Nov 25 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 20 – Delaware 6

Round one of the 2018 FCS Playoffs is in the books. The Dukes took care of business with a comfortable 20-6 victory their CAA rival the Delaware Blue Hens. The margin on the scoreboard was only 14 points, but this one was never really in doubt. JMU’s defense was simply too much for the Blue Hens to handle. Props to Delaware QB Pat Kehoe who rallied to start the game after exiting the regular season finale with an injury. He never found his rhythm was ineffective for the game. Ben DiNucci on the other hand, had another solid performance. He connected with eight different receivers and completed 23 of 31 for 223 yards and a touchdown. With the win, JMU earned the right to play Colgate on the road in round two. Here are three quick thoughts on the game before we all turn our attention toward the Raiders.

Just One Drive

Watching the game, we had the distinct impression that Coach Houston’s plan was to play possession football and ride the defense to a win. The offense stalled a few times in the red zone, settling for field goals and turning the ball over on downs at the goal line (disappointing result, but we loved the decision btw). However, there were no signs of panic. In fact, the players and coaches seemed quite content to keep pinning Delaware back and letting the Dukes defense go to work. Until Delaware made its second field goal to pull within one score in the third quarter that is.

After that happened, the Dukes offense responded by putting the pedal to the metal and marching 75 yards on 13 plays for a big touchdown. It was a beautifully called and executed drive. Nooch hit several big passes and ran for a first down, before hitting Jake Brown for six points. Just clinical. And it put any fears of this one being close to rest. It was as Nooch and the offense just said enough is enough, we’re done playing conservative, and we can end this right here. Then they did.

We would have loved a repeat of some of JMU’s past playoff blowouts. It wasn’t in the cards though. Delaware deserves a ton of credit for putting together a great defensive game plan and executing it. Again though, it seemed to us that JMU had enough confidence its defense, that they were perfectly content to protect the ball and try to ride the D to a victory. When the Dukes had to put together a big scoring drive though, they did it. And then the D took it from there.

That Defense Though

The real story of the game was the JMU defense. The Dukes simply destroyed the Blue Hens, surrendering only 116 yards in the air that came on 13 completions out of 32 attempts. JMU picked up two interceptions and sacked Kehoe 5 times. The Blue Hens didn’t have much luck running the ball either. They rushed for only 69 yards all game. And of course they failed to score a single touchdown.

We’ve seen talented QBs make plays against JMU this season. But if teams don’t have legit talent behind center, the JMU defense just overwhelms folks. Kehoe is a decent QB, but far from spectacular. This game showed us once again that decent doesn’t get it done against the Dukes defense. The teams still playing at this stage, tend to have good QBs though and should provide a tougher test than Delaware did.

Survive and Advance

The Blue Hen defense was no joke on Saturday either. Trai Sharp and Nooch found spots and ran the ball effectively, but the running game still never really clicked overall. Delaware’s line closed gaps and got good push off the line all game. The Blue Hens sacked Nooch three times and had nine tackles for loss total. And of course, they limited JMU to just two touchdowns. It was an impressive showing.

The Dukes were able to put together more than a few drives where they moved the ball and the passing game was efficient. But Delaware stopped JMU and forced the Dukes to settle for field goal attempts several times and gave up only two touchdowns. Rocco is a good coach, so it shouldn’t be too shocking. The Blue Hens’ defense looked much better than advertised though.

There’s no denying that the JMU offense looked pretty pedestrian at times. Should we be worried? It’s obvious that this isn’t the 2016 unit and probably foolish to expect things to suddenly click to the point where the Dukes are scoring 40+ points a game. But it’s also not time to panic. For this particular game, we chalk a lot of it up to the plan and apparent desire to play a conservative game. Because when the urgency ticked up, JMU showed it was more than capable. We’re not saying that the JMU was throwing out it’s “B” offense or not trying for the rest of the game. The Dukes obviously were. But they also seemed prepared to play a low scoring affair and not press. Even when they got “aggressive” and went for it on the goal line, it was probably as much about liking the potential field position they’d hand UD, than it was about trying to light up the score board.

The Dukes offense did enough to win. More than enough really, with the way the defense played. Things only get tougher from here though and JMU is going to need to score some points. The Colgate defense made shutouts a habit this season. The Raiders are legit. The Dukes have playmakers though. And they made enough plays against a Delaware defense that was determined to stop them. That’s the name of the game. No style points. Just win. JMU got it done against Delaware, but the Dukes are going to need to elevate their game now. That’s the way things work. Survive and advance.

 

7 Comments

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  1. Rob K / Nov 26 2018

    Fourth thought: the rest of the CAA did not acquit themselves very well this weekend. It doesn’t help our argument going forward that the CAA deserves the most teams in the playoffs when everyone else loses.

  2. ShadyP / Nov 26 2018

    Great team win on Saturday in all phases of the game. It was a low turnout as was expected and the weather did not help that…..but the die-hards that were there were great and made noise all game long. All fans were there for kickoff and stayed the whole game. Also, big kudos to the MRD for making the trek back from NY to support the football team. Good job by ALL!!!!

    Now on to Colgate and yes we owe them one. Hope they are expecting an Everett Withers defense to show up on Saturday.

  3. CJ / Nov 26 2018

    Might be pushing it just a bit to say we were great in all phases of the game. The offense needs improvement if we’re going to distinguish ourselves in the playoffs. Fortunately for us, Delaware didn’t have a superstar QB who could mix things up too much. But other teams will find ways to score on us like Elon and New Hampshire did. I guarantee you that offensive performance won’t get it done against NDSU and maybe not even against Colgate.

    I think what’s held us back this year has been a lack of a superstar QB and just a little more talent on the offensive line. If we had those two things I think we’d definitely be a championship contender.

    Next week’s game is no gimme. Colgate is good and they’re rested. And JMU’s has shown plenty of vulnerabilities throughout the season if teams can apply the right strategies. It’ll be an interesting game.

    I know nobody here likes to hear too much JMU criticism but a little diversity of opinion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  4. JrB / Nov 26 2018

    Solid QB play once again and if Nooch continues to play to his ability the Dukes on offense will be fine. Nooch is very athletic and can stretch the field. I have more reservations and concerns on the other side of the ball and hopefully they can contain a very good and well rested Colgate team. Go Dukes!

  5. RB / Nov 26 2018

    CJ, I think your assessment is accurate. I surely expected more from the offense. If that is your best performance after being “disrespected” and pissed off, than we are in for a long day in NY this weekend. We beat a solid UD team, but don’t think we made anyone on the committee regret their decision to not give us a seed.

    JrB, I think DiNucci’s play is far from “solid” and the only way he stretches the field is side to side. He isn’t a QB that is going to lead this team deep into the playoffs and against a good defense this weekend I’m afraid we may see another performance like New Hampshire. Despite having him and Johnson back next year, I’m hoping Maloney wins the starting job in the spring and we develop our starter for the next three seasons.

  6. maddukes98 / Nov 27 2018

    I’m not saying we are going to run the table, or that we are at the same caliber as NDSU, but let’s also consider what the 2004 and 2017 teams did in the playoffs in terms of point differentials in the first two rounds. They weren’t blowing anyone away per se so lets not necessarily judge this year’s team quite yet. I would put the 2004 Lehigh team in same or worse class as Delaware. I would actually say UD is about the similar caliber as the 2017 Stony Brook team which we didn’t exactly blow away either.

    2004:
    at Lehigh – W 14–13 –
    at Furman – W 14–13 –

    2017:
    Stony Brook -W 26–7
    Weber State – W 31–28

  7. ShadyP / Nov 27 2018

    Geez, this is a tough crowd. It seems as if to some, unless JMU is scoring 40+ points per game and winning by 3-4 TDs the offense is mediocre at best. Think about this for a moment, the entire game plan against Delaware seemed to hinge on field position and defense playing in tough weather conditions (could have been worse). It seemed as if the game plan was conservative as long as JMU was up 2 scores. When UD got to within one score, JMU immediately drove back down the field and re-established a 2 score margin. Playoffs are all about survive and advance each week…..there is no such thing as quality wins/impressive wins anymore. There are no pollsters to impress.

    For those that think the offense is such an issue, I remind them all to check the numbers……the 2018 offense is better than the 2017 offense…..and 2018 DiNucci has better numbers than 2017 Schor.

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