Nov 22 / Todd

Playoff Preview #1: Delaware at JMU

We can’t believe how legit this looks either.

All of us wanted to be here and none of us wanted to be here. But the simple fact is the Dukes are in the playoffs and the road to all of their goals is in front of them. Does it appear difficult? Sure. Playoffs shouldn’t be any other way. Is it annoying that for the third straight year, JMU will open the postseason against a fellow CAA team? You bet. But if JMU had to host this weekend, and if you’re going to challenge the Valley rain and cold anyways, might as well do it against someone that gets the blood boiling. Danny Rocco for sure, but all things Delaware too.

The Basics

Matchup: Delaware Blue Hens (7-4, 5-3 CAA) at James Madison Dukes (8-3, 6-2 CAA)

Kickoff: 3 p.m. Saturday, Bridgeforth Stadium, The ‘Burg

Weather: Rain, high 43 – you know, playoff weather!

Coverage: ESPN3

Merch, get your Holiday Merch! – Official JMUSB tees back for a quick two-week window here.

How They Got Here

Both teams have to be disappointed to be in this game given the preseason expectations for each program. The Dukes were expected to keep things rolling following two straight trips to Frisco and after opening the season going toe-to-toe with NC State, everything seemed possible. The Hens had begun to turn around their program last season after bringing in old JMU nemesis, and still imminently punchable, Danny Rocco as Head Coach, getting their recruiting headed back in the direction UD fans were used to, and navigating a rotating cast of players at QB last year to a solid 7-4 record only to be one of those outrageous snubs from the playoffs last season, losing out to a UNH team with the same record that they’d beaten head-to-head. Everyone in the Toll Booth Army seemed sure this year’s team would make “the leap” back to their historical position near the top of the FCS. Even we here at JMUSB thought in the preseason that aside from UNH, UD was the squad most likely to challenge the Dukes’ CAA supremacy. Shows you what preseason expectations actually mean huh?

For UD, a season-opening shock loss to Rhode Island indicated right away that all might not be quite “back.” To their credit, they played a big intersectional game at the Fargodome in September. But no surprise, they were shellacked 38-10. But after that setback, UD rolled merrily along through the middle part of the season. The Hens reeled off wins over Elon, UNH, and Towson at one point and were riding high at the end of October. But after squeaking out a 21-16 win over Albany, UD officially comes limping into the playoffs off arguably their two worst performances of the year, a 17-3 loss to Stony Brook and a 42-21 pasting by a rival Villanova team just playing out the string. Even with all of that said, it’s hard to believe this year marks UD’s first playoff trip since 2010 and it’s hard not to think the program is headed in the right direction again.

On the other hand, the Dukes have responded to their worst loss in the Mike Houston era, the 35-24 flop at New Hampshire to open November that had us wondering about the playoffs much less arguing about a seed, with their two best games of the year in high-scoring wins over Rhode Island at last week at Towson.

How Delaware Can Win

Using the whole hand there doc?!

Make this a slow, ugly game and protect the ball. We’re not sure even the Chickens themselves know who their QB1 is this week. And while diving into the trick-plays might provide a spark, they really need to find a way to make this a grinding game and limit JMU’s possessions with their running game given the uncertainty at that spot.  UD has two superstars on defense in tackling machine Troy Reeder at LB and all-around stud DB Nasir Adderley. They’ll need every bit of magic those two can produce in the form of big/negative plays because overall, the 22 points/game they give up doesn’t scream “shutdown defense,” particularly with JMU humming on offense the last couple of weeks.

How JMU Can Win

Force UD to try and throw the ball on defense and avoid any game-changing mistakes on offense. No matter who plays at QB for UD, it’s likely they will be “challenged” in that regard. This gives the Dukes a great opportunity to focus on bottling up the run game and forcing whoever plays QB (they are legitimately practicing with 4th and 5th stringers this week) to challenge a secondary that is fully loaded for the first time all season (minus Rashad of course). JMU’s playoff formula is simple to see, much more difficult to do. The offense needs to find three TD’s on its own, the D/ST need to find a big play or two for another score, and the defense needs to show what we all think, that spotted 30 points, they can’t be beaten.

The Hens are a very capable unit against the run so the Dukes will need the line to keep the improvement going we’ve seen the last two weeks. Also here’s to hoping we continue to see more Percy! And by the way, if the running game is bogged down and this thing is tight at the half, this is no place for pride or conservatism. In that case, swallow that pride and cut it loose to all the weapons on the outside if needed.

Beer of the Week

Hooligan American IPA from Scofflaw Brewing in Atlanta. If the seeds hold, the goal from this three-week gauntlet of legit teams is a date with the 100% fraudulent HootyHoo/Plankonia Owls from Kennesaw north of the ATL. Might as well start sampling the finer products. This one is a semi-reasonable 7% and lots of melony notes. Plus with the light Thanksgiving-unexpected-game-bad-weather crowd, we need to rely on every single Duke that’s able to make this one to have a little Hooligan in their rootin’.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Who knows what playing this additional game means to the Dukes postseason outlook, but they come into the playoffs as hot as they’ve been all season, and after two trying weeks against pro-prospects Lawson and Flacco, the D will be facing at best a banged up QB and at worst a player that took his first snaps of the season in practice this week. Lock the Damn Gates! Angry Dukes 51, Blue Chicks 17

8 Comments

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  1. CJ / Nov 23 2018

    Let’s not kid ourselves…this game is not a gimme. Delaware is a very capable team. They’re hungry and determined to make a statement that their program is still on par with the FCS elite. If this was JMU of 2017 or 2016, I’d say Delaware had no chance. But this 2018 JMU squad is vulnerable. You can be sure Delaware will be looking closely at the gameplans of Elon and UNH earlier this year.

    I think a lot of us (myself included) saw the bracket and thought we’d cruise through Delaware and Colgate and have a re-match with NDSU. But Colgate should not be underestimated either. Sure, they played an easy schedule and lost to (a very solid) Army, but you don’t have a 9-1 season for nothing. So these guys will be a force to be reckoned with, too (cut to the first round of the 2015 playoffs at Bridgeforth).

    First things first with Delaware. I’ll admit that I have no idea what will happen. Both teams are capable of beating each other. We can only hope that Delaware continues its downward trend (coming off two consecutive sound losses) and JMU continues its upward pattern. After the meat grind of the regular season, I think both squads will be worn down a bit which will translate into defensive breakdown and higher scores.

    We’ve definitely got good chances with Delaware and Colgate. One thing I am confident about, however, is that we’ve got absolutely zero chance against NDSU. Hopefully we’ll make it far enough to put that prediction to the test.

  2. Drake / Nov 23 2018

    If you ever get the chance, check out Burnt Hickory Brewing in Kennesaw. If we somehow make it that far and play KSU, maybe we can do a JMU night there.

  3. JMU2K1 / Nov 24 2018

    Don’t have Twitter, but saw the snotty tweet about Rocco’s game ball. Does he get some credit for keeping this a 20-6 game, on the road, with a backup quarterback? Especially when ya’ll predicted a 51-17 blowout?

  4. Rob / Nov 25 2018

    Kehoe was the starting QB all season. And we won’t apologize for making jokes about the time Keeler, as a head coach, gave himself a game ball. It’s funny.

  5. wexcelsior / Nov 25 2018

    *Rocco

    Though I wouldn’t put it past Keeler to do it, too.

  6. JMU2K1 / Nov 25 2018

    Meant to say injured QB…But your first tweet when the clock struck 0:00 was about Rocco being terrible, but he kept the score 30 points closer than you predicted. It was either a good job on his part or that you overrated JMU. Which is it? I really do enjoy the blog, but gone are the days of objective commentary. Can’t wait to see the Colgate prediction, let alone NDSU if we are lucky enough to get there. Not a hater-your t shirt designer can verify.

    1440 out

  7. Rob / Nov 26 2018

    Alright. Not sure what to tell you. Our gameday Twitter is just random jokes, reactions to plays, and general fan banter. One thing it definitely is not, is objective analysis. Some jokes hit. Some jokes miss. This one clearly missed with you. If you (or anyone else) interpreted our joke about Rocco giving himself a game ball as some veiled way of saying he is terrible, I guess it’s just a risk we take.
    Go Dukes!

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