Sep 30 / Rob

Dukes Stomp Elon to Start CAA Play

JMU went on the road to face the Elon Phoenix and kick off the 2019 CAA football season this past weekend. Things went well. The Dukes absolutely crushed Elon to the tune of 45-10. It wasn’t as close as the score might indicate. After letting Elon score to go up 7-0 on its opening drive, it was all JMU. The Dukes offensive line had quite a day, clearing lanes for running game and giving Nooch plenty of time to throw. JMU rushed for 336 yards while limiting Elon to only 36. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was a pretty great way to start conference play. Here are three things I liked about the win, and one I didn’t.

The Running Game

Where to begin? As mentioned above, the Dukes ran for over 300 yards. We supposed you could argue about who deserves the credit. Was it the coaches for creating the gamleplan, the offensive line for opening holes so big you or I could have run through them, or the backs for making guys miss, running North-South, and barreling through tackles? The truth is it was all three. If you focused on the line of scrimmage (and you probably did if you watched on FloSports, which seemed intent on keeping the camera on the line instead of following the ball), you probably wouldn’t think this was a match-up of two Top 25 teams.

JMU’s line completely outplayed Elon’s defensive front. It didn’t even look like a fair fight at times. And the game plan the coaches created was terrific. More methodical than spectacular, the Dukes just stuck with what worked, leaning on Elon and running the ball down until the Phoenix broke. And break they did. Finally, all of the running backs were terrific. We’ve said our piece about the idea of running back by committee, but there’s something to be said for running 4 or 5 guys out there who can get the job done.

QB Pressure

There’s been a lot to like about the play of the Dukes front four thus far this season. However, despite the strong play, the guys haven’t been getting to the quarterback. That changed yesterday. JMU defenders were in Davis Cheek’s face all game. For the game, the Dukes had 5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. The constant pressure threw off Cheek’s timing, causing him to run for his life and rush throws. He’s a solid QB who isn’t easily rattled. Yet, the Dukes defense managed to hold him to only 14 completions on 32 attempts. They were in Cheek’s face all day. And it made a difference.

Punching Back

In the game versus UTC, JMU coughed up a 14 point lead and found itself tied in the blink of an eye. They responded by turning up the intensity and taking control of the game. Against Elon, JMU surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive and dug themselves in a 7-0 hole early. Thankfully, took the punch and punched right back.

The Dukes didn’t flinch and they didn’t let the pressure get to them. They just went about their business and grabbed control of the game. JMU went about its game plan and left town with a big W. With Coach Cignetti facing his former team for the first time since coming to JMU, there was the potential for distraction. And when Elon went up early, the Dukes could have succumbed to the pressure and let things get away from them. They didn’t know. They stayed focused and played great. So much so, that the opening TD become little more than a footnote.

That Tackling Though

It was a nice win, but JMU didn’t play a perfect game. We could pick nits and point out all the things that we didn’t like. But let’s just stick to one that stood out. The Dukes did not tackle well. They were terrific in the running game, collapsing on ball carriers and swallowing them up. But they really struggled to tackled guys in open space, particularly receivers.

We understand that this sounds like grumpy old Monday morning quarterback nonsense. But we could do with fewer attempts to knock dudes down, and a bit more fundamental tackling. I lost track of how many times JMU defenders lined guys up for hits, only to have Elon guys lower their pads and push on through. And there were plenty of failed arm tackles. The JMU defense is good. It could be great if they did a better job wrapping dudes up and taking them down.

6 Comments

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  1. M@ / Sep 30 2019

    I just want to point out that Cheek had thrown like 900 consecutive passes without an INT. He threw one on Saturday. It won’t show on the stat sheet because it was cancelled by a penalty. But he still threw it.

  2. Scott / Sep 30 2019

    M@ – It does show up here, rest assured! https://www.espn.com/college-football/matchup?gameId=401127068

  3. M@ / Sep 30 2019

    Is it bad that I forgot it was Cheek that threw that one? I was referring to the great interception where a defender at the line got his hands up and batted the ball, then recovered to actually catch it. Only to have the INT wiped out by a phantom holding call (ok, it may have been a legit holding call; I didn’t see it, but it was away from the play).

  4. Scott / Sep 30 2019

    That was the UTC game right? Or was there another pick in the Elon game that was negated due to penalty?

  5. M@ / Oct 1 2019

    There was another pick in the Elon game that was negated due to penalty. Unfortunately I don’t remember who did it, only that they were rushing the QB, deflected it into the air and then picked it off only to have it called back on penalty.

    And it was before the actual interception that ended the streak because the guy I was with mentioned that we broke the streak even if it doesn’t show up in the stats.

  6. Scott / Oct 2 2019

    M@ – That’s right! Sorry had forgot about that one.

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