Jan 7 / Rob

JMU Lost the Championship, Now What?

The Dukes lost a heartbreaker to North Dakota State by the score of 17-13. And it really was a heartbreaker. We haven’t had to recap a loss in a long, long time. And truth be told, we’re not really sure what to say. After 26 straight wins and a championship, it’s kind of difficult to come to grips with JMU losing. Credit to NDSU for limiting the mistakes and and getting the job done. Really though, it’s pretty difficult not to go the other direction and focus more on the mistakes JMU did make. We’ll try though. Here are 3 quick thoughts on the loss.

These Were the 2 Best Teams and It Wasn’t Really Close

If you watched FCS football this year, it was pretty obvious JMU and NDSU were the class of the subdivision. While yesterday’s result was bound to disappoint some folks (and unfortunately it turned out those folks were us JMU fans), it only reinforced the notion that JMU and NDSU were the best teams.

Both defenses came into the game with plenty of hype, and both lived up to it. And then some. It was an absolutely slugfest. Just a hard fought game all around where nothing came easy. And the stats show how close it was. After running roughshod over everyone in the playoffs, the Bison running game squeaked out a meager 2.8 yards per carry. JMU was only slightly better at 3.1 yards per carry. Neither D bent much in the passing game either. NDSU threw for just 130 yards and JMU for 148. It really was close.

It Came Down to A Few Plays 

Yeah, you can say this about pretty much any football game in history. It was especially true for this championship contest though. Maybe we were a little drunk on purple Kool Aid, but it sure seemed to us like JMU was the better team after the break. That scoring drive looked clinical. The receivers had the Bison corners on their heels and Schor was making plays with his feet. It was the first drive all day where either team’s offense looked in complete control. And the defense was having its way with Stick and the Bison offense. So what happened?

Mistakes happened. Bad breaks happened. Receivers dropped passes. Stapleton made a highlight worthy catch and then fumbled (didn’t fumble). Schor took a hit and coughed up a pass/fumble thing and the d-lineman made a catch that Franco Harris thought was close to touching the ground (and that’s meant as a compliment, not a gripe about the call). Just when it looked like the Dukes were ready to take the lead, and dare we say, pull away, NDSU got the ball back and that was kind of it. It was that kind of day for JMU.

Winning is as much about avoiding big mistakes as it is about making big plays. We’re 100% positive that if JMU was the team that benefitted from these same sort of mistakes, we’d be talking about the Dukes’ championship character and how they dug down deep to find a way to win. So let’s be the bigger people and admit that NDSU did just that. Neither team was able to establish any consistency on offense. NDSU won by not beating themselves. That’s a real way to win folks. Even if it is difficult to accept for us as JMU fans.

Throughout the record winning streak, JMU consistently limited mistakes and frankly, caught a lot of breaks. There was bound to be a game sooner or later, where things didn’t really go the Dukes’ way. It just stinks that it was in the championship.

Still Damn Proud to be a Duke

This hurts. I found myself in the position of being the guy who has to try to cheer folks up and get them to look at the bright side yesterday. Not sure why, but sometimes you get to be the fan who howls at the moon and sometimes you get to be the one that comforts friends and family even though you’re hurting too. Yesterday, I was the latter. And it was actually rather cathartic. I was at peace with the loss. Then I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. My mind was flooded with visions of sure handed receivers dropping passes with nothing in between them and the endzone. Replays of Stapleton going to the ground with the ball secured. Bad breaks and close calls all around. It’s not so much painful as it is incredibly frustrating. JMU was that close to repeating.

Despite all that, it’s still a great time to be a Duke. Yes, our boys lost yesterday. But Coach Houston and the entire program have completely spoiled us the past 2 years. As fans, this really hurts. It’s nothing compared to the pain the players, especially the seniors, are going through though. But let’s have some perspective folks. Even with the loss, those players gave us all a gift. We don’t wan to be melodramatic, but there aren’t too many things in life that can bring thousands of people together like college football. Life is about shared experiences with folks you love. The Dukes have given us one heck of a shared experience. Whether that experience was traveling to Texas with old friends, gathering with family to watch on the couch, or even watching by yourself but texting and tweeting other fans. It’s all special folks. Sure, JMU lost. But we win for being fans.




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  1. JMUDRU / Jan 7 2018

    This is perfect. Spot on across the board. Always proud to be a Duke!

  2. randy'78 / Jan 7 2018

    Well said.Very proud to be a Duke!

  3. maddukes98 / Jan 7 2018

    Well said. I got a chance to see my brother 2 years in a row after moving 3000 miles from him so I couldn’t agree more about what you are saying. Thanks again for all they you two do for the blog to help keep fans connected and engaged Year-round, not just during football season. It’s been a helluva a ride and cliche as it is all good things come to an end at some point. It sucks that it happens this way sometimes, but with all things in life, things happen that you can’t control and we just have to remember the good parts which in this case is we are all Duke fans and it’s always a great day to be a Duke!

  4. Don A / Jan 7 2018

    Awesome summary. Nice job as always. I was in Frisco and agree to many mistakes, missed opportunities and bad breaks. But if 1 goes our way we’d be talking about how great this team is. Really tough loss but great time to be a Duke!!

  5. Neil Senatro / Jan 7 2018

    Perfectly spoken, We have been spoiled by a great team. Coach Houston will give us more great teams to enjoy but I’ll miss Bryan and company. Thanks to the SportsBlog guys for your viewpoints this season. Love the podcasts. Already looking forward to your thoughts on the 2018 football Dukes.

  6. Tripp / Jan 7 2018

    Well said, Rob. When two awesome teams take the field one side will be disappointed and it is unfortunate that it was us, especially when we seemed to be dominating the 2nd half. If these teams played 100 times I think we’d have a 50-50 record. It’s a great time to be a Dukes fan and I can’t wait for next year!

  7. Jr / Jan 7 2018

    Great analogy on the the game Rob! It’s easy afterwards to point the finger at all the dropped passes n the unfortunate foul which led to there first td, but the reality is Lady Luck never factored in for the Dukes who at times looked snakebitten especially with the call of the “fumble that wasn’t “..Dukes played inspired Duke football and represented Harrisonburg and our fans extremely well and the players and coaches are to be commended.. Hats off to the Bison who were very physical especially on the defensive line not allowing us time to ever really get into rythum on offense. Next year it will be us coming back with a vengeance as we all know (course I’m biased) we were the Best Team…

  8. JMU2K1 / Jan 7 2018

    It was frustrating to watch because those of us non-Kool Aid drinkers saw the problems all year that manifested themselves yesterday. The offense clearly was not as dynamic this year, which is fine. It’s not about scoring 80 points. It’s about being efficient. You can’t have a 1st and goal on the 1 and kick a field goal and expect to win a playoff game. You can’t turn the ball over in the red zone. You can’t miss makable field goals. Do those things against a team like NDSU and you lose.

    I also thought Schor looked and played panicky. I understand he was pressured, but more than a few times when he seemed to give up and scramble when he could have stepped up into the pocket. He easily could have ended up with two more picks due to forcing throws, and the pick into double coverage inside the 5 was a back breaker.

    Houston’s clock management at the of half was horrendous (again; see Weber St). You absolutely have to call a timeout after the completion at the 6 yard line. He had two left! There should have been 11 or 12 seconds left on the clock and time to run two plays. I think he’s great but he totally mismanaged the end of two 1st halves during these playoffs. Buy hey, at least he went into those halftimes with 5 of his 6 timeouts…

    The worst thing about yesterday was that it was the last time we’ll ever see that defense. What an extraordinary group. They brought it every week and ended up being historically great. They carried this Dukes team to within a whisker of another title.

  9. Paul C / Jan 7 2018

    Well said. It was a pleasure to be a Duke and watch the character of these young men develop over the last two years. Thank you for how well you represented our university and, to the seniors, best wishes on similar success in life!

  10. CJ / Jan 7 2018

    Of course I’m proud of the Dukes and the amazing season they’ve had to bring us to this point, but I can’t help be a little frustrated by this loss. I really thought JMU was the better team out there. Our defense, minus that 50 yard passing score at the end of the first half, I thought did a really good job of shutting down their run game, which was no easy task. This forced NDSU to pass more, which they don’t like to do, and our secondary was superior. How many times did Stick drop back to pass …. often with pretty good protection … and just not have anyone to throw to? Once again, our defense gave us the chance to win.

    Unfortunately, our offense wasn’t on their A game. Possibly the biggest difference in the game was those repeated drops of catchable passes by our Receivers. Make a couple of those catches and it’s a whole new game. Schor definitely had an off day, too, although the game was still winnable even without him being 100%.

    What else? Take that roughing the kicker call off the table and maybe it changes the game? If that call on Stapleton’s fumble goes the other way maybe JMU scores the go-ahead touchdown?

    Overall, I think we beat ourselves more than NDSU beat us. But that’s football. We were the better team against Weber State but one or two plays in that game could have easily given them the win. Big games between talented opponents often come down to just one or two plays.

    In closing, I’d like go off on tangent and reflect on the success of our football team versus the work product we’re getting out of our basketball program. I love Louis Rowe but how many abysmal seasons is it going to take for us to realize that he just isn’t gonna get it done? We’re on the right track with the new arena (albeit about 15 years late) but we need a head coach with potential. The women’s program found Kenny Brooks, GMU found Larranega, VCU found Smart….JMU deserves better. How exciting would it be to be watching JMU on a run in March?

  11. DB Wakely / Jan 7 2018

    Nicely written!
    Thank You!!

  12. Bison fan / Jan 7 2018

    Had a great time in Fisco with the JMU fans everyone I met was Great! What a great tailgate and game atmosphere fun times my friends. See you downs the road I’m sure. The 100 degree temp swing felt good too.

  13. Roger C / Jan 7 2018

    Well said!! You must be a JMU alumni with as well written as your blog is! Looking forward to next year already ! Go Duuuuukes ! ( and believe it or not I’m not an alumni – but have two sons there ). Maybe ODU VS JMU someday…..

  14. Rob K / Jan 7 2018

    Simeyon played like a champion yesterday. Ankrah and Kyre played like champions yesterday. Rashad and Jimmy played like champions. Despite the score on the scoreboard, the list of champion-caliber performances is too long to mention.

  15. Kurt Hodgen / Jan 7 2018

    Great perspective on the game and what we all saw and felt. I’m proud to be. Duke and thank all of the seniors for what they have given us over their careers here. Go Dukes!

  16. 83 Duke / Jan 7 2018

    Very well written. Two excellent teams, as Coach Houston said, we simply made too many mistakes specifically drops and turnovers.

    Almost as disappointing was the weak fan base in attendance. Seeing all that yellow on the home side of the field was pathetic. Especially the dozen or so Bison fans seated near the 50 in what were definitely Duke Club seats. It’s too bad those seats can’t be traced back to the people that purchased them at face value through JMU only to sell them for a likely profit to the opposition. They should be banned from purchasing tickets in the future. I get it, things can happen that cause you to change plans but i’d think you could find a Dukes fan that would have loved the opportunity to purchase them. Our Team deserved better than to see all the yellow on our side of the field.

  17. Judy / Jan 8 2018

    This was a real nail-biter of a game!! Thank you, JMU Dukes, for giving us Bison a run for the money. We look forward to more great games with you in the years to come!

  18. ShadyP / Jan 8 2018

    Great season and Great Run no doubt. It is a shame that is had to end in the National Title game but it is what it is. No excuses here, the team that played a ‘cleaner’ game won and I think every JMU coach and player would say the same thing. But already cannot wait for Spring ball and next August. Embrace the grind and work hard in the classroom, film room, weight room, and practice field and let’s all hit it again next season.

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