Sep 2 / Todd

JMU @ NC State: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

The Dukes went toe-to-toe with NC State yesterday but fell in the end 24-13. Sure there are nits to pick, but we feel absolutely confident saying we’re more sure of the sky-high potential from this year’s squad leaving Raleigh with a hard-fought loss against a team that could easily end the year in the top 10 than we were leaving Greenville last year after punishing a terrible ECU team last year.

As always, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

So, so much good in this game. We’re gonna put a few things in the other column, but if you think the Dukes don’t leave this game with tons to look forward to this year, the shade of purple in your glasses is simply too dark. Finley is the #1 QB on NFL Draft boards and a number of those receivers will be drafted ahead of Riley.

Ben DiNucci vs NCSU Nooooooch! – We hate to start with the QB, but JMU’s biggest question headed into Week 1 appeared to have been answered emphatically by the Nooch. Hopefully the hammy doesn’t linger, but it sure looked like the Dukes found their guy. DiNucci was excellent throughout, giving JMU’s plethora of weapons plenty of chances to make plays and bailing them out Schor-style with his legs. If anything, his mistakes seemed to come from his hyper-competitiveness with the key fumble coming when trying to make a play that may not have been there and a grounding call trying to save things. Can’t wait to see what’s in store from the offensive #6 this year. For the record, the one completion Cole Johnson had on his two attempts may have been exactly the type of throw that he can make Ben can’t and the reason the competition was so tight.

Crispness – There was a drive with back-to-back false starts in the second quarter, but overall, this was a very crisp, clean game from the Dukes for a season lid-lifter against a BCS team. In fact, it was State that committed most of the dumb penalties. Kicking game was on-point with two made FG’s and a couple of outstanding punts that pinned the Pack deep.

Reloading not rebuilding – We all hear this cliche every year from top programs at every level from high school to the NFL. The Patriots, Alabama, NDSU, etc. We’ve often tried to trot this phrase out in some of the salad days of JMU football. Late-aughts Mickey, year 2 of Withers come to mind, but it’s never really been true. Until now. Keshaun Moore, Mike Greene, Josh Sims, Mateo Jackson, Matt Terrell, The Nooch. We could go on and on, but JMU didn’t miss a beat yesterday and we feel better about this year leaving Raleigh than we did leaving Greenville last year.

Tackling – Other than NC State’s first TD, which was really well blocked, JMU’s tackling was really solid, especially for the first game of the year. We knew State was going to get their yards, but so many times, the Dukes managed to prevent gamebreaking plays with solid tackling. Even the desperation plays, like Amos’ tackle on the huge huge play late where JMU got caught, and of course Harry O’Kelly laying the lumber on that big punt return, continued to give JMU a chance.

Rush Defense – What can we even say?! The Dukes were missing expected contributors Darious Carter, Landan Word, and Byrce Maginley from the front seven. They simply plugged in players and basically punked the Wolfpack’s running game all day. If the Dukes can keep this up, that will go a loooong way towards easing the strain on a secondary that will need some time to adjust to the loss of Rashad Robinson along with graduating Brown and Greene.

Those helmets! – No need to stay on this too much but those unstriped whites with the Duke Dog logo were icey. Also, while we’re on the equipment beat, is that a small fan in Ron’dell Carter’s mouthpiece?!

The Bad

Missed chances – This could apply to the big picture chance to beat a P5 team or numerous plays throughout this game. The Dukes were inside the 10 four times (excluding the game’s final seconds). The scored a TD the first time, but had to (chose to?) settle for Field Goals twice and turned it over on DiNucci’s fumble the other time.  DB’s had a couple shots at picks and they defense overall had multiple chances to get off the field on third down, particularly on NC State’s game-killing drive in the 4th. Again, not to take anything at all away from JMU’s effort, but that’s a lot of missed opportunities that have to be cashed in (or plays made) to get back to Frisco and dethrone the Bison.

Riley needs to eat – Look, we really can’t complain about a gameplan that just about pulled off the upset, and we love the commitment to the run in the second half, but as the former players sitting next to us said, “throw it to ‘Ridley,'” which appeared to be their loving name based off of rookie NFL player and former ‘Bama star Calvin Ridley. When Stapleton had chances, he made plays, and it’d be great to see him given more opportunities no matter who’s covering him.

The Ugly

Rashad Robinson out for the year – no sugarcoating this one, getting the news that JMU’s All-American CB and top NFL prospect was out for the year on Saturday morning was a tough pill to swallow. And mostly we feel bad for Rashad. That said, if you want to put a silver lining on it, imagine having Rashad back with all of this young talent next year to defend a crown!

The heat – One last item. I’m not sure I’ve ever been hotter than I was on Saturday. I’m absolutely sure I’ve never abandoned vanity and accepted a full sweat-through of all my clothing the way I did. Honestly, I considered heading home at halftime because I thought I might stroke out and I have a feeling I wasn’t alone. Of course, even though this is in “the ugly” I’ll end on a high note with a HUGE shoutout to JMU’s strength and conditioning staff and the hard work the players must’ve put in this year. The Dukes were clearly the fitter team as other than the cramps from two players who earned them the hard way (Ron’Dell Carter and the Nooch), JMU was the team that seemed to get better, or at least hang in there better, as the game progressed despite having 22 less scholarships.


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  1. m@ / Sep 2 2018

    On a few of those Riley catches I saw more than one pack fan having some kind of apoplectic episode.

    And the heat was oppressive. Not sure if I got a sun-burn or was just well cooked.

  2. Oz / Sep 3 2018

    The good: Ron’Dell’s pushups after he cramped up.
    The bad: Houston’s decision to kick field goal late in 4th qtr.
    The ugly: Carter’s suspension. C’mon, man. We need you!

  3. Kristina / Sep 5 2018

    Feeling much better after this showing. Nowhere near as many dumb penalties as we started with at ECU last year. Thought we played (coached?) a little conservatively – didn’t seem as explosive as normal, but of course we are “reloading” 😉 I know I know, strong FBS opponent, but I would not have been mad at going for it on 4th down or faking a punt here or there to throw the dice. Obviously, the Nooch fumble was brutal. What could have been! Just gotta do our job in the CAA and this game should be irrelevant come December.
    Kudos to strength and conditioning – I was dying in the stands just cheering and our guys barely looked fazed and stayed upright more than the Wolfpack.

    Overall – GREAT JMU fan showing all weekend, fantastic Beer Garden venue for Friday’s rally, a beautiful stadium facility, solid play from the Dukes, and compliments from State fans on our team while departing said facility postgame – lining up to be a thrilling season. Buckle up!

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