Nov 11 / Rob

Three Thoughts On JMU 54 – UNH 16

JMU found itself at #2 in the initial FCS Playoff rankings when they were released last week. The Dukes opponent for this past Saturday, the New Hampshire Wildcats, landed in tenth. This provided the Dukes with an opportunity to make a statement. Make a statement they did. Despite letting the Wildcats jump out to an early lead, JMU pretty much blew their doors off. If it was a fight, it would have been stopped.

The Dukes put up 537 yards of total offense and limited New Hampshire to under 250. Despite letting the Wildcats get out to an early lead, JMU stormed back, scoring 41 unanswered points. We were fairly confident JMU would win comfortably, but we didn’t see this coming. And we loved it. Here are three quick thoughts on the win that got JMU to 9-1 and clinched at least a share of the CAA title.

Best Quarter of the Year

JMU’s second quarter was a thing of beauty. The first quarter was decidedly not. The Defense was caught sleeping a few times in the opening period, and let New Hampshire take advantage of a few big plays to score twice and keep the game knotted at 10. Then the second quarter happened.

JMU opened Q2 with an 8 play 80 yard drive capped off by a Percy TD. The Dukes followed it up with an 8 play 63 yard drive and a Dylan Stapleton touchdown. Then they took advantage of a short field and Nooch ran one in. Meanwhile, the defense seemingly caught fire after Dimitri Holloway was ejected for targeting. The Dukes D force UNH to punt after a 7 yard “drive.” JMU grabbed an interception on UNH’s second possession of the quarter. It was the most complete quarter JMU has played all year. Shut down D and an offense that frankly made one of the CAA’s top defenses look flat out incompetent.

Nooch Exercised Some Demons

We all remember last season’s game at New Hampshire. The wheels kind of came off for Nooch in that one. He had a couple of turnovers and was benched for Cole Johnson in the Dukes’ loss. This year’s contest was much better. In it, all Nooch did was throw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, run another one in, and show that he has complete command of this offense. The only reason fans aren’t talking more about Nooch’s performance is probably because it’s what everyone has come to expect from the senior. We know certain fans will never forgive Nooch for what happened in the playoffs. And many will completely discount anything that happens until the playoffs this year. That’s their prerogative. But based on his body of work this season, Nooch is mounting quite a case to be the CAA’s Offensive Player of the Year.

The CAA is Drunk

But JMU just keeps winning. The league makes no sense after JMU. None whatsoever. Every time we think a team is starting to separate itself from the pack, an upset happens. Or maybe they’re not upsets. We have no idea. We thought Richmond was dead earlier this season. Now the Spiders come to Bridgeforth tied for second in the league. Nova impressed the hell out of us in week 7. Since then, all Nova did was lose 2 straight before beating…Richmond. Stony Brook took the Dukes to OT, but then lost 3 out of 4. However, they did manage to beat…New Hampshire. Towson was picked by everyone to compete with JMU for the league title, but has looked nothing like a contender. They have rallied to win two straight and can still make the playoffs if they win out. The league is a mess. Teams are beating each other up every week. The one constant is the Dukes.

JMU gets everyone else’s “A game” and thus far, has managed to run the gauntlet unscathed. Outsiders can look at the records and conclude that save JMU, the CAA has nothing but mediocre teams. They’re wrong. There are plenty of good football teams. It’s a talented league and it’s hard to win ball games week in and week out. Yet JMU keeps going just that.

3 Comments

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  1. Drake / Nov 11 2019

    I think it shows a lot about this team when they can allow a team to go up early and not hit the panic button. A lot of teams would do that or coaches would try to change their philosophy on the spot to try and catch up. We saw it when Elon went up early on a huge play, when Villanova jumped ahead, and this weekend. That deep ball to Polk was a beauty. They also got the slot receivers involved more which I think someone mentioned in a JMU related podcast.

  2. Rob K / Nov 11 2019

    I really don’t understand the targeting calls – even when they have benefited us. To be clear, I thought the play should have been penalized because the QB was sliding when Holloway hit him. But the QB did this weird slide where he slid on his knees as opposed to going all the way down and Holloway was already in the act of closing on him and couldn’t move out of the way. It seemed to be the wrong call – and the defense agreed because they were definitely fired up about it.

    The long pass to Polk had been set up in earlier games because they almost always hand the ball off to Palmer when he first comes in the game. The Polk reception was off a play-action that really fooled the defense.

  3. CJ / Nov 12 2019

    Another slow start, but another effective shift into high gear to leave no doubt who the better team was. DiNucci continues to look good, we’ll need him to continue that trend through the playoffs. My favorite play of the game was actually Cole Johnson’s TD run, which provided some decent optimism about our future QB.

    Here I go with another comparison…I’m wondering if this season might be similar to our 2004 season. In 2004, we had a decent team, but there were no expectations to win the championship nor a lot of serious talk about reaching it. That was (and still is) William and Mary’s best year of football, and without JMU knocking them out of the playoffs in a shootout they probably would have gone all the way. But JMU just kept finding ways to win games week after week, and in fact beat a Montana team that was arguably superior to them that year.

    This year’s team has much more firepower than that 2004 squad, but it also shows a lot more vulnerabilities than our 2016 championship team. Despite those vulnerabilities, if we keep finding ways to win I think we can stick around in the playoffs to meet NDSU (because its guaranteed that at some point the Bison will be in the way). NDSU is the superior team on paper, just like Montana was, but I really think with momentum we can beat them. This JMU team might just have what it takes.

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