the missing 7k students or so. We’ll appeal to them about playoffs later in the week.
The offense. Schor was just fine with an open playbook vs. UR and W&M. The last two weeks it feels a bit like he’s being protected by a timid scheme. Take the training wheels off and see what happens. As the missed read on a 3rd and goal to Ravenel shows, it might not work, but as the game winner last week and the late throw to Ravenel this week show, the upside is there.
Villanova’s backup QB. Look, Schor and the offense have struggled the last two weeks (although Villanova is legit good on D and we shouldn’t be so quick to jump ship), JMU played a very strong offensive game at fellow co-champ W&M and managed to get the wins they desperately needed to get the season back on track for greatness the last two weeks because they had a capable and prepared backup. Villanova lost Robertson earlier so that makes it harder, but they just didn’t have the backup they needed that could have hit a few open receivers downfield yesterday and other games along the way to turn it all the way around. We should be thankful.
Tackling. The scheme actually seemed to put Dukes defenders in position to make plays yesterday, but when they got there, ugggghhhhh.
It’s a heck of a day for a college football game. Hopefully we’ll see many of you in the ‘burg. The rest of you can tune in via Madizone and root from the couch. Enjoy the game wherever you are. Consider this your official open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. Go Dukes! Beat Nova! Keep Rootin!
The Dukes close out the 2015 regular season on Saturday with a home game against their old friends the Villanova Wildcats. Prior to the season beginning, most fans thought this one would likely decide the CAA crown and maybe even clinch the Payton Award for one of the QBs. But life sometimes throws you curveballs. Star QBs Vad Lee and John Robertson both went down with injuries, but this game still has playoff implications. A win and some help could give the Dukes a seed, while a win and some breaks could help Nova snag a bid. It might not be the game of the year, but it’s still a big one.
Match-up: #12 JMU Dukes (8-2, 5-2 CAA) vs. Villanova Wildcats (6-4, 5-2 CAA)
Kickoff: 12:00 PM at Bridgeforth Stadium
Weather: High of 51 and mostly sunny
Broadcast: Streaming via Madizone
Tell Me About Villanova
Surely, you all know who the Villanova Wildcats are. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll immediately recognize them as the scrappy little basketball team that rode the play of a cocaine fueled point guard to one of the most stunning and improbably NCAA titles ever. Of course if you’re a little younger, you probably know Villanova as an immensely talented hoops program that consistently plays great basketball year and year out from November right up until the first weekend of the NCAA tourney. The school also has a football team. A very good one in fact, having won a national title of its own. The students seem to prefer supporting the hoops program, but that’s their loss. Nova is well coached and dangerous program year in and year out. Despite the fact that reigning Payton Award winning QB John Robertson went down with a season ending injury, this year is no different. Nova is a dangerous team.
With ten games in the books, we all know what JMU is. The Dukes are a team built to play fast and outscore their opponents. Nova is not. The Wildcats are pretty much the opposite. They beat teams by playing shut down defense and grinding it out on the ground on offense. Nova is only giving up 16.4 points per game. Lately, that defense first formula has been very successful. After struggling to find their footing without Robertson, Nova has heated up and won 4 of its last 5. Last weekend, the Wildcats managed to knock off Richmond in a 21-20 thriller.
Late Breaking News That Sucks But Actually Might Be a Factor Nonetheless
Injuries suck. They just do. They’re part of the game of football though. As JMU fans, we were bummed when Vad Lee went down. But we were also pretty disappointed when Nova’s John Robertson got hurt. Players on both teams stepped up and helped carry the load after the loss of the star QBs though. One such player for Nova, was Matt Gudzak. The running back shined in a win over Rhode Island and has averaged 7 yards a carry. Unfortunately, he was hurt in last week’s game against Richmond and has been declared out for Saturday. The loss will put more on the shoulders of QB Zach Bednarczyk. He’s certainly up to the task, but like Bryan Schor, he would probably be more effective with a strong running game behind him.
How Nova Can Win
By doing what Delaware did last week, but doing it just a little bit better. JMU’s offense was downright mortal last week. Much of that might have been due to the fact that the Blue Hens pass rush was able to get to Bryan Schor. They had him on his heels and managed to disrupt the offense’s rhythm. Nova will also try to win by rattling Schor and forcing mistakes. The Cats D doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, but it’s particularly good against the pass. So expect them to try to shut down Cardon Johnson and Khalid Abdullah, and force Schor to try to beat them with his arm.
How JMU Can Win
By going back to basics. Without Vad Lee, maybe we shouldn’t expect the Dukes’ offense to reach its record breaking levels (although it might). As we saw against William & Mary however, the Bryan Schor lead offense can still be pretty damn explosive. The key is getting into a rhythm, playing fast, and spreading the ball around. We’ve all seen how it’s supposed to work. JMU keeps its opponents guessing by utilizing its many weapons, ups the pace, and the D eventually cracks. It’s simple, but not easy. It’s how the Dukes offense was made to play though. The Dukes don’t need to revamp the offense or dumb it down to make it easier for Schor. They’ve got to put him in a position where he can mix things up and get the ball to his teammates who can make plays.
JMUSB Beer of the Week
Duckpin Pale Ale. I tried this brew from Union Craft Brewing for the fist time a few weeks ago and it struck me as a perfect tailgate beer. It comes in cans (key for pre-football imbibing) and is an almost session beer like 5.5% ABV. As Todd mentioned last week, we’ve been a bit biased toward IPAs in our weekly selections (go try Stone’s Sorry Not Sorry IPA btw), but it’s not all we like. Sometimes a slightly less hoppy beer with a crisp finish hits the spot. Duckpin Pale Ale definitely does.
Senior Day. Regular season home finale. Beautiful fall weather. It’s all set up to be a perfect day. Provided JMU gets the win of course. We think the Dukes come through. Schor builds on last week’s confidence building final drive, the defense takes another baby step forward, and JMU gets to 9 wins. Dukes 35 – Cats 24.
Huge thanks to Brian Ewart from SB Nation’s VUHoops.com for running it back another year with us on this Q&A. Tons of good stuff in here explaining this week’s matchup from the other side. We also did the same for them and you can check that out here. We always enjoy interacting with Villanova because their media coverage is so strong based on their hoops program, but they really do have a few football fans too. Enjoy!
It’s time for our last prediction contest of the regular season. JMU and Villanova face off this Saturday in Bridgeforth Stadium. When it was announced, many people thought this game would feature the two front runners for the Payton Award trying to lead their team to a CAA title. With Vad Lee and John Robertson both injured, it will not. But it’s still a huge game with playoff implications. And we want to know who you think will win. Leave a comment below with your prediction. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Go Dukes! Keep Rootin!
Men’s Hoops! Let’s just start here before we get to football. Such a sweet, sweet morsel of revenge against the tourney-hopeful Ticks to start the men’s hoops season Friday night. Now let’s hope we get a shot at the main course somewhere down the line in the postseason on the gridiron (although incredibly The Ticks have played themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble the last two weeks and might need a win over the Nerds to even make the field, not that we’d mind!). Check out the highlights here and let’s hope this team can keep building as they wait for Yohanny Dalembert to recover. The boys have arguably their most marquee game of the non-conference schedule Monday night in Charleston (“neutral” site) vs. WVU.The Women’s team also won their opener but it was a blowout of Longwood so nothing to get excited about just yet.
The Dukes locked up a playoff a berth. It may have been ugly and it may not have done a thing to calm our nerves about the season’s trajectory at the moment, but in beating Delaware and getting their eighth win, there’s no doubt now that JMU will hear their name on next Sunday’s Selection Show on ESPNU at 11 a.m. If JMU can beat Villanova this weekend to get to 9-2, there’s still an outside chance at a seed and avoiding the first round. Here’s the ticket info from JMU.
Purple Helmets are back, though “satin” instead of chrome this time. Thank goodness we can get out of the white-helmet rut.
Bryan Schor led his first comeback in dramatic fashion! And he sort of had to throw two great TD passes to do it after a drop on the play before the Ravenel score (by the way, how great is Ravenel playing?!). Schor and the offense struggled a lot on Saturday for really the first time all year, but you can’t deny they never quit and produced when it mattered most.
The Defense. No really, the defense earned their way into The Good for really the first time all year and their timing couldn’t have been better with the Offense finally flailing a bit. They weren’t perfect, although Kyre Hawkins and his 17 tackles were darn close, but after allowing their customary first-drive TD to open the game, they really settled in. They allowed only 14 points (UD’s third and nearly game winning TD was the long fumble return), none in the fourth quarter after JMU fell behind, and Raven Greene, who seems to be in on every big play when the D actually comes up with one, made a huge stop to give JMU the one last chance it needed. As Coach Withers noted after the game, let’s not all forget the Chickens beat William & Mary and UNH this year, so let’s take the win and move on.
Only two penalties. Nice to see that get cleaned up during the bye.
Gunnar Kane – it’s never a good sign when the punter makes The Good section, but he did do a great job considering how often he was called upon during a blustery day.
Bye Week preparation – Well so much for the idea that the bye week would allow the staff to cook up something special and the kids to reenergize. This was right up there with the Albany game as the sleepiest and least crisp this team has looked all year. Let’s hope a normal schedule gets them in a better mindset last week.
The offense. We’re not going to over-analyze what went wrong because it’s the first time all year they’ve struggled so mightily, but it wasn’t the Death Star that was still blowing up planets even during the two losses. It will be interesting to see if Andy Talley, who earlier this year said essentially “ain’t played nobody PAWWWLLL” about JMU, can get his team to replicate UD’s performance.
ANOTHER blocked FG. Maglio does occasionally kick a low ball, but after the debacle at W&M a few weeks back, it’s tough to fault the kicker when the line looks like a sieve.
Delaware’s passing game. Thank goodness the Chickens QB can’t throw. Needed all the help we could get in this one.
So happy we’re going to be able to add some sweet sweet revenge on the Ticks in the men’s hoops’ opener tonight into Sunday’s Good, Bad, and Ugly but here’s the open thread for what we all hope will be the Dukes’ magic win #8 tomorrow. We’ll be a bit out of touch today (Todd’s hosting watch party and Rob’s traveling this weekend) but will catch up with you all late night!