Oct 30 / Todd

Game Preview #9: William & Mary at JMU (Homecoming baby!)

Another new mascot?

Another new mascot?

Zac already did a lot of the fun stuff for us this week and we traded previews with the W&M blog so we’ll stick to the keys today and really just get prepped for Homecoming! But the first thing that needs to be noted is that this game is HUGE. For both teams. With both teams coming in at 5-3 and with both teams still having Richmond on their schedules, the loser will be in a “have to win out situation” while the winner will be in great shape going forward.

The Basics

Match-up: unranked JMU Dukes (5-3, 2-2 CAA) vs # 17 William & Mary Tribe (5-3, 2-2 CAA)

Kick-off: 3:30 PM Saturday, November 1 at Bridgeforth Stadium, The ‘Burg.

Weather Forecast:  Time for some football weather! High 52, Low 35, showers in the morning (maybe even with some “wintry mix” thrown in) giving way to cloudy skies but it’s looking like much less chance for rain (less than 30%) from mid-morning on for the tailgate. Get your tents ready, break out the warm clothes and fire up those new propane heaters.

Broadcast: It’s right there in beautiful high definition at Bridgeforth Stadium and that’s where you should be watching the Homecoming game, but this will be also be one of the Dukes’ first games on the CAA’s new package with ASN. This network is picked up regionally in huge portions of the country, including pretty much everywhere in Virginia. Check your listings as it may be in an unlikely place (for example on Cox in Nova it will likely be on News Channel 8). Otherwise Madizone should have it.

How William & Mary Can Win

Avoid turnovers and force JMU to throw deeper. So far, the only real difference between William & Mary’s 5-3 and JMU’s is that they lost to a strong UNH team while JMU lost to a weak Delaware squad. But the Tribe did get absolutely drilled by UNH, 32-3, so even that’s hard to call distinct. We’ve all seen that when JMU produces turnovers for points or even just more opportunities for its offense, they can score in a hurry, so the Griffins really have to avoid the big plays. And everyone who’s been paying attention knows 3rd and long is the one place JMU doesn’t like to be.

How JMU Can Win

Force turnovers and be better on special teams. We’ve reached a point where we have confidence that the offense will move the ball and find it’s way to a respectable amount of points. W&M’s defense has been touched by injuries a bit and maybe fallen victim to their own hype a bit. They’re simply not as good as they were alleged to be in the preseason and we think the Dukes will find pockets of success against them. We also know that JMU’s defense is at best inconsistent and at worst a big-play sieve. But the games JMU has been at their best, the defense has managed to produce big plays at the same level they give them up and they’ll need to do that again here.

Special teams is vital this week, and not just on the Field Goal front (that is what it is). W&M leads the nation in blocked punts and JMU simply cannot afford to give up that type of momentum producing play. Not putting kickoffs out of bounds and generally being sound with the football on what could be an iffy weather day are equally important.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Because it’s Homecoming, we’re choosing two beers this week one a practical choice and one in the spirit of Old Guys Leave,. First, one thing that’s important to keep in mind is you need to choose a low ABV session beer to keep your wits about you during a good long tailgate and for catching up with old friends. And wouldn’t you know it, Harrisonburg’s own Three Brothers Brewing has a perfect session ale for this purpose in their Drift. A couple few cases oughtta do it as you might need a few extras for a postgame celebration tailgate or to offer to old friends.Drift

But we’re also choosing an Old Guys Leave beer in the spirit of late 90’s JMU folks. To that end, might we suggest Green Man Brewing’s (Asheville, NC) Toad the Wet Hop Ale which honors everyone’s favorite band they pretend they don’t like’s 25th anniversary playing music we all tried, and mostly failed, to hook up to. I’m a bigger fan than most of wet-hopped ales, but this is a particularly good rendition from a brewery that’s earned our trust.

Tailgate Notes

We’re planning to be set up on Godwin Field #189. Just look for the big JMUSB Start Wearing Purple banner and stop by to say hi anytime! If the weather closes the fields to tailgating we’ll be down by the old baseball field. And we’re really looking forward to visiting our ‘shine buddies over near Hanson Field, though that location needs to remain secret.

Official JMUSB Prediction

This one’s gonna be tight, real tight. It seems every year, even the last few mediocre campaigns, the Dukes usually show up big time for one of their bigger home games. It was Richmond a few years back when they had “the hoodie” and Villanova for last year’s homecoming. And of course the game against then-top ranked W&M when JMU did not pass the whole game and DaeQuan just ran wildcat all day. We think this is that game this year! We were all set to go 35-34 Dukes, but we’re revising the total downward based on the weather and what we think will be some serious intensity from both defenses given the enormous import of this game to both teams. Dukes 28, Featherless Tribe/Pantless Griffins 27.

 

Just can never run this too many times!

Just can never run this too many times!

Oct 30 / Rob

Know Your Enemy: Q&A With William & Mary Sports Blog

William Mary New Hampshire FootballOne of the many things that make us enjoy JMU’s rivalry with William & Mary is the fact that most JMU folks have friends, coworkers, or family members who are Tribe fans and alums. And unlike a lot of CAA schools, William & Mary has bloggers. Good bloggers in fact, who we’ve been fortunate to interact with. Davey and Kyle, the guys behind William & Mary Sports Blog, were gracious enough to answer some of our questions about the Tribe. You can also check out the Q&A we did for them here. Read their blog. It’s basically the W&M equivalent of our fine blog here. Except because it’s focused on William & Mary it’s predictably less snarky, more intellectual, and it covers a football team that’s never won a National Championship and a basketball team that’s never been to the Big Dance. Anyway, read it and if you’re on Twitter, give them a follow @wmsportsblog.

The Tribe has struggled to find consistent QB play and a reliable starter for the past few years. Steve Cluley seems to have stepped up and taken hold of the position this year. What does he bring to the Tribe offense?

Steve Cluley has definitely served as a beacon of hope for this William & Mary team. Throughout his 35+ year tenure at W&M, Head Coach Jimmye Laycock has been known for developing solid quarterbacks. However, in recent years, the Tribe has been hard-pressed to find a capable signal caller. Enter Steve Cluley. Following the graduation of Brent Caprio and Michael Graham last year, a heated QB battle ensued over the offseason. The competition included Raphael Ortiz, Christian Brumbaugh, Steve Cluley, and Jhalil Mosley. Most expected either the experienced senior in Ortiz or the talented freshman Mosley to get the job.

In the end, Ortiz was declared out with a career ending injury, Mosley could not overcome injuries of his own, and Cluley just beat Brumbaugh for the starting gig. Athletically, Cluley can just about do it all. He has a big arm that can certainly throw it deep. In addition to his ability to put good velocity on the ball, he can also run. Coming into the year, this was a little known fact about Cluley, but anyone who saw his high school highlight tape knew he had the ability to run. Overall, he’s still in his first year as the Tribe’s starting QB, and thus has had to overcome a couple dud performances. Even still, he has performed admirably considering the Tribe’s recent QB track record. His performance against Villanova especially, in which he threw for 350 yards and 3 TDs shows his potential. Of course, he still has a lot of growing to do, but we see a high ceiling for Cluley in the years to come. read more…

Oct 30 / jmusport

Guest Post: Top 10 Reasons to Hate William & Mary

Zac won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. He’s a two time winner who recently offered up his Top 10 Dukes. Here’s another list that we think you’ll all dig. Take it away Zac.

(Two trailer park girls go round the outside)

*Guess who’s back, back again? Dirty’s back, tell a friend.*
Hello Dukes Fans, Zac here, back to entertain, explain and help you ascertain with unconstrained disdain just how we lucky are to have the Nerds as rivals. Seriously, I love those guys.  I mean, they’re total nerds and I love beating them at football, but hey, we are lucky to have someone that fills that role.
Before we start, some background: W&M is indeed one of our biggest rivals, and before PurpleHazed blames Jeff Bourne for that, it’s for historical reasons.  W&M is the team we’ve played most in football.  Do you know how I know this?  The Mick told me.  Actually, I told him.
When I was a freshman, back in 2002, the Student Duke Club had a coaches meet and greet in the Convo.  Mick was there and did a trivia section for prizes.
(Sidebar:  Before he began, he introduced himself and gave a little background on his coaching history, listing where he had coached. When he listed UGA, me, being the good Georgian that I am, responded with “Go Dawgs!”.  Mick looked up and said “who’s from Georgia?”  I raised my hand, and he asked “Where are you from, boy?” “Savannah, sir.”  He chuckled to himself and said “Savannah, huh? That’s a pretty town….. can you read and write? Did you turn the lights out when you left?”….  God, I miss The Mick.)
One of the trivia questions was “which team has JMU played the most?”  I got it right and The Mick gave me a visor, which to my eternal dismay I no longer possess.  Seriously, I would give a pinky to have that visor back.
But, if you don’t want to take my word for it, take the internet’s.
We’ve played W&M 36 times, and the series stands at 20-16.  Which means if we win this weekend, the series will stand at… 21-16. Yup.
So, having established that, my top 10 reasons I love hating W&M:

read more…

Oct 29 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. William & Mary

JMU is playing William & Mary on Saturday. The two schools are unquestionably rivals on the football fields. And they’re unquestionably different in just about every way possible. Take the video above, which is actual footage of William & Mary students camping out in front of and then rushing into…the library during exam week. You just don’t see that at JMU. But differences like these are part of what makes the rivalry fun. We’ll all gather on Saturday. They’ll call us slackers and taunt us with “one day you’ll be working for us” chants. We’ll call them nerds. They’ll complain that the general public doesn’t give “the college” the respect it deserves as an academic elite (“It’s a Public Ivy dammit!”). We’ll bitch about JMU not going FBS. Then JMU will win the game (hopefully) and they’ll head back to the lab or library, while JMU fans go celebrate. It’s quite fun.

But before we get to that, we’d like to hear your predictions for the game. Leave a comment indicating which team you think will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. Easy as pie.

Oct 29 / Rob

Fan Confidence Poll: Heading into Homecoming

The Dukes’ playoff hopes are definitely still alive, but we might be wise to focus on the big picture. This season was never about the playoffs. It’s about changing things up and pulling JMU out of the mediocre situation it’s been in. And there are positive signs that Withers and the staff are doing that. The offense is clicking. The defense needs work. But with a couple recruiting classes brought in to play the 3-4, the future is still bright. Regardless, what do you think about this year? Do the Dukes have what it takes to make a run?

Oct 26 / Todd

Offense Keeps Up the Pace, Dukes Down Charlotte 48-40

Some things never change. Dan Synder is an ass, April 15th sucks, and no matter what, some elements of our fanbase will find things to complain about. Yes, I’m looking at you guy a few rows back who complained about Vad Lee the first time the Dukes failed to get a first down yesterday when they were already leading 21-0 on a beautiful day at Charlotte. But then again, occasionally some things do. Like the JMU offense, which is quickly turning into a Big 12esque machine capable of scoring points in bunches and the JMU defense, which is beginning to be more reminiscent of the Alex Wood days than the staunch group we’d all grown accustomed to under Mickey and his visor.

The Good

The start. After a string of sluggish play to start games, the Dukes were in shockingly fine form early on, boatracing the 49ers on their way to a 21-0 lead. Obviously this didn’t hold up and when you play at the speed JMU does, this can make for a lot of really quick possessions and punts at times, but there’s no denying the Dukes are finding their rhythm on offense as the season progresses and it can be impressive in that Baylor/Oregon type way at times. We screamed “pass more” and “modernize” for years under the Mickey regime, and now we’ve got a team blowing the doors off the CAA in plays per game and no matter what it’s tough to argue with the point and yardage totals of late.

The Normbulance - a myth no longer. Thanks to Rob and Mandeeb for being such great hosts!

The Normbulance – a myth no longer. Thanks to Rob and Mandeeb for being such great hosts!

Charlotte. Really everything about this game was outstanding. Their fans are warm, welcoming, and incredibly pro-tailgating, pro-partying. So refreshing to get outside the utter lack of a fanbase in general at nearly every CAA school save Delaware.  The commingled pregame tailgate was fun and the Niner fans seemed genuinely happy to have what many of their fans said was the first team that’s really brought a meaningful fan base to a game there. The weather was great, the stadium and campus clean, well thought-out, and generally great looking. We only wish there were more games scheduled with Charlotte (yes, we really wish they were conference games, but at this points we’ll take what we can get) as this seems like a team and school that really has the potential for a great rivalry. It should be noted that my friend that works at Charlotte said of their fans hospitality that “We just haven’t won enough for anyone to get chesty yet” but it’s not hard to have fun on nice days with great scenery in the south.

Vad Lee. Accounted for over 400 yards of offense and six TD’s. Sure the long passes are as shaky as anything Thorpe or Landers ever threw, but his decision making is quickly veering towards the Landers side of the ledger and that’s great news. He’s keeping the ball when it matters, does a a great time buying time and looking downfield (even to backup TE’s), and is underrated in some subtle ways like throwing the ball away (the right way) to save a drive and picking up on down and distance issues. Again, 400 plus yards and 6 td’s. If you’re still missing the Ginger Giant, keep it to yourself till Vad does anything except lead this offense in the right direction. Also nice to see his line coming together, though it’s admittedly tough to evaluate against Charlotte’s D. We’ll see everything we need to know against the featherless Tribe next week.

The JMU friends – Dave, Ronnell, Cam, Sarah, Tay – great to see you all and looking forward to next week!

The Bad

Big plays given up on the defensive side of the ball. We get it, the Dukes are struggling on D. We also get it that Charlotte is what their record says they are. But having seen them in person, their top WR, the tastefully named Austin Duke (#10), and RB Kalif Philips, would be absolute studs for any FCS team in the nation including our own. It’s also noteworthy that each of their respective biggest plays of the day produced the Niners two first half TD’s right up the middle while JMU Senior Safety Dean Marlowe sat on the sideline due to the bogus targeting penalty and subsequent suspension from the Towson game.  That said, Charlotte scored even more points in the second half, usually on drives made of up a few huge plays and chunk yardage. The Dukes also struggled to get pressure once Rhakeem Stallings went out injured (but man are they dangerous when he and Harold are working together). We’re just not sure what the answer is at this point, but we were encouraged by the big play late from Gage Steele who’s finally starting to look like himself and the continued improvement on the perimeter from Taylor Reynolds and Jeremiah Wilson.

The Ugly

A few small notes: Bounced passes counting as completions, amateur hour chain gangs (slowing down the JMU offense by having generally zero clue what’s going on)  and scoreboard ops (how many timeouts did Charlotte get in the 2nd half and is it really necessary to have two third down reminders for the crowd every time?).

On the bigger side, the clock management during the last five minutes was downright Andy Reid-ish. We absolutely get that JMU’s pace is a huge factor in wearing other teams down and giving the Dukes an advantage, but snapping the ball with 20 seconds on the playclock up two scores with four minutes left is unacceptable. Doing it over and over and having to face an onside kick is just hideous. I will note that the decision to kick the FG on fourth and goal at the one was one I understood despite my constant desire to go for it more. After all, the Dukes had already given up on 98 yard TD earlier in the day and their was no reason not to make it two scores again there. Also liked the willingness to stick with what was working, particularly the dive to Latney. If it weren’t such a hot day filled with so much cramping, he and the line might set records.

“Uh-Huh!” Man – If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. I know Charlotte is short on homegrown traditions, but boy is this guy a pain.

Now, on to Homecoming and our last true rival! (Stop it with UR, they play in the A-10 in everything else and laugh their heads off at our dumbasses when their conference gets five bids to the tournament and the CAA goes to Dayton). If the Dukes can get to 6-3 and pull ahead of W&M, they’ll be in great position for the home stretch. HUGE game.

Oct 25 / Rob

Gameday Open Thread: JMU vs. Charlotte

JMU-Villanova FTBEarly kickoffs mean and early start for rootin’. JMU and Charlotte play at 12:00 noon today. JMU is looking to keep rolling after a dominating win over Towson. Consider this your open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. Go Dukes.

Oct 25 / Rob

Fan Confidence, What a Difference a Win Makes

week 8 confidence

Blowout win and fan confidence shoots back up. Still split though. Rattle a few more wins and seats on the bandwagon will be hot. Go Dukes.

Oct 23 / Todd

Game Preview #8: JMU @ UNC Charlotte

Want to troll a 49ers fan?!

Want to troll a 49ers fan?!

The Basics

Match-up: unranked JMU Dukes (4-3, 2-2 CAA) vs unranked UNCC 49ers (3-4, FCS independent)

Kick-off: 12:00 PM Saturday, October 25 at Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Weather Forecast:  Sunny, high of 73, 0% chance of rain, winds only 5 mph (basically a perfect day and the opposite of last year’s monsoon, but we’ve heard from our UNCC source that this will require sunscreen given the absolute lack of shade anywhere in this bowl stadium, including the above ground, no-cover concourse)

Broadcast: Online only, paid service through Charlotte. Looks like this is the old school $9.95 and then cancel the monthly unless you can find it on Wiziwig or First Row Sports.

How UNCC Can Win

Who knows. Seriously, it’s almost impossible to know much about this team from the schedule they’ve played so far:

Won @ non scholarship Campbell 33-9.
Won vs. Div II Johnson C Smith 56-0.
Won @ NC Central (MEAC) (3-4) 40-28.
Lost @ Elon (1-6) 20-13
Lost vs. Charleston Southern (5-2) 47-41 (OT).
Lost @ Gardner-Webb (4-3) 27-24.
Lost vs. Citadel (2-5) 63-56 (2 OT). (credit to BDK for this research)

Despite having more scholarships than last year’s team and considerably more than JMU in preparation for CUSA play next year, somehow the 49ers “might” be worse than last year. I say “might” because that schedule is impossible to read. The three wins are utterly meaningless cupcakes. The loss to Elon is bad, but not a whole lot different than JMU’s own loss (at home I might add) to UD. Then they played, and lost, three really tight games against SoCon teams that are all competent (Citadel was a trendy pick in the preseason and that 2-5 record has been a huge disappointment given their talent).

This is UNCC’s homecoming and their coach called JMU “the biggest opponent we’ve had in here so far” so I imagine the team and its partisans will be fairly amped. They’re a run-first and run-second team despite an up-tempo pace because their QB has been looser with the ball than 4th-quarter Romo.

How JMU Can Win

Stop the run and then force turnovers. Assuming the bye week was a restful positive and the Dukes offense doesn’t sleepwalk through a half or more like the Delaware game, we’re confident the Dukes will score points. The key in this one is keeping up the defensive business we saw against Towson a couple weeks ago. UNCC has shown the ability to score throughout the season and sort of appears to be significantly better than that Towson team, but if the Dukes can force them to turn to an inconsistent passing game, weather the Marlowe-less first half (targeting ejection suspension) and force some turnovers, they should prove the better team worthy of the their status as 10-point road favorites.

One thing that will be interesting to see is the turnout from Dukes fans. Despite Homecoming, this isn’t a sellout from UNCC and JMU has a decent alumni contingent in the area that has complained for years about being overlooked. As many of you know, I moved down to Greensboro this summer and will be looking forward to attending this one and joining those folks in some tailgate action and hopefully to cheer a big Dukes win.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

While we’re still not completely convinced by the hue and cry from Charlotte about their budding “world class” beer scene, especially with everything Virginia and other places in North Carolina, most notably the glorious hamlet of Asheville, have to offer, we are willing to make a Charlotte-specific selection this week with NoDa Brewing’s Hop, Drop and Roll IPA. It’s really tasty and the tall-boy cans are perfect for a morning tailgate in the sunshine.

A Couple Notes on Charlotte

First, we know their folks desperately want to be Charlotte, not UNCC, so we’ve had fun with that old commuter-school moniker even though we’re forced to admit we’re really impressed with everything they’ve done in the last decade plus to transform their university, their campus, and of course their pulling the trigger on CUSA when offered. Second, just a question: Is there a city in America where the gap between the spin you hear from its residents about their city and the reality of that city if wider?

Official JMUSB Prediction

We’re not sure the talent or the coaching is necessarily all that far apart, but JMU is simply playing for more and will outscore the 49ers while potentially scaring us a bit about the D again. Dukes 38, UNCC 27

Oct 23 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Charlotte

charlotte stadiumThe bye week is behind us and the Dukes are ready to get back at it. JMU travels down to North Carolina to take on Charlotte this Saturday. It’s a chance to pick up where they left off against Towson and get another much needed W before the stretch run. As we do every game week, we’re running our prediction contest. It’s as simple as ever. Leave a comment letting us know who you think will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. Easy as pie.