Zac won our prediction contest last week and he submitted this great list of his Top 10 Dukes since 2002. Enjoy this everyone. It’s a good one.
This is a big one folks. The Dukes travel up to Pennsylvania to play the Villanova Wildcats on Saturday. Led by stellar dual-threat QB, John Robertson, the ‘Cats have a prolific offense. And they’re particularly adept at running the ball, so, um OK. It’s a tough match-up against a very talented team that will be out for revenge after losing to at JMU last season. A win would ratchet JMU fan expectations up quite a bit. A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world, but let’s not talk about that now.
We’re running back the weekly prediction contest. By now you should know how it works. Add a comment to let 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. Go Dukes!
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to answer a few questions about the Dukes for VUhoops.com. Brian Ewart was kind enough to return the favor and give us a look into the Villanova Wildcat program. Here’s a Q&A with did with him earlier this week.
Regardless, the Dukes face their toughest test of this young season on Saturday when they play Villanova. Win, and fan expectations might go through the roof. Lose, and it might be doom and gloom for some of those same folks. There is plenty of football left to be played and plenty of time for fortunes to change, both positively and negatively. With that being said, this is one hell of a CAA opener and a great chance to build some huge momentum for the rest of league play. Heading into it, how confident are you about the Dukes playoff chances?
The Dukes overcame another sluggish start and eventually cruised home in a 38-22 victory in the lid-lifter at Bridgeforth Stadium yesterday. We could focus on small things but there’s great coverage from the DNR’s Matt Jones on the particulars here and we’d rather take a step back and look at the bigger picture this week before the Dukes open CAA play in the toughest way possible next week.
For the second week in a row, in-game adjustments appear to be taking place, and taking place very effectively. We hate the slow starts (more to come on that), but one of our biggest complaints for years under the previous regime was a staunch refusal to make adjustments. In many cases, things were the opposite of the way they’ve taken place this year. Under Mickey, the Dukes would ground n’ pound there way to a hard-fought, but slim halftime or early lead. But no changes were ever made and they kept trying to grind straight ahead while other teams adjusted and frequently blew their doors off. Games in recent years against Villanova, UNH, and ODU have been repetitive examples of this. Yesterday, after falling behind 15-7, the Dukes fixed a few things and outscored the Red Flashes 31-7 the rest of the way. And that’s on the heels of the big second-half comeback last week.
The second thing (man it’s nice to finally have multiple items in this section) to point out here was the significantly improved play of QB1 Vad Lee. Not sure if the removal of the balky knee brace he started the season with had anything to do with it or not, but Lee looked a heck of a lot friskier running the ball yesterday. And he also threw the ball with the type of authority we’d heard about from back in the Spring game. Even the most critical observer would have to concede he was good yesterday and could’ve been even better were it not for two dropped first downs and a horrible dropped TD in the first half. It’s also worth noting that he seemed to discover Daniel Brown yesterday after seeming to be politically attached to fellow transfer wideout Tapley the first two weeks and Brown rewarded him by generally showing why he’s a unique weapon at this level. That scrambling throw to Brown in the second quarter was also a play that simply doesn’t happen under either of the two QB’s we’ve had most recently (that’s not to say Lee’s an overall upgrade, just that play wasn’t mentally in JT’s capacity or physically within Birdsong’s).
Also in the good section, again, was the play of Jimmy effin’ Moreland. Not sure if that’s a good nickname or if someone can find a honeybadgerish type moniker for him, but the kid can ball. We’ve heard more knowledgable football minds argue he’s sometimes out of position on other plays, but you just can’t replace a kid with a knack for the type of game-changing plays this kid’s already making. Not to mention he wasn’t alone yesterday as the defense shook off a terrible start to force a number of big plays and turnovers including another fantastic center fielder type pick by Raven Greene to seal the win at the end.
Not exactly a full “good” but the kicking game has also started to at least not be atrocious which is great news given all the preseason worries. One terrible punt, but a bunch of really solid punts, kicks, and coverage.
Three weeks, three terrible starts. No idea what’s going on early in these games. Are they overamped? Overthinking? Who knows, but it’s got to stop or they aren’t going to be able to overcome this consistently.
High snaps. Already talked about the drops and we don’t like to call out particular players on execution issues, but the Dukes HAVE to find a way to get this snap snafu sorted out before Lee gets killed or is forced to throw more picks.
There’s a trip to the Main Line to play Villanova up next. The Dukes are just about where we hoped them to be at 2-1, but so far have shown only incremental improvement. The trip they take to Villanofun this week could be terrifying without a significant positive step this week. Nova has lost by a point in double OT at the Carrier Dome, destroyed an FCS playoff team in Fordham two weeks ago and is coming off a bye yesterday. This will easily be the Dukes toughest remaining game and they need to be ready.
Rob’s tweeted something yesterday after taking his young boys on their annual guy’s trip to JMU that took off and got me thinking.
“If they charged every alum who took their kid’s picture at the Duke Dog statue $1, they could pay for the other 1/2 of the stadium”
The statue has been an amazing addition and access and the freedom to climb on have been two of the huge things about it so we’re not saying they should actually place a fee on it, but it would be a great place to poll the fan base and/or raise money for any of JMU’s programs as needed.
We saw a slight uptick in fan confidence among poll voters after the comeback win over Lehigh. 60% of respondents thought the Dukes were playoff bound. Only 56% believed the same thing heading into the game in Bethlehem. That makes perfect sense to me. The Dukes did some stuff very well in that win, but definitely exposed some weaknesses as well. I think we saw signs of encouragement, but by no means does this team appear to be a playoff lock. Hopefully the Dukes can take another step forward today and be hitting on all cylinders by the Nova game. That game is the big test.
The chance to welcome the Everett Withers era to Bridgeforth Stadium has finally arrived. And just as importantly, tailgate season in the ‘Burg is finally upon us! This week the Dukes welcome back the St. Francis Red Flash from some tiny hill town in PA. It’s almost unfathomable that JMU is hosting this team again, but we’ll put as much of that on Mickey’s preference for late 80’s John Thompson style creampuff scheduling as we will on everyone’s favorite punching bag AD Jeff Bourne. And that’s not necessarily a knock on St. Francis’ program or a guarantee the Dukes will cruise tomorrow, it just baffles mind that we can’t find a cupcake with some type of local interest to come to BFS year after year after year. Were VMI, Norfolk St., Hampton, Georgetown, Campbell, NC A&T, and Western Carolina somehow all busy with better plans these weekends?
Anyhow, onto the game.
Match-up: JMU Dukes (1-1, 0-0 CAA) vs. St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (1-1, 0-0 NEC)
Kickoff: 4:00 PM – you know where
Weather: High of 72 with 50% of showers (but not T’Storms it doesn’t look like)
Broadcast: Streamed (for free thanks to the Alumni Association) via Madizone. Of course, it’s in beautiful HD right in front of you at BFS.
Wait, who are we kidding? The Red Flash are a program on the rise. Or so we’ve heard. In that noted power conference the NEC! They started the season getting blown out by solid FCS program Fordham before getting a win at home over something called Clarion last week. This is the first of back-to-back FCS guarantee games (they travel to Youngstown next week) for St. Francis and with a veteran QB (same kid that played last time) and quite a bit of knowledge of the Dukes and BFS, they likely won’t be intimidated. But this is the lone game on JMU’s schedule that on paper is an absolute mismatch in JMU’s favor. Simply bigger, stronger, faster players and more schollies make this more a question of can JMU simply live up to the expectation than anything else. Of course, that’s what we’ve said in past years – do Bloomsburg or CCSU ring a bell? – and this year the lightly regarded Dukes are only 16.5 point faves.
St. Francis is called the Red Flash. Yes, that’s Flash, not Flashes. They are from what appears to be a beautiful town on top of a mountain called Loretto, PA. That town is likely just a small outpost where people talk about how you shoulda seen it when the mine was working. St. Francis is one of the smallest schools in Division 1 athletics and someday they’ll probably make a great story for March Madness. But limited scholarship FCS participation in the NEC is a tough way to go.
How St. Francis Can Win?
Play the game of their lives and have the Dukes completely shit the bed. And they’d still probably need some lucky breaks to go their way at that. In all seriousness, the gameplan for anyone as shown through two weeks needs to be get out to a big lead on JMU and force Lee to “throw.”
How JMU Can Win?
Whatever happened during that lightning delay in Bethlehem last week (maybe there is something to that Bethlehem too), rediscover it and just ride the positive vibes. Do not make mistakes. Really it should be that simple. Without bad turnovers, penalties, and general missed assignments, the Dukes should roll. One thing we’d really like to see is somehow getting Daniel Brown more involved this week (or really any target other than Tapley for that matter). One thing we have to see this week is some semblance of run-stuffing ability and pass rush from the front seven.
Beer of the Week
This one was carried with special care halfway across the country by a friend of JMUSB especially for the home opener (huge thanks to the Bowens of Dickerson, Md). Even with showers, this may be the only semi-summerish game at home this season so we’ve got to have a big, beautiful IPA and this is a doozy. Mind’s EyePA from Petoskey Brewing in Petoskey, Michigan. Tall boy cans (the best) filled with some Pure Michigan goodness.
Freshman Pro Tip of the Week
At the tailgates, if any asks you “Who ya rooting for?” or “Do you root?” or any similar slurred variation of those questions, the answer is always – this is important, ALWAYS – “Rootin’ fer Dukes, bud!”
We’d love for Withers to be able to name the score, but we haven’t seen anything so far to think that’s a possibility in Year 1. That said, we think the Dukes continue building momentum after last week’s exciting comeback and assert control early. Mistakes seem inevitable, but the spread seems about right in this one. Dukes 33, STFU 17
First of all, I would like to preface this story by thanking Rob & Todd for giving me this opportunity to tell, what I believe, is a unique story about the game against Lehigh this past weekend. Also, I am a freshman at this fine institution of higher education, so I may not have the writing skills of a New York Times columnist, sorry. I also won’t state names, so sorry if it’s hard to follow sometimes.
I have six uncles, plus my Dad, many of which have played football at one point or another, but only two have made it past the highschool level. One of my uncles went on to become a offensive tackle for the hometown Engineers of Lehigh University (as they were known then). The other became a defensive end for the Dukes of James Madison (he later went on to become the team leader in sacks for the 1989 season). They never met on the field. So, when JMU and Lehigh announced a home-and-home series for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, we knew we had to get together and watch their teams play each other.
We had a mini family reunion at the game, but sadly, my uncle from JMU couldn’t make it. In the parking lot, we tailgated with another family that had somewhat of a similar predicament as we did; they went to Lehigh, but their daughter went to JMU.
Later on, at the begging of the second half, when the lightning delay was announced, I jokingly told my dad that this is the momentum shifter that the Dukes needed, similar to the power outage at the Super Bowl a few years back. My uncle from Lehigh overheard, and was reminded a game from back in the day: Lehigh vs. Villanova. Lehigh manhandled Villanova in the first half, but after a lightning delay, Villanova shut down Lehigh to win the game. He had to leave after the delay to do alumni things, but he basically told me not to get my hopes up before he left.
I still don’t know his reaction when he found out JMU came back, down eleven to one of the best teams in I-AA football, to win the game. After the game, I sent a picture of the scoreboard to my uncle from JMU. His response: “Woooooooooo!”Hopefully they can both make it, as well as all of you, to round two in Bridgeforth next year.
St. Francis comes to Harrisonburg this weekend for the Dukes home opener of 2014. And that means it’s time for our third prediction contest of this young season. By now you know the drill. Leave a comment with your prediction for the game including the winner and final score. The person who comes closest to predicting the outcome correctly (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. Pretty simple. Give us your prediction for Saturday’s game and Go Dukes!