Rematch. And playoff rematch to boot. JMU gets the 2016 postseason started this afternoon with a second round clash with the New Hampshire Wildcats. News broke late last night that QB Bryan Schor will be starting after missing the season finale against Elon with an officially undisclosed injury. There’s nothing much we can say guys. We’re hyped. You’re hyped. The Dukes are hyped. Let’s do this. Consider this your official open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter.
Match-up: Round of 16, New Hampshire Wildcats (8-4) vs. #4 JMU Dukes (10-1)
Kick-off: 2 p.m. Saturday, Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA
Weather: 47 degrees, sunny. Can’t ask for better December football weather!
Broadcast: ESPN3, available in approximately the 780’s or 790’s on most DirecTV bar packages
What’s At Stake
The season. A home game for the Dukes against the winner of Chattanooga @ Sam Houston St.. A chance for Coach Houston’s staff to prove once and for all that they’ve improved on what Coach Withers started. Simply, JMU needs to win to put the postseason failures against Liberty and Colgate behind them and prove the program is really back into national contention. Granted, UNH may be better than either of those two teams, but we really hope JMU is MUCH better.
Here we go. It’s playoff time. The #4 seed JMU Dukes welcome their old conference pals the New Hampshire Wildcats to Bridgeforth Stadium on Saturday. It’s New Hampshire’s first trip to the expanded Bridgeforth. The Wildcats are riding high after absolutely destroying Lehigh in the opening round. The Dukes are well rested and coming off a first round bye. Interestingly enough, both teams will probably enter the game looking to prove that the earlier meeting between them was a fluke, if for different reasons. In any case, it’s set up to be a great game. So leave us a comment letting us know who you think will win and what the score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. That’s it.
Deacon Danny won the prediction contest for the Elon game. Due to the fact that nobody reads the blog on Thanksgiving, we delayed posting his guest post until today. Here’s his post about the Top 10 things to be thankful for with JMU football.
I appreciate the opportunity to submit this guest post. Early in the 3rd quarter of the Elon game I had pretty much written off my 63-10 guess, but then everything just started to click and the Dukes began scoring with the proficiency that we have seen more than once this season. After mulling over what to write about for a few days, I decided that, that in the spirit of Thanksgiving I would roll out a top 10 list of the things I am thankful for in the world of JMU football this year.
10 Minimized In-Game anxiety. While I like a good game, I appreciate that JMU was able to score on most of their opponents early and often and put games away without creating too much nail-biting excitement. As JMU progresses in the playoffs (AND WE WILL!), I know the games will get closer and this anxiety will build, but my nerves have mostly been left intact until now.
9 Bridgeforth Stadium. First-class facilities for an FCS team that JMU can be proud of. There are a lot of stadiums including BCS stadiums, (um… Chapel Hill) that are not nearly as nice. I am sure coming into such nice facilities can be intimidating for an opposing team; especially if we pack the stadium with fans! Check me on this JMU Sports Blog, but this may be New Hampshire’s first visit to the remodeled Bridgeforth Stadium. Let’s pack the stadium and make sure it is a trip they will remember!
8 JMU Sports Blog. Great source of information and I love the banter. Enough said!
The Dukes enjoyed a well earned bye for round one of the postseason. But now it’s their turn as JMU has its first FCS Playoff game of the Mike Houston era. The round two match-up will feature fellow CAA team, the New Hampshire Wildcats coming to the ‘burg to face the Dukes. Due to the quirks off the unbalanced CAA schedule, it will actually be JMU’s first time facing New Hampshire in the new Bridgeforth Stadium.
The Wildcats earned the right to face JMU by steamrolling Lehigh in round one. In the 64-21 victory, UNH jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. They racked up over 600 yards of total offense, including 364 on the ground. And they did it with their starting QB, Trevor Knight, on the sidelines with an injured foot. Matt Riese got the start instead. Much like he did when he relieved Knight in the game against JMU, Riese easily lead an efficient and explosive Wildcat offense. It was the most points UNH had scored in a single game since 2003. It’s unclear which QB will get the call on Saturday.
This should be a fun rematch and a very tough test for the Dukes. As you might recall, JMU had things rolling against New Hampshire back on October 15. The Dukes got out to a 42-10 lead with only 10 minutes left in the game. Then the entire team pretty much went to sleep and UNH stormed back, before finally falling 42-39.
After two straight years of disappointing playoff results under Everett Withers, we’re anxious for JMU to get over the hump and win a game in the postseason. New Hampshire is a dangerous team that should come in to Bridgeforth with plenty of confidence. We believe Coach Houston and his staff will have the Dukes ready to go though. Saturday can’t get here soon enough.
Purple and gold might as well be the official colors of the 2016 All-CAA Football Teams. The league announced it’s postseason awards yesterday and boy did the Dukes represent. A ridiculous 14 JMU players earned all league honors, including a program record 10 on the first team. The haul continued with Bryan Schor winning Offensive Player of the Year, Rashard Davis winning Special Teams Player of the Year, and Mike Houston taking home Coach of the Year.
JMU All-CAA First Team Selections
QB Bryan Schor
RB Khalid Abdullah
WR Brandon Ravenel
TE Jonathan Kloosterman
OL Mitchell Kirsch
OL Aaron Stinnie
PR Rashard Davis
DL Andrew Ankrah
CB Taylor Reynolds
S Raven Greene
JMU All-CAA Second Team Selections
OL Matt Frank
LB Gage Steele
P Gunnar Kane
JMU All-CAA Third Team Selections
WR Terrence Alls
The selections were well deserved after JMU ran the table in CAA play and won the league championship in Coach Houston’s first year. The Dukes were picked to finish third behind RU and William & Mary in the preseason. Only Ravenel, Kirsch, Greene, Ankrah, and Reynolds were honored on the All-CAA preseason teams. Safe to say, the Dukes exceeded most people’s expectations.
What a great weekend to be a Duke! There’s just so much to unpack today that some things will obviously go overlooked. We’re going to do this Good, Bad, and Ugly style for yesterday’s game and a few other items and then sort of have a “Part II” with our initial thoughts on the playoff bracket that was unveiled today featuring our beloved Dukes at #4 overall.
JMU Volleyball won the CAA title and is NCAA Tournament bound! – We don’t claim to know much but we do know the CAA title win over Delaware came on the heels of senior Janey Goodman receiving POY honors for the second straight year and junior Taylor Austin taking the Defensive POY award. Just as important, sophomore Taylor Gail earned a spot on the conference’s All-Academic team. The Big Dance starts in two weeks so we’re guessing there is some type of selection show next weekend.
Carol Strock of Cross Country won her second straight ECAC individual championships in New York and the Dukes took the team title as well! We know even less about this, but that’s a lotta hardware returning to the ‘Burg this week!
Cole Johnson and the plan for Cole Johnson – Now that we get back to the Elon game, pretty tough to beat a starting debut where you go 12-13 for 274 yards and two TD’s. And that throw to Kloosterman up the seam and the touch on the second TD to Taylor gave a glimpse of the enormous potential Johnson possesses! And obviously a great job by the coaching staff putting the kid in position to succeed.
Giving teams more to think about – So about all those wildcat plays? Since DaeQuan Scott left the ‘Burg we’ve been no fan of the wildcat, but Saturday’s usage of the formation was on the surface a way to help the true freshman QB making his first start. But just to show how ahead of the game Coach Houston and the staff are, it was also quite the little wrinkle to put on film for future playoff opponents to have to at least consider prepping for.
Tyler Gray – While some fans were frustrated with the Dukes stalling out for FG’s twice in the first few drives (and in one case refusing a penalty on a made FG that would’ve given them first and goal), it was really great to see the kicking game get some things straightened out. Also, I got to spend time in the halftime concession line with Tyler Gray’s awesome mom and it was a great reminder that a) parents of kickers have it the worst, b) we’ve been right that it’s a lot easier to live with ourselves and remain fans when we stick to our policy of not killing student-athletes for play on the field, and finally c) the fraternity of kickers at JMU is so so strong and supportive as it was no surprise to hear that both Cameron Starke and Ryan Maglio have been mentoring Gray through this up and down season and encouraging him to be ready when it counts. We’re betting he will be.
10-1, 8-0 – Not even the blindest of homers had the Dukes running the table in the CAA and winning ten regular season games for only the second time in program history. We know we didn’t. They’ve been playing so well lately that we’ve kind adopted the same one-game-at-a-time mentality the team has and lost sight of the big picture. But wow, in Coach Houston’s first season the record speaks for itself! Hats off to everyone in the program for one hell of a year. So far.
Domo Taylor – The big receiver had been relatively quiet during the back half of the season so it was great to see him get loose again yesterday and re-assert himself prior to the postseason. He’s a nightmare matchup and an enormous decoy even when he isn’t catching balls so long as opponents respect that he’ll get it if you leave him one-on-one. That’ll show on film.
MRD’s doing Purple Rain, enough said.
Not really a bad, but it’s just hard to know if the Defense built on their great performance the week before at Villanova because Elon is so bad. Not mad about the long play, but that drive after the half was not a good one to give up. That said, that was also Elon’s last gasp for the season and it may be more letdown at halftime of a blowout than something to be concerned about performance wise.
Only thing we can think of was that nasty turn in the weather right at gametime. Tough to blame fans who were tailgating beach-style and accidentally ended up at a Minnesota game. But hey, maybe it’s just good prep for the playoffs since now we all need to be ready for anything!
Quick Playoff Thoughts
We’ll have much more on the bracket at some point during this two weeks, but here are some quick reactions.
Heard The Citadel’s players cheered when Coach Houston was shown on tv during the Selection Show despite being in competition with JMU for seeding. That’s just awesome and says everything we’ll ever need to know about Coach.
KC Keeler appeared to whine a bit when Sam Houston St. and their undefeated-but-featuring-a-D2-game schedule were left out of the top four seeds and set up for a potential trip to BFS in the quarters. In related news, the sun came up again today. Having the old Delaware coach and all his ranting back in the ‘Burg would actually be really fun.
Look, the playoffs are tough this year. There appear to be at least 8-10 teams with a legit shot to get to Frisco and a ton more tough, frisky opponents playing the first weekend too. San Diego and Cal Poly are also rematching a regular season game in Round 1 so we can hardly complain about the potential for UNH again for JMU in Round 2. But we kind of love JMU’s side of the bracket. Not because it’s easy or anything, but it does set up a couple great things. First, by getting the four seed, as mentioned before, the Dukes are guaranteed at least two home games if they win the first. In other words, the Dukes might host Sam Houston St. on Friday night Dec. 9 or Sat. Dec. 10.
We also love being in the NDSU side. The hype for whoever goes to Fargo and ends the Bison run will be huge and a great opportunity for some real SportsCenter run for someone. Why not the Dukes?! I mean, they almost won up their with JT at QB1, we know they can do it with any of these guys ha. But…
There’s no guarantee NDSU will make it that far. SDSU, you know the team that already beat them this year, and a brutal Villanova team we all know and love (to hate), are both potentially in their path prior to the semis. Should JMU and anyone other than NDSU make the semis, that game would be at BFS on Fri. Dec. 16 or Sat. Dec. 17. Needless to say, that would be quite a show!
But before all of that, let’s just get a single playoff win over the winner of Lehigh at New Hampshire please. Don’t forget, UNH dealt with a bunch of key injuries and still forced the Dukes to play a very clean game to beat them in October. And they may not even get by a red-hot Lehigh team that would remind us all what happened last time we hosted a Patriot League champ in the playoffs. So let’s just get the first one!
The JMU Dukes welcome the Elon to Bridgeforth Stadium today for the 2016 regular season finale. It’s Senior Day and one last tune up before the playoffs. Bryan Schor has officially been ruled out, so true freshman Cole Johnson will get his first start at QB. Given that, we should probably expect heavy doses of Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson, with a few confidence building throws mixed in. JMU needs a strong showing in order to hang on to one of the top 4 seeds for the playoffs. We’re both going to be in Bridgeforth for this one, but consider this your official open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter.
With the Dukes achieving the rare feat of locking up the outright CAA title and the automatic playoff bid that goes with it a week early, this game will not have quite the stakes that many other regular-season enders have lately. But make no mistake, JMU has plenty to play for and it should be a beautiful day in the ‘Burg!
Elon Phoenix (2-8, 1-6 CAA) at #4 JMU Dukes (9-1, 7-0 CAA), 1:30 p.m. Bridgeforth Stadium
Weather: High of 62, Sunny. Basically a perfect fall day in the Valley!
Senior Day and Alumni Band Day (which hopefully will help attendance given most students will be long-gone for Thanksgiving Break)
FEPO: Dukes by 31 and a hook.
Coverage: MadiZone HD
UniWatch: For the first time ever, the Dukes will be wearing ALL Black, including some fancy new matte black helmets with purple chrome facemarks and the big Duke Dog logo returning! So for the third(?) time ever with the black shirts, it’s time to Blackout (at) Bridgeforth!
Bonus Coverage Note: The FCS Playoff Selection Show is at 11 a.m. on ESPNU on Sunday morning.
What’s at Stake
A surprising amount all things considered. JMU has been sitting at #4 in the FCS Selection Committee’s rankings the last two weeks and they may need to hang half-a-hundred up on the Phoenix to hang onto that spot. Barring an upset ahead of them, the Dukes really don’t have much of an argument to move up. NDSU (beat Iowa, is 5-time champs), EWU (beat Wazzu), and Jacksonville St.(in title game last year) have proven themselves and despite the FCS/CAA apologists in our fanbase, the CAA ain’t what it once was. In fact, it’s 4th in conference rankings this year behind MVFC, Big Sky, and SoCon. And with #5 Sam Houston St. playing a top ten Central Arkansas and an undefeated SoCon champ in The Citadel getting their shot at UNC this weekend, the Dukes need to keep the pedal down and maybe even watch the scoreboard a bit. Staying in the top 8, and thus getting a first round bye, is assured with a win, but staying in the top 4, and setting themselves up for at least two home games (and maybe a third if there’s an upset) would be huge!
It’s also the last regular season game for a great group of seniors who have hung in there through three coaching staffs. Although it’s certainly not their last home game, it’s important to thank this group led by Brandon Ravenel, Khalid Abdullah, Kyle Rigney, Mitchell Kirsch, Matt Frank, Martez Stone, Domo Taylor, Gage Steele, Justin Wellons, and Taylor Reynolds. For the record and in other great news, Safety Raven Greene was awarded a fifth year of eligibility for a medical hardship dating back a couple years this week so we’ll get the turnover machine back next year!
How Elon Can Win
JMU beat Rhode Island 84-7. Elon lost to Rhode Island 44-14. They might need more than just a team-wide food poisoning outbreak to pull this off. Something more in the neighborhood of a sinkhole swallowing the team bus. Seriously, we cannot bring ourselves to research a team JMU shutout 51-0 at their place last year and that has scored less points against CAA competition all season than JMU did in that RhodeI game. Wonder what Coach Skrosky’s contract situation is and if they miss playing Western Carolina every year? All that said, Elon lost 13-10 to UNH and beat W&M 27-10 in a hurricane so no sleeping. ZZZzzzzzz.
How JMU Can Win
Protect the football and continue their improvement on defense. It’s really hard to see Elon scoring enough to keep up with the Dukes without an avalanche of unforced errors on JMU’s part, but it sure would be great to see the D build on last week’s dominant performance at Villanova.
JMUSB Beer of the Week
Thanks to a bit of hooky from work from our fellow ticket holder and frequent commenter Uncle Ron, we have a special surprise on tap this week. Aslin Beer Company’s Master of Karate. While the hype on Herndon’s Aslin is a bit out of control these days, it’s impossible to argue with the quality of the quaff coming out of this great little joint, and we’re certainly excited to have one of their finest offerings.
Official JMUSB Prediction
Dukes 41, Fightin’ Christians 14
Bonus Official JMUSB Playoff Prediction
Dukes hang onto the #4 seed. Hard to see the Dukes moving up without a loss, and we’ll certainly be pulling for Central Arkansas in their matchup with undefeated (but ain’t played nobody Pawwwllll) Sam Houston St. who currently sits at #5. You know former Delaware Coach Keeler, now at Sam, will be whining and bitchin’ and complaining the way he always does if that’s the case, but you also know the possibility of him doing it in person back at BFS in the quarters is tantalizing too!
Chase won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. He wrote a great one. Read all about his Top 10 JMU Sports Teams and let the debate begin.
So I had a stupid prepared line about how I’m going to Morgantown this weekend for a top-10 game between Oklahoma and West Virginia, and the whole Top-10 thing got me thinking… but honestly, that’s not remotely true. The truth is that this is a project I’ve had bubbling around in my purple-toned brainstem for a while now, so I’m excited to finally bring it to fruition.
Here goes. JMU — the little athletic department that could, in some ways — has put out some really stellar teams over the years. But if you could figure out a way to compare teams across individuals sports, which one is actually the best?
Obviously, this is incredibly subjective, and way more people are going to read this and be pissed off about my ordering than actually agree with anything I say. But here was the criteria I came up with for my own particular grading standards, in no particular order:
-Tangibles: what kinds of weird, crazy, or impressive stats did your team produce? What championships did you win? What was your record?
–Record vs ranked opponents: all of these teams have good records, but were they manufactured against a high level of competition?
–Performance relative to other Division 1 conferences: CAA football and CAA women’s lacrosse are not remotely the same.
–How good’s your good? I’ve stolen this from Scott Van Pelt, but I think it’s one of the best qualifiers for measuring a sports team. On your best day, what are you capable of?
One last note — for a variety of reasons, I’ve opted not include any sports that are currently played on the club level. That means I’m leaving off the ‘95 Archery national championship.
I’m also leaving off this year’s football team, which could merit some consideration before it’s all said and done. But since the season isn’t over yet, we can’t really rank them accurately.
Okay. No pressure. This definitely won’t earn me hate mail. Let’s go.