Oct 14 / Todd

Dukes Show Some Serious Mettle in Win Over Villanova

Wow, that was something this weekend. The Dukes defeated two top-five teams at the same time – Villanova and the CAA Officials – to storm back for a huge conference victory. Whatever your complaint about JMU is, zip it. That Villanova team cheats every passing play (needless to say, the CAA has not caught up with the NFL’s recognition of pick plays and offensive PI) and still has atrocious special teams, but they are damned good. They run a great scheme offensively and were stronger up front on both sides than anyone the Dukes have played thus far, including WVU.

The Good

John Daka – Absolute monster. Villanova took the lead 24-17 and got the ball back for one play. Daka blew it up, caused a fumble, and ignited the Dukes to 21 straight points to win going away. And that’s before all his other great stuff. If he plays like the FCS’ version of LT, JMU is awfully tough to do anything against.

M.J. Hampton – Still learning, but what can you say except “bravo” to ejected Amos’ replacement after he made the biggest play of the game and nearly had two other picks (the one in the end zone where he and Smith collided and the deep pass he broke up late)

Riley Stapleton – Our whole section called the second TD on a back-shoulder as soon as Villanova showed man coverage. The way he was used on the first two TD’s makes him the unstoppable force we all remember from Frisco vs. NDSU.

Resiliency – Seriously, a standing ovation to the team and coaches. While me and most of the crowd was panicking about the secondary and losing our mind with the officials, Coach Cignetti stayed calm and the team rallied back with a 21-0 fourth quarter that shows just what is possible from this group. Also doesn’t hurt to have a Marshawn, er, Latrelle Palmer, to throw at them just when they other team is wearing down.

Crowd – This was a top-10 New Bridgeforth performance from the crowd with no caveats even needed about Family Weekend. Incredible job by parents, students, everyone sticking around and making an impact on this one in the fourth quarter. If we can get that kind of performance for four quarters every week, that place is impossible for visiting teams. Can’t wait to do it again in two weeks!

#FCSonGameday – The effort appears to have worked as the JMU vs. Villanova game was one of the featured games to pick on ESPN’s College Gameday’s last segment. Plus it was very cool to hear Walter Czobcak himself John Goodman say “I like the Dukes!”

The Bad

Pass Defense – Lather. Rinse. Repeat. McCormick out. Amos ejected. Drew injured. But there’s still no excuse for a bunch of speedy and talented players to be consistently burned very badly by a bunch of try-hard types on the outside for Villanova (except for Hodge, he’s good). I mean, sometimes we are beat so badly we aren’t even in position to commit a last-gasp pass interference that would be preferable to the catch and/or score. We used to get on Mickey’s defenses for playing soft and allowing easy catches in front of them, but at this point, isn’t switching to that softer coverage almost necessary?

All that said, the secondary did make the play of the season to date and come up with three straight picks to ice the game. So we can hope they come away with some growing confidence and something to build on headed to Williamsburg to face the Tribe’s suddenly potent run n’ shoot.

Lobster! – For the second time ever, lobster won the food race and lobster rolls were 3.50 in the fourth quarter. But having it happen when the Dukes were down and no one could steal away for more concessions was tough look. But cool move pulling that on Family Weekend.

The Ugly

CAA and Officials – We try really hard every year to stay out of the homer-filled blame-the-refs game. But even putting aside the accuracy or inaccuracy of specific calls, we cannot recall ever seeing a more inconsistent, dysfunctional, and unprofessional game by an officiating crew. This was beyond our ability to even joke on Twitter with @AverageCAARef because this was dangerous and potentially season-altering garbage. Most coaches will tell you all you really hope for is consistency. And not only was this inconsistent, it was just an all-out debacle and the CAA should be embarrassed. Inordinately long replays, lack of any explanations, replays of replays, getting things wrong and then stopping again to get them wrong again (How can a 15 yard penalty be mis-spotted and then suddenly “corrected” only to become a 16 yard penalty?). The list was long and undistinguished of things wrong with that performance but Clown Commish Joey D (apparently there isn’t enough time to evaluate refs between all the times a middle-aged man puts on a uniform to play soccer with Northeastern’s women’s team) and someone at the league office better make darned sure this crew NEVER works another CAA game again.

Riley Stapleton
Guess who’s back?!
Oct 11 / Rob

JMUSB Game Preview #7: JMU vs. Villanova

I never really had a dream school when I was applying to college. The closest thing to a dream school for me though, was Villanova University. In my senior year of high school, I pretty much treated as fact that I’d be a Wildcat. I’m not really sure why, but I’m 99% certain it was primarily due to to me being Catholic and my love of college hoops. Then I got accepted and was assigned some sort of student buddy who was supposed to call me, answer my questions, make me feel welcome, and sell me on the school. The first call came on a Friday night while I was hanging out at my parents house with some friends. I don’t remember all the details about my buddy or the call itself. I do recall however, that when I asked the guy what his big plans for the weekend were, he replied “It’s Friday, so we’re having a pillow fight.” And I graduated from JMU four years later. So that’s my Villanova story. Now on to the game.

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (5-1, 2-0 CAA) at #5 Villanova Wildcats (6-0, 3-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 1:30 PM Saturday, October

Location: Bridgeforth Stadium in the ‘burg.

Weather: Hight os 69 (nice) and a 40% chance of rain

Broadcast: MASN2 for folks in the DMV. FloSports for everyone else.

A Bit About Villanova Football

Villanova is a very good team. The Wildcats are a legit CAA and National Championship contender. The only reason you don’t hear more hype about them is because they have approximately 13 fans and most Villanova students would rather spend their Saturdays stalking Jay Wright than watching a terrific football team.

Despite the lack of consistent fan support, former coach Andy Talley built Nova to be a consistent winner and even won the whole damn thing in 2009. The program hit a bit of a hiccup after he left, which in hindsight seemed more to due with injuries than anything else. Now it’s back. The Cats are good folks. Some people (ok, me) might have underrated transfer QB Daniel Smith based on the fact that he came from Campbell University. Well, thus far he’s accounted for 24 touchdowns, the second most in the whole subdivision. It’s just another example of how I know nothing. You shouldn’t even keep reading.

How the Wildcats Can Win

Attack, attack, attack. Daniel Smith isn’t going to thread the needle or wow anyone with pinpoint accuracy. He’s just going to make plays. To win, Nova will need him to play aggressive and take shots at the Dukes defense. We all saw what Tyquell Fields and Stony Brook did last game. Until the JMU defense rights the ship, that’s the blueprint. Nova’s stud running back Justin Covington got a little banged up last weekend, but is still not ruled out. He’s averaging an eye-popping 8.1 yards per carry. We expect the Cats to go straight at the Dukes. They’ll try to run the ball and also exploit the JMU secondary by hitting crossing routes and hoping guys can break off chunks of yards after the catch.

How the Dukes Can Win

Protect the damn ball and tighten up the D. We have a lot of confidence in the JMU offense. We fully expect the offensive line to have another strong game and think there enough weapons in both the running and passing game, that JMU will find matches to exploit. The Dukes just need to eliminate the turnovers. The playmakers will do the rest.

And the pass D needs to improve. We’re not telling anyone anything they don’t know. Last week the secondary got torched. We’re expecting to see some scheme adjustments this week and more physical play by the corners at the line of scrimmage. If the Dukes can slow down the Wildcat receivers, throw off their timing, and we think the pass rush will eventually rattle Smith. If they can do that and just make better tackles, the Dukes should win.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Let me say right up front that this one ain’t gonna be for everyone. The JMUSB BOTW is Rosetta by Brewery Ommegang. It’s a blended sour and I dig it. Sour beers are definitely an acquired taste. Same with pretty much any beer, but for some reason lots of folks still shy away from sours. Get over it. Drink them. And give this one a try. It’s tart, but not overly so. And it’s delicious.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Offense finds its stickem and holds onto the ball, pass rush gets to Smith repeatedly, and the pass D starts to turn the corner. Dukes are gonna win this one for the Family Weekend crowd. JMU 31 – Villanova 20.

Oct 10 / jmusport

Guest Post: Honorary Duke

Jim and Jan are a couple of season ticket holders who travel to root whenever possible. They won last week’s prediction contest. Here’s Jan’s awesome take on being an honorary Duke.

Last weekend we found ourselves once again at an away football game- this time at SBU. These clashes have previously been a street fight so when I asked my wife for her prediction I had to agree to a one touchdown final score of 34-27.  We stayed with my sister/brother-in law on the island but were forced to fly the Wake Forest flag below the JMU flag as compensation for lodging and their attendance. (Wish we would play WF in FB but we hold bragging rights after beating #1 WF in men’s soccer).  Unlike game day at P-lot, away games offer a tailgate event allowing one to meet new JMU friends and laugh about the connections we share. For example, we met another “old” JMUer who sat in the same row at Bridgeforth for years and was the FB coach at the small high school on Long Island where my nieces played sports. Another JMU couple from CT had a spouse from our town and the nice younger couple and their kids lived a block from my sister on the island.  So, don’t hesitate making the drive to an away game. Pick up and enjoy the journey.

 Since my wife Janet (an Honorary Duke and fan) made the prediction, she will offer her take here.  

 My husband Jim and three adult kids are all part of the JMU family. (Hence, the Dukes4). My road to becoming an HONORARY Duke began in 1983 when I was urged to watch the JMU men’s basketball team take on Michael Jordan and the Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA tournament.  Raising three children during the 80s and 90s slowed the exposure to JMU sports however it was rekindled in 1995 as we made a trip to see the men’s soccer team take on Princeton in the playoffs. My honorary degree took off in earnest in 2004 when we began to empty our pockets for the first of three JMU kids and we watched the Dukes start the road to Chattanooga. Since then we have experienced firsthand many memorable and dramatic games both home and away.

It is especially rewarding to watch the Dukes win in other stadiums such as Richmond or sitting in the cold rain to watch JMU beat VA Tech (the best), in Dallas at SMU (enjoyed watching the Dukes  ruin SMU’s 100th anniversary and homecoming) and ECU. The away games at Duke and UNC were even enjoyable although not a win. We don’t travel to all of the away games but it is easier when the JMU kids have graduated and are not on our tab any longer.  We did enjoy the excitement of traveling to both games in Frisco where the tailgating started in early frigid temperatures, and hit the quad for both ESPN Game days. There I supported my husband’s assertion that we be on the quad at dawn so he could fly the highest JMU flag and we could step on the plethora of student items left overnight.  Of note was my trip to the ladies room in Wilson Hall where someone said “stand here” and I was up front to view Lee Corso give his James Madison declaration before donning the Duke Dog head. (pic). Road trips can be a fun experience. Take a look at our vehicle attempting to pass a couple of morning hunters on the way to Colgate.

Honorary – Per the online dictionary: “conferred as an honor, without the usual requirements or functions”.

Well, I may not have a degree from this university, but I have given my time (enjoy it) and treasure (so our kids can be gainfully employed) and it was my honor to travel to SBU last Saturday (traffic on LI is worse than DC), where we made new friends at the tailgate and yelled for the Dukes to overcome the CHAlllllENGES (these are stripes) on the field and secure another CAA win. 

So here’s a shout out to all of the HONORARY JMU Dukes and FANS out there.  Get to as many events as you can and again, enjoy the journey. 

Oct 9 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Villanova

This is a big one Dukes fans. JMU welcomes the Villanova Wildcats to Bridgeforth Stadium. It’s a match-up of two CAA heavy weights and we’d like to know how you think it will play out. Leave a comment below with your prediction for Saturday. The person who comes closes to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Now start rootin and Go Dukes!

Oct 7 / Rob

Dukes Sneak By Stony Brook And Now We Can Breathe Again

JMU went on the road for their third game in a row. This time it was a matchup with the Stony Brook Seawolves. And it ended up being a lot closer than many people, us included, expected. Thankfully, the Dukes got out of Long Island with a 45-38 win. But it wasn’t easy. JMU had to overcome some, um questionable, officiating, a number of big plays by the Seawolves, and four turnovers to earn the victory. But they did.

The outcome of this one was in doubt until literally the final play of the game. After JMU scored in OT to go up 7, Delanta Hellams just barely missed hauling in a Tyquell Fields fourth down pass in the end zone. And when the ball hit the turf ending the game, you could hear the collective sighs of relief from all four corners of the JMU fanbase. Because in the moment, it really was relief more than joy. And now a day later, I still don’t know what to think.

I’m really not sure how to assess this one. JMU won a road game against a very tough Stony Brook team. And the Dukes did it on a night when they didn’t really have their “A” game in all three phases. Even ugly wins are wins and the Dukes showed a lot of resilience.

Stony Brook entered the game as the CAA’s second best rush defense, giving up only 88 yards/game on the ground. JMU shredded them for 328 yards on the ground. The O-line was completely dominant. And Nooch had another strong game. He not only made multiple big plays, he showed that he really has command of the offense. Brandon Polk was outstanding and the running backs kept one-upping each other with eye-popping runs. The defensive front four was sick and has made us question why we ever worried about the pass rush.

All of the above has us excited. But there are plenty of concerns. Stony Brook threw for 318 yards. Tyquell Fields is a talented QB, but he shouldn’t be throwing for 300+ yards. JMU’s pass defense is not clicking. You don’t need to be a football genius to notice guys taking bad angles or struggling to stick with receivers. And tackling continues to be a problem. Plus, there were fumbles. Lots and lots of fumbles.

The zebras really did JMU no favors. I’m not one to complain about the refs too much, but there were some truly awful calls that went against JMU. And we’re not just talking debatable pass interference flags or things like that. We’re talking about multiple instances where it really looked like the stripes were making things up. It was bad and the calls hurt the Dukes.

Despite all that however, the Dukes won. They won on the road for the third week in a row. They won against a nasty Stony Brook team that came ready to play and didn’t back down all night. It wasn’t always pretty, but Nooch and the boys got the job done.

Oct 4 / Todd

JMUSB Game Preview #6: JMU at Stony Brook

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (4-1, 1-0 CAA) at #24 Stony Brook (4-1, 1-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 6 PM Saturday, October 5

Location: LaValle Stadium, Long Island, NY (basically Port Jeff)

Weather: Sunny, high 59, winds 13 mph, only 51 % humidity. After what feels like July 73rd for most of us down here in Virginia, it sure is gonna be great to feel that first air of autumn up your nose on Saturday out on the island.

Broadcast: FloFootball for most of us. SNY for the SNY market (and probably satellite folks which should help with watch parties). SBU has a better history of production value than Elon so hopefully this is better. In other news, D.C. United announced they are absolutely done with Flo tonight so who knows what that means.

Friends in the Desert: JMU -15.5 (-750 ML), O/U 41 (hard to believe a line that high with an O/U that low actually but our defense is really good we guess)

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Oct 3 / jmusport

Guest Post: A New Rival for JMU Football?

Steve Brown is one of the most loyal Dukes’ fans out there. He also won last week’s prediction contest. Here’s his piece on finding a rival for JMU football.

There are so many great rivalries in sports: Yankees v. Red Sox; North Carolina v. Duke; Auburn v. Alabama; Army v. Navy; Nadal v. Federer; and Navratilova v. Evert.  Since 2016, JMU does not have a conference rival. Over the last 5 years, JMU has won 81% of its games with a record of 59–14 through last Saturday. Since 2014, JMU has only 1 loss to Richmond and William & Mary combined, both in back to back weeks in 2015. Neither Richmond nor William & Mary are JMU’s rival. 

Before 2014, Richmond was JMU’s rival; William & Mary not so much. Over a 20-year timeframe, from 1994 – 2013 in the regular season, UR won 11 games and JMU won 9. During that same timeframe, JMU was 14-6 over William & Mary. Also, there is no other team in JMU’s CAA division that rises to the level of being a rival at this time.  So, who could be JMU’s new rival in the CAA? Is it Delaware? Not really. JMU is 4-0 since 2015 against Delaware. We should play Delaware every year by the way.  

Stony Brook could be a good rival for JMU over the next few years if they remain in the rotation.  The last visit to Stony Brook by JMU was in 2014 and it was a close, hard fought 27-24 win by the Dukes on a cold early November day.  Three of the five games we have played against Stony Brook have been decided by 3 points, but two of those three games were in 2013 and 2014. Stony Brook is on a good trajectory right now and the game on Saturday is the one I see as a good test for JMU in many ways. This should be like a first or second round playoff game for the first half of the first quarter and then JMU will settle in.  Stony Brook cannot stop JMU’s offense and JMU’s defense can shut down anyone, all night long. 

This Saturday, I am expecting to see a loaded JMU team dominate in all 3 phases, just like it has done all year long.  This JMU team does not care where the game is played; they feed off of physically beating down the other team until they tap. The waves and waves of JMU players and schemes is too over whelming and it will be that way on the north shore of Long Island on Saturday night. My prediction: JMU wins 45—9.

Oct 2 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Stony Brook

The Dukes got CAA play started last weekend with a big win over Elon. Now they’ll try to keep the streak going on a road trip up to Long Island. You know the drill.JMU plays Stony Brook on Saturday. And we want to hear your prediction for the game. Leave a comment below letting us know who you think will win. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. Easy as pie. So give us your prediction and Go Dukes!

Sep 30 / Rob

Dukes Stomp Elon to Start CAA Play

JMU went on the road to face the Elon Phoenix and kick off the 2019 CAA football season this past weekend. Things went well. The Dukes absolutely crushed Elon to the tune of 45-10. It wasn’t as close as the score might indicate. After letting Elon score to go up 7-0 on its opening drive, it was all JMU. The Dukes offensive line had quite a day, clearing lanes for running game and giving Nooch plenty of time to throw. JMU rushed for 336 yards while limiting Elon to only 36. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was a pretty great way to start conference play. Here are three things I liked about the win, and one I didn’t.

The Running Game

Where to begin? As mentioned above, the Dukes ran for over 300 yards. We supposed you could argue about who deserves the credit. Was it the coaches for creating the gamleplan, the offensive line for opening holes so big you or I could have run through them, or the backs for making guys miss, running North-South, and barreling through tackles? The truth is it was all three. If you focused on the line of scrimmage (and you probably did if you watched on FloSports, which seemed intent on keeping the camera on the line instead of following the ball), you probably wouldn’t think this was a match-up of two Top 25 teams.

JMU’s line completely outplayed Elon’s defensive front. It didn’t even look like a fair fight at times. And the game plan the coaches created was terrific. More methodical than spectacular, the Dukes just stuck with what worked, leaning on Elon and running the ball down until the Phoenix broke. And break they did. Finally, all of the running backs were terrific. We’ve said our piece about the idea of running back by committee, but there’s something to be said for running 4 or 5 guys out there who can get the job done.

QB Pressure

There’s been a lot to like about the play of the Dukes front four thus far this season. However, despite the strong play, the guys haven’t been getting to the quarterback. That changed yesterday. JMU defenders were in Davis Cheek’s face all game. For the game, the Dukes had 5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. The constant pressure threw off Cheek’s timing, causing him to run for his life and rush throws. He’s a solid QB who isn’t easily rattled. Yet, the Dukes defense managed to hold him to only 14 completions on 32 attempts. They were in Cheek’s face all day. And it made a difference.

Punching Back

In the game versus UTC, JMU coughed up a 14 point lead and found itself tied in the blink of an eye. They responded by turning up the intensity and taking control of the game. Against Elon, JMU surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive and dug themselves in a 7-0 hole early. Thankfully, took the punch and punched right back.

The Dukes didn’t flinch and they didn’t let the pressure get to them. They just went about their business and grabbed control of the game. JMU went about its game plan and left town with a big W. With Coach Cignetti facing his former team for the first time since coming to JMU, there was the potential for distraction. And when Elon went up early, the Dukes could have succumbed to the pressure and let things get away from them. They didn’t know. They stayed focused and played great. So much so, that the opening TD become little more than a footnote.

That Tackling Though

It was a nice win, but JMU didn’t play a perfect game. We could pick nits and point out all the things that we didn’t like. But let’s just stick to one that stood out. The Dukes did not tackle well. They were terrific in the running game, collapsing on ball carriers and swallowing them up. But they really struggled to tackled guys in open space, particularly receivers.

We understand that this sounds like grumpy old Monday morning quarterback nonsense. But we could do with fewer attempts to knock dudes down, and a bit more fundamental tackling. I lost track of how many times JMU defenders lined guys up for hits, only to have Elon guys lower their pads and push on through. And there were plenty of failed arm tackles. The JMU defense is good. It could be great if they did a better job wrapping dudes up and taking them down.

Sep 26 / Todd

2019 JMUSB Game Preview #5: JMU at Elon

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (3-1, 0-0 CAA) at #24 Elon (2-2, 1-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 2 PM Saturday, September 28

Location: Rhodes Stadium, Elon (really Burlington), NC

Weather: Partly Cloudy with a 40% chance of afternoon showers/storms. High 90.

Broadcast: FloFootball Only. Yup, we all finally have to bite the bullet and punch ourselves in the face with CAA Commish Joey D’s moron network. Guess we’ll see. Side note, as hoops preseason emails and hype got going the last week or so, it’s been funny to see our non-football CAA friends at Northeastern, Drexel, etc. start to realize what a hideous thing paying 12.99 per month is for something that was hard enough to get casual fans that you need to build a fanbase watching when it was free despite the fact it was their AD’s that voted for this nonsense over the reported objections of JMU and W&M.

Friends in the Desert: JMU -13.5 (-560 ML), O/U 51

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