Penalty: False Start on JMU Nation
So it’s been 36 hours or so since the putrid offensive performance against Delaware and the utter waste of a fabulous defensive showing. Hopefully everyone’s back off the ledge by now and we can address the bad and the good, yes, there was some good, from yesterday.
Mickey said penalties were the difference in the game. Well that, and an offensive gameplan that displayed the imagination of a pistachio nut (bonus credit if you pick up that reference). I’ll let Rob address “the issues,” but I’m going to be the ray of sunshine on this dark day and point out a few positives from Saturday.
Silver Linings: Nova lost to W&M, who already lost to UMass. UNH lost to Maine in OT yesterday. This means the conference is still WIDE OPEN (especially since Nova should get Szczur back before they play Delaware). We play Towson next week and despite what appears to have been a solid showing against UMass, the Dukes couldn’t ask for a better chance to get on track before they come home for UNH for Homecoming.
The Dukes are UNREAL on D right now and we don’t even have everyone healthy (Emmons). DJ Bryant and Ronnell Brown are dominating up front and Robertson, Nelson, Jackson, and the Williamses are playing at a BCS level right now! 21 points should be enough to win any game this team plays.
Please remember App. St. lost TWO games the year they beat Michigan and still came back to win the National Championship. It happens and the CAA is a beast.
The Issues: It’s fitting that I (Rob) should cover the issues, because I’m typically a doomsday fan. I actually don’t think the season is over or even in jeopardy now. There are clearly lots of issues to address though if this team hopes to reach its potential. Let’s take a look at just 3 of them: Not going for on 4th (not our style and we need the points), the playcalling, and penalties.
The Decision: We don’t want to have one of those typical Monday morning quarterback blogs, where we question every decision the head coach makes or try to argue that but for one single play, our beloved Dukes would have won. However, Mickey’s decision to kick the FG instead of going for it on 4th and 2 near the goal line was puzzling. I’d get it if JMU was on the road. Or if the Dukes were playing with their back-up QB (like Delaware was). Or if the offense was clicking and Matthews thought they’d have other chances. The fact is, JMU was at home, was playing with its starting QB, and its offense was definitely not looking like it was going to get a lot of chances. They should have gone for it. Worst case, you give a second string QB the ball in his endzone. Best case, you get 7 points in front of the home crowd in a defensive battle.
The Playcalling: The decision to go for it was particularly bad, but the playcalling all day was frighteningly unimaginative. We understand that the offensive line is struggling and Dudzik hasn’t been too sharp lately. I still think that the coaching staff should be able to come up with more than 3 plays that fit the personnel. Relative to recent seasons, JMU actually threw the ball a lot. I think you can count on one hand that they threw the ball downfiled however. And in this case “downfield” means “beyond the line of scrimmage”. How many friggin screen passes did we need to see before realizing they weren’t working? Delaware couldn’t get much going on offense either, but they started tossing passes into the middle of the field and chipping away. JMU should have done the same thing. And if the o-line can’t pass block, what makes you think a power rushing attack is going to work. Dudzik ain’t Rodney Landers, but he can run the option. Really well actually.
The @$%&! Penalties: Finally, the penalties are just back-breakers. The D has been outstanding, but they seem to get an uncanny number of facemask calls. The blocks in the back on special teams, the holding calls, etc, etc. They’re all awful. I felt like every time the Dukes got a spark, there was a flag on the play. It’s tough to win when you have an explosive offense that gets a lot of penalties. It’s near impossible if you have an offense that isn’t even a lock to crack double-digits.