Sep 23 / Rob

JMU 51 – W&M 0. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Huh. That was kind of lopsided. We expected JMU to win comfortably. But we’re not sure anyone saw that 51 point beatdown over the Tribe from William & Mary. With legendary Tribe head coach Jimmye Laycock retiring, we thought there was a chance William & Mary would elevate its game to at least make it respectable. We underestimated exactly how big the gap in speed, size, strength, talent, and overall football abilities were between the two teams on the field yesterday. JMU was so much better in every aspect of the game. It really wasn’t a fair fight. The Dukes are so far superior to the Tribe that the post game story seems to be all about how the final margin could have, and frankly should have, been much great. Yes, that’s the state we are in. JMU beat an in-state rival by 51 points and on some level, fans are think they underachieved. Spoiled. JMU handed a coach with 39 years of experience, the single worst loss of his career. Anyway, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from JMU’s big win.

The Good

Defensive Line – Wow. Yes, they had a serious talent advantage compared to the guys lining up across from them. But man did they exploit it. Pure and utter domination. The boys in white were just tossing their opponents aside and either bottling up the ball carrier, or putting QB Shon Mitchell on his heels (or back) all day. At least until Laycock pulled Mitchell for his own safety and morale. The Tribe had no answer for the Dukes rushing D or pass rush. None at all. They had only 2 passing first downs and 3 rushing first downs. Their most effective offensive play of the day was a fake punt. And that’s largely due to JMU’s defensive line.

Defensive Backs and Linebackers – It wasn’t just the defensive line. The corners, safeties, and linebackers were pretty dominant as well. Jimmy Effin’ Moreland had a pick 6 (or course he did) and Bryce Maginley had a pick of his own. The entire defense is just sick. William & Mary isn’t good at doing football things, but still. Shutting any team out is worthy of praise. The Tribe’s DeVonte Dedmon came into the game with a lot of hype. The wide receiver had 6 catches for 96 yards against Virginia Tech (it was a more impressive statement prior to yesterday), but only caught 3 for 29 against the Dukes. Nobody in green and gold could do anything against the Dukes.

Balanced Offense – Just like we’ve seen in other games this season, the Dukes utilized a wide range of weapons instead of relying on one or two players. Six different JMU players rushed the ball. Cardon Johnson was the workhorse, with 20 carries for 85 years. Marcus Marshall was able to rack up 65 yards on only 7 carries. We’ve said all along that the Dukes have any number of guys who can run effectively. Yesterday was more proof. And things were much the same in the passing game. Riley Stapleton is pretty much unguardable, and he lead the Dukes with 8 catches. Six other Dukes caught passes as well. It’s a pick your poison situation for opposing defenses right now.

Nooch’s Progression – Ben DiNucci has been a dynamic addition to the Dukes attack in 2018. Through the first 3 games, he spread the ball around and flashed great accuracy in the intermediate passing game. And he also dazzled fans with his feet. Despite throwing his first interception of the year, he was very accurate completing 17 or 23 attempts. What stood out though was his ability to extend plays with his feet, instead of tucking and running. He displayed a tendency to just tuck it and run as soon as the pocket collapsed in earlier games. Against William & Mary though, he definitely looked to be fighting his instinct to take off and instead scrambled for time before throwing to his receivers. Personally, we find it pretty encouraging that a guy coming off a 73-7 win, clearly is making adjustments and trying to improve week to week.

The Bad

Missed Field Goals – This one is tough, because field goals are such an individual thing and we hate to single guys out. But it was pretty shocking to see JMU miss two kicks (one long, one short) in the first half. The obvious silver lining is the way Ethan Ratke bounced back though. We’re not sure what it takes to be an effective kicker, but the jump shooter’s mentality that Ratke consistently displays has got to be a huge part of it. The kid continues to not be dismayed by misses. Yesterday he brushed them aside and proceeded to hit all 3 of his kicks after the first quarter.

Poor Finishing and Mistakes – It’s tough to be critical of anything after a 51 point win. And we’re being downright greedy if we complain about the Dukes leaving points on the field though. The reality is that they did have several drives stall, made mistakes that took points off the board, and suffered a few costly turnovers. Pretty good day overall though, if the sum total of your mistakes is still a 7 TD margin.

The Ugly

We’re Spoiled – JMU beat one of its long time rivals by 51 points. The Dukes shut them out. And during the game fans were crying for blood and acting like the sky was falling any time a JMU drive didn’t end in a TD. Look folks. Drives stall. Players commit penalties. Dudes fumble the ball. Stuff happens. But when a team is good enough that it can win by 51, playing far from mistake free football, it might be time for some perspective. JMU is not a perfect football team. But the Dukes just opened up CAA play with a 51 point win. Coach Houston and his staff will have plenty of things for the Dukes to correct in practice this week. But that’s a good thing. For one, the mistakes they made are correctable. They’re not systemic problems. For another thing, having things to work on keeps the team focused. We all have high expectations for the Dukes. That’s a good thing. But let’s not let the expectations get so sky high, that we’re unable to enjoy wins like this one.


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  1. Rob K / Sep 24 2018

    I’m very glad to have the Stapleton brothers in our lives the next couple of years.

    Also, the first Ratke field goal was for something like 51 yards. We had a pretty good view of the end zone from our seats, and the kick was only 3-4 yards short (couldn’t tell if it was on target). Not too bad from a kid who can be expected to still improve on his leg strength.

  2. Sekudog / Sep 24 2018

    I agree 100%, following Twitter I am starting to get a bit embarrassed by our fans hubris. Let’s try to be different from every other rabid fan base out there, a little humility people. At some point we will lose a game we shouldn’t. I am hoping we react in a reasonable manner. With some of the shade being thrown around at other programs we would deserve a taste of our own medicine. Enjoy it, be proud, be humble…

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