So obviously that wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was just awful. Not even exactly painful, just really unentertaining, undisciplined, awful football if you can call it that. But we’re going through our normal Good, Bad, Ugly process of recapping the game and we all need to calm down about this one until we see the Lehigh game.
In 2004, when JMU won the Championship, the Dukes lost to West Virginia 45-10, and that was in Week 3 after two games to iron out the kinks. In 2008, when JMU had it’s best season ever (where it didn’t win the NC of course), the Dukes opened up with a similarly uninspired 31-7 loss to a then punching-bag Duke team. This weekend the following happened to other CAA squads picked ahead of the Dukes: CAA favorite New Hampshire lost 52-20. Delaware lost 62-0 to Pitt. Towson lost at home to CCSU. Stony Brook lost 13-7 at home to Bryant. William & Mary played well and still lost 34-9 to Virginia Tech. Maine won by the oh-so-flattering score of 10-6 at home over a MEAC team. Only Villanova’s painful 2OT loss in the Carrier Dome Friday night looked like any sign that a team might be really good. We’re not saying that justifies or excuses this game in any way, but it’s just to say I think we can reserve judgment on this season and the Withers era for at least one more week.
The secondary actually looked improved. This seems counterintuitive in a beatdown like this, but there were bright spots in the back (in fact, the avalanche of points in the first half was largely on the offense’s mistakes). In particular, Jimmy Moreland looks like a true baller and it was nice to see both Taylor Reynolds and Aaron Peak contributing positively at times.
Major injuries seem to have been avoided. No way we can overstate how big this is. Whether that was 52-7 or 31-20, a loss to an BCS team is just a loss to a BCS team when it come to FCS playoffs so this is big.
Discipline and Penalties, especially early. Simply killed any chance the Dukes had of being competitive.
High snaps. Hate to pick on an individual player, but hard to ask Lee to do anything when he’s leaping to bring it down every time.
Both of these items are in the Bad, not the Ugly, however, because they can be fixed. On the other hand…
Gameplanning. It’s tough to say, but it sure looked to us like Vad Lee had instructions not to keep the ball (to protect himself?) on any read option action. Other than the over-amped, undisciplined start from the defense and special teams, it sure looked like the coaching staff trotted out the ole Mickey vanilla-in-our-FCS-take-our-check-and-get-on-the-bus game plan. New era?
Lack of pressure from the front seven. Maryland returned almost every starter on O from last year and we’re really hoping this is just a massive talent advantage on the O-Line, but for a unit that the coaches were touting as JMU’s best, the complete lack of pressure on Maryland QB CJ Brown was shockingly disturbing. This makes the ugly because I don’t know how you fix this one. Just an awful performance that put the secondary in dire straights all day. Not even the most improved secondary can cover forever. It should be noted that at least in the run game, the missing Gage Steele probably would’ve made a huge difference and we hope he was smartly held out and is on track to make it back soon, but even he probably wouldn’t have effected the missing rush.
Dukes in the League!
On a positive note, lots of good news on former Dukes in the pros this weekend.
Josh Wells made the 53 for the Jags. Akeem Jordan held on to make the 53 for the Skins (Mike Caussin was also IR’d by the Skins so may not be done yet). Jordan Stanton was signed to the Giants practice squad. And of course Arthur Moats will be suiting up for the Steelers and Earl Watford is expected to play a much bigger role for the Cardinals this year. Great work from all these guys and Go Dukes!
The Dukes kick off the 2014 season and a new era against the Maryland Terrapins this afternoon. Kick-off is at 3:30 and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Audio will be available via Madizone. Consider this your open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. Go Dukes. Beat Maryland.
Here. We. Go! Time for “juice” and all the hype and all the transfers to actually kick this thing off! And time to put away, or at least be pleasantly distracted from, the continuing disappointment that is the Dukes’ conference affiliation. And what better way to start the Coach Withers era than with a trip to a B1G Ten School – ha. We’ll go through our normal preview and then hopefully have a few extras if you’re like us and your attention is returning to the blog after the offseason. To get you warmed up, just a reminder of why college football, despite it’s obvious mountain of moral hazards, is the best!
Stephon Diggs. Deon Long. Along with the rest of the college football world, we will continue to mock “Maryland in the B1G” until they prove they can hack it after decades in the weaker ACC (Petrizzi and Darden – the truth is the truth so can it). But those two names we started with – Diggs and Long – are 100% legitimately the best pair of wideouts in the new league this year. If Diggs stays healthy, he could be a first-round pick next year. And in case you missed it last year, the Dukes struggled mightily at the corner spot last year. So there’s that.
Maryland, despite it’s own questionable administrative decisions and overall athletics turmoil over the last few years, really does probably have it’s most talented and capable team in years, certainly during Head Coach Randy Edsall’s tenure. That said, the 22.5 point spread fails to reflect the fact that the Terps are still a vulnerable P5 team. Generally, we’re betting the Dukes will score points and be reasonably competitive up front on both sides of the ball, the question is whether our new style can keep up if this turns into a pinball game.
Vad Lee vs. Maryland
Don’t be fooled by any purple-drank aided parking lot boasting that Vad Lee led a blowout at Maryland by Georgia Tech two seasons ago. He played a lot that day behind then-starter Tevin Washington and scored two rushing TD’s, but GT only attempted two passes all game in a 33-13 blowout largely due to the fact the Terps were starting a freshman linebacker at QB after their entire depth chart was lost for the season to injury. We do love that Lee certainly won’t be intimidated by the opponent or the stage, but let’s not get carried away.
A Few Notes on Maryland, the state and the school
Berger cookies are effing terrible, like BertieBotts vomit-flavored terrible. When combined with a Natty Boh that’s the Fat Amy Combo! Maryland likes to fancy itself a progressive leader among states, but that’s horseshit. Maryland is the only municipality that can wreck two great things – horse racing and casino gambling – at the same time in slow motion over two decades by simply allowing their politicians own competing graft to slow the process down and end up with hideous creatures from Dundalk playing $25 tables at some ghetto mall casino instead of allowing customers to enjoy themselves at a real facility with a little thoroughbred action along the way. You know what else sucks? Snake Dog IPA. Really, it’s putrid stuff, but somehow Flying Dog has convinced everyone they’re “Maryland’s Brewery” even though they started in Colorado and have cool labels. Every time we go somewhere like Wolf Trap that is begrudgingly finally beginning to sell something other than In-Bev or AB products, I get excited and then it’s such a letdown when the only concession is this crap. And no, Maryland does not get to claim Delaware, or Delaware’s Dogfish Head, as their own. Ray Rice.
Look Out for the Stripes
Just to warn you in advance, you’ll need to be prepared for some real ACC/P5 buttsaving from the referees in this one. When JMU last played up there I lost track of the sheer number of shady calls down the stretch of that one and then in OT. Just know that it’s coming and you’ll be able to stay a little calmer.
Beer of the Week
Summer weather and a big, beautiful tailgate require a big, beautiful summer beer. So put down that stupid, awful, disgusting pumpkin crap that shouldn’t be allowed on shelves at all, but at least not till October and go track down a Maine Beer Co. Lunch. This really is an almost perfect IPA (shut up hipsters, I still love
a great IPA) from a really cool group of brewers and it’s absolutely perfect to prep for a big upset. And don’t let the 7.0% ABV scare you. Just remember, it’s Maryland, where there are always drunker assholes yelling “O’s, Stroh’s and Natty Boh’s.”
If you can’t make it to College Park, this one’s on the B1G Ten Network. Good news is that you almost certainly have it on your cable or satellite provider. Bad news is it’s on the B1G Ten Network’s supplemental channel which may take some searching of the Guide. Here’s a very helpful tool for figuring it out in your area: Finder. Beware of the Nebraska/FAU game and make sure you keep looking around your dial though if that’s what you get. 3:30 p.m. by the way. Also, any NC folks that want to come watch in the new JMUSB HQ Annex in Greensboro, shoot us an email.
Official JMUSB Prediction
Dukes 38 – Terps 35 – Dukes shun the kicking game all day (which would be both fantastic and the correct play) before finally trying one to win it, which reverses the score from the last visit to College Park.
News and Notes
Here are a few things we love from the beginning of school down in the ‘Burg.
1) Purple Tennis Courts being installed! Rob may hate colored fields, but for my money, the more purple the better.
2) A pretty cool story from The Breeze about old friend of JMUSB ’99 alum Seth Burton (former Breeze Sports Editor that once assigned me a trip to UVA to cover baseball that I probably botched), who had an odd summer to say the least in his role as VP for Communications for the LA Clippers.
3) Newman Lake is drained. Again. Moist cesspool.
As our thirteen long-time readers know, we’re big on weekly “game previews” but have never been too into actual prognostication. We almost always find a reason to believe and a way to pick the Dukes even against our better judgment on a week-to-week basis. But we’ve always tried to be somewhat more realistic on the broader season previews. So with that in mind, here goes.
What the Experts are saying?
We all know the truth about FCS which is basically that even those very few folks and sites that cover this level of football seriously or for actual money couldn’t tell you a damned thing about anyone outside of North Dakota St. and maybe Montana on a year-over-year basis, especially now that [Cr]App. St. and real GSU have moved on (and we’ve got D2 teams like Abilene Christian stopping by for a cup of coffee on their way to blowing by JMU on the FBS highway). So the fact JMU is picked no higher than 7th in the CAA by anyone who covers FCS and as low as 9th by quite a few spots means nothing other than that your eyes weren’t lying when they told you JMU football had slipped to the land of the truly mediocre the last few years under Mickey. It certainly doesn’t mean anything in our opinion about the way JMU will ultimately finish.
How the Schedule Sets Up?
If, and that’s a big IF, JMU can split the first two games, on the road at both Maryland and Lehigh, and if they can make it through the first five games no worse than 3-2, we’d say the schedule actually sets up alright after that all things considered. On the good side, there’s a well-placed mid-season bye in mid-October, toughish Towson and Delaware have to come to BFS, and there’s a four-game stretch to close the season, beginning with W&M (who’s picked above the Dukes almost everywhere but as usual has less than zero at QB1) for Homecoming and ending with Elon at home, that while not easy (trips to SB and JMU East a.k.a. the cute little UR “stadium”) certainly presents a great opportunity to make up ground if needed. The bad part is Maryland may just come too early under our new system to be all that hopeful, Lehigh and Charlotte are both actually kind of tricky roadies and will both be unknown as it’s Lehigh’s opener and who knows how much better UNCC will be with additional schollies this year. The UGLY part is we don’t get Rhode Island this year, but that’s fairly balanced out by avoiding UNH.
The entire question is whether the team is actually up to speed on the new system. There’s a ton of returning talent on this side and what we all think may be a significant upgrade at QB1 (and at least a wash at RB1 though we’ll always miss DQS and depth may be an issue in the backfield). The system itself is going to be an even bigger upgrade but will the kinks be ironed out in time for a tough early season-schedule?
Coach Withers has maintained throughout camp that he thinks the front seven will be a real strength. We hope he’s right and we tend to trust his judgment way more than our own, but it’s gonna be awful tough to replace a player like Stephon Robertson, especially if Gage Steele isn’t fully healthy (on that note, not to sound all Mickeyish about it, but NO NEED at all to rush him back for Maryland if it’s a question). In the back is where you’ll find what may be the Dukes’ best player at safety in Senior Dean Marlowe, but it’s the corners that have to improve for JMU to have a big year. We still think there’s talent here (including Taylor Reynolds), they just need to grow up and hopefully be coached up in a hurry.
Wait, there’s a third phase? Can’t we pretend there’s no kicking game and just be happy? No? Well shit. This is where things could get ugly for the Dukes from the summer preview. As always, JMU will have no shortage of high-octane players returning kicks but it’s the other half of the kicking game that looks frightening. Long-time stalwart Cameron Starke graduated and despite an injury-plagued senior year that had some calling for change, those same folks may be dearly wishing he was still here given the atrocities we’ve seen committed in this phase throughout camp. We’re missing extra points. Badly. If necessary, can we please bring in every player on both Dukes’ soccer squads and see if we can find a miracle?
Official JMUSB Season Prediction
9-3 (but shading more on the 8-4 side than the 10-2 side). 3-2 through the first five, then a big roll through the middle of the season and then some awful, unexpected loss (please not the Ticks!). The real keys are the Lehigh game in Week 2 and then managing no worse than a split in the @ ‘Nova, home for UD double in Weeks 4 & 5.
In a freshly expanded 24-team FCS field, it’s completely inexcusable for JMU to ever miss the postseason in this CAA-Hoops-style-watered-down version of the subdivision. And we think they’ll sneak in to start the Withers era. Doubt we’ll get a home game though.
The Dukes open the season on the road against the Maryland Terrapins this Saturday in College Park. It’s the first game of a brand new season for both teams and a whole new ball game for JMU. New coaches, new players, new systems, and hopefully new and improved results. The Terps are also going through some changes as they transition from the ACC to the B1G.
As we mentioned Monday, we’re running our prediction contests back again this year. It’s very simple. You leave a comment letting us know who you think will win Saturday’s game and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing the prediction (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. And they can write it about anything their little heart desires (provided it’s not offensive or NSFW of course). Got it? Of course you do, it’s simple. Give us your prediction in the comments and Go Dukes!
This time next week we’ll be firing up an official JMUSB preview of the Maryland game, complete with a Beer of the Week, tailgating tips for College Park, and lots of snark about one of the nation’s most underratedly ghettofabulous states. In the meantime, we’ll have to hang in there, hope for no injuries in the last week of prep, and warm up by cheering for the JMU sports that kickoff even before football. This includes women’s soccer, who opens the season at home tomorrow against Xavier from the AAC. This game will feature a Vuvuzela giveaway, and to be honest that’s kind of fantastic.
But first, a few quick links:
Coastal Carolina is getting a TEAL field. Seriously. It’s awful, it’s funny, it’s FCS baby! These non-green fields are getting out of control. Not that we couldn’t get behind a purple field of course.
Freshmen: Stop scaring people with toy guns at FROG week and learn this now!
Finally, enjoy this last week of summer with a celebratory Shmoney Dance before you prepare your college football hibernation cave.
See y’all next week! And welcome to the class of 2018!
JMU alum and ESPN Sportscenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak joined the masses and did the Ice Bucket Challenge today, help raise awareness (and a whole lot of money) for ALS. She also did it while representing her alma mater by sporting a classic James Madison University tee. Lindsay issued the challenge to Teddy Roosevelt, the Nats racing president, and some other guy who isn’t as good as Matt Harvey. About the only thing that could have made this better was if she challenged Duke Dog. Great job Lindsay and Go Dukes.
@Michael_2clutch is a JMU fan we follow on twitter who always has great insight and analysis on the football program. So when we saw he was attending Saturday’s scrimmage, we asked him to write a guest post. Give him a follow on twitter and enjoy his analysis below.
As a JMU class of 2012 alum and huge fan of JMU football, the conclusion of the scrimmage was the right “fix” needed to get the 2014 season started. As all the headlines on Everett Withers, rumors of FBS and the New Era of JMU appeared left and right on social media, I had to make the 2 hour drive (which will happen at least 5 more times this fall) to see the Dukes myself. Honestly, I wasn’t even going to make the trip but was constantly haggle by my partner in crime, Kristin, to go since she dubbed me JMU’s biggest fan and the visit was a necessity to my obsessiveness. Little did I know, I would run into my former college housemate and newly-wed JMU connoisseur, Jonathan, where we spent the next 2 hours discussing the new era of JMU football unfold before us on the field.
Most of you know me as @Michael_2clutch “tweeting unofficial JMU news, witty nonsense and a plethora of things” and that is how the guys at the Sports Blog reached out to me to write this guest post. As I sat there in O’Neill’s Grill, in the process of devouring the coveted cookie skillet, I began to recap what I had the pleasure of witnessing on the field.
Here are a few takeaways from JMU’s 2014 scrimmage: read more…
The Dukes preseason football camp is in full swing. Over the weekend, the team put on the full pads and really got down to business. In the video above, Vad Lee offers his thoughts on practice, the tempo, and the team’s offensive weapons. You can also check out video practice reports from Daniel Brown, Dean Marlowe, and Alex Mosley.
Former Duke Josh Wells is working hard to make the Jaguars. After seeing a lot of action in last weekend’s preseason game, Wells got some reps with the second team this week. That’s a move up the depth chart from the third team. NFL.com’s Ian Rappaport hints that Wells might be an undrafted free agent who actually defies the odds and makes the team.
Wells former teammate from JMU, Jordan Stanton, had his second sack in as many preseason games. Some analysts think Stanton has a real shot to make the 53 man roster or at least earn a spot on the practice squad.
Soccer season is almost here, and the JMU ladies were picked to finish second in the CAA behind preseason favorite Hofstra. Expectations are lower for the men, who were predicted to finish dead last.
JMU Field Hockey will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its National Championship this Fall. Christy Morgan, the woman who coached the Dukes to that title, is back and in charge of program. The ladies were picked to finish 4th in the CAA, but maybe a little championship magic will carry them to a title in this anniversary year.