Nov 5 / Todd

JMU Plays to Its Considerable Potential, Beats Maine

Finally!  At long last, and just when many in JMU Nation had nearly abandoned hope of it happening, the Dukes came to play for 60 minutes (well, 59, but who’s counting?) in all phases of the game, destroying Maine 31-7 on the road and setting up an exciting final two weeks!

The Good

Defense.  Pitched a shutout (that was only ruined by the offensive coaches ridiculous over-aggressiveness in the final minute when the Dukes gave up a fumble return td).  Pressured the QB consistently.  For the most part, finally seemed to play tighter on receivers.  By far their best performance of the season and the Dukes were simply dominant, holding Maine to 104 yards of total offense for the game and creating three turnovers.  If the D plays like that, JMU can win.  And keep winning for a while over the next six weeks.

Specials.  Kick coverage continued its consistent play.  And after missing an early one, Killa Cam Starke got back on track in the kicking game.  Despite an occasional scare with ball security, Ryan Smith is also beginning to provide a spark in the return game and he made some big plays on D as well.  Nice to have another new big-play contributor.

Certain elements on offense.  Namely the use of multiple RB’s and involving Brian Barlow throughout the game.  While DaeQuan Scott went over 100 yards again, it was nice to see some of the other backs in the mix as the game went along.  Brodie, Anderson, and Latney had 15 carries between them including some very solid play from Brodie, something Rob’s been begging for for weeks now.

He's Baaack!

JT.  Came back from the doghouse and turned in his best effort of the season.  This was exactly the kind of performance he’s always seemed capable of, but rarely delivered.  Running, passing, and dare we say it, leading.  It’s not even that Birdsong was terrible, going 5-8 when he was in there, but JT sparked the team and we can only dream it continues.

The Bad

Seriously, the east/west running plays are just beyond painful to watch at this point.  You’ve got an All-American Left Guard leading a veteran and relatively healthy OLine, a top RB, and when JT is in there, a tough running QB.  Just line up and hit people in the mouth and for the love of everything decent stop going shotgun on short yardage plays.

The Ugly

Michael Birdsong’s seemingly ugly sprained ankle.  Word is no major, long-term damage, but it was the dreaded high-ankle sprain so it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be replacing JT again anytime soon.  That said, given that the other QB’s have zero experience, the Dukes will feel a hell of a lot better if the Ginger Giant can heal up quick.


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  1. KB / Nov 5 2012

    By far the most complete game against worthy competition of the year.
    One more bad is the atrocious short yardage play calling especially near the goal line. Like you said use the o line and power ahead for 1 yard or 1 inch like in the first half.
    Hopefully they can keep it up this weekend at nova and not look ahead to the showdown in the burg.

  2. tedward / Nov 5 2012

    How about an update on what JMU needs the next two weeks. One win gets a home game… or two wins gets a bye… or two losses gets…

    And don’t give me the “we don’t want to look ahead?” crap. We’re fans, we can do this.

  3. Lively98 / Nov 5 2012

    Could somone explain why the Ginger Giant was taken out in the first place? He was not playing bad at the time and the lack of production up to that point IMHO was due to playcalling. Yes JT, the “good” JT showed up and he played a great game, but I didn’t see anything that warranted Birdsong being replaced. I was watching in a bar with virtually no sound, so if there was an explanation I didn’t hear it.

    Thankfully, the D showed up and played probably their best game all year, but they will need to play that well or better if we’re going to beat ODU. This weeks game will be telling as to whether the D’s performance was a one time occurance or whether they have really found the key ingredient.

    GO DUKES!!!

  4. 2004Duke / Nov 5 2012

    @Lively98– amen. my thoughts exactly.

    I’m glad to see everyone get all “rah-rah” about the game, but we need to rememebr that Maine sucked. Bad. Thorpe coming in against Maine (3 wins, 6 losses), who practically handed us the ball on the 50 yard line at least 3 times, and putting up a”his best effort of the season”? Come on…Seriously? He played ok, and I give him credit for that. I did notice that in 3rd and long, when we actually had to pass the ball, GG was back in there. That validates my “JT is a RB who throws the ball once-in-a-while” theory (for the love of pete just call it what it is and line up in the wishbone). The real reason I got upset when Thorpe went in wasn’t because GG is an actual QB, but because it signaled the worst possible disease an offence sould be striken with– the dreaded 2 QB system. Ugh.

    The QB “controversy” aside… the playcalling was atrocious. I liked the quick kick call. If I was the coach though, and someone lined up in the shotgun on anything-and-1 yard, somebody would be getting fired. That is totally nutless. The reverses also make me sick. That is circus bullcrap that you run when you are trying to pull an upset over Alabama and need to break the game open. Big-time teams don’t run that clown stuff. There is no reason why JMU, a perennial top 10 team, should EVER be running that garbage, especially against teams like Maine (again… 3 and freaking 6). I was all set to give them credit for spreading more carries around, and passing the ball a little bit more, but then they have to go and 1) institute the 2 QB system, 2) line up in the gun with 1 yard to go, and 3) keep running those cowardly reverses.

    I also think DQS is the most overrated RB in college football. If anyone gives him a dirty look, he falls down. I noted that all his big runs were where nobody touched him (kudos to the OL). Nothing personal…just my observation.

    Although the INT’s were mostly giftwrapped for us, the defense was sick. Keep playing like that and we might overcome the three ring circus we call “offense”. Good job D!

  5. Todd / Nov 5 2012

    04 – JT won CAA POTW to further spoil your Monday morning. That said, I was thinking the same thing on that 3rd and long when Bird came in re: the 2QB = 0QB issue. But the only silver lining in the Birdsong injury is that’s taken care of for the short-term. Like it or not, JT is the only QB now.

    Tedward – Good point on the update. Here’s the deal: The bubble for the playoffs is STRONG this year. Just looking at current records and remaining schedules, it looks like it will be an enormous long-shot for any 7-4 team to get in. There will almost certainly be 8-3 teams left out this year too, though some of them may have only 7 D1 wins (wins over D2 teams). Thankfully the Dukes are not one of those so they’ll have a great case at 8-3 and we’d be shocked if they’re out at that point.

    Win out, the Dukes likely win a complicated tiebreaker over UNH, who they didn’t play this year, and take the CAA autobid and a likely seed. Even if the tiebreaker doesn’t work out, a 9-2 Dukes team would be in a great spot, though they’d be back to relying on bidding for home games.

    However 8-3 would not guarantee either a bid or a bye to the second weekend at this point and we’d again be back to relying on Bourne’s math for a home game, something we all know is a disaster waiting to happen.

    A couple things to remember and games of note to keep an eye on over the next two weeks: First, most SoCon teams (though not ASU) still have road games at SEC schools remaining so their records will likely not look so gaudy at the end.

    To keep the bubble from getting any tighter, undefeated Lehigh needs to stay that way by beating Colgate and avoiding the Patriot League stealing a second bid. Lehigh’s likely in either way. Also, NDSU needs to beat Illinois St. for the same reason. ISU could still possibly get in with a loss, but they’d be just another bubble team.

    Some teams with tough schedules remaining where a loss on their part would also help soften the bubble include UR (especially for JMU) and last year’s finalist Sam Houston St.

    More to come later in the week.

    Bottom line:
    7-4 – very little chance this year
    8-3 – very, very good chance but huge variance still possible for placement in the bracket
    9-2 – likely CAA champ and good shot at one of the 5 seeds, which would be enormous given that those teams don’t have to rely on bidding for home games.

  6. Kyle / Nov 5 2012

    Coaching and play-calling will determine our fate. If the defense plays like it played against Maine, it won’t matter as much. We should be able to win any game when the opposing team is THAT shut down.

    The Villanova game will be very telling. With Mickey declaring in his press conference we want to pass less (*sigh*…) and JT back running the offense, we’re likely one-dimensional again. Maine prepped for GG and a two-dimensional offense, not JT and nothing but options. We’re back to teams knowing what we want to do and what we can’t really do. Again, if the D has a similar game we can win if we’re offensively challenged. I just don’t like having to rely on them EVERY game to play an almost perfect game. Championship teams don’t put it all on one unit. We’re not going to out-coach or out-gameplan anybody. We have to play almost perfectly on defense right now.

    I’m not bashing Thorpe or the offense. I don’t dislike him. The kid wants to play and clearly is trying his best. There just isn’t any proof or indication that either can consistently perform at the level of the Maine game. We’ve largely been a consistently anemic offense with the occasional game like Maine for the past 3 years.

    That being said, I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong by JT and the offense and closing out the year with strong complete performances on both sides of the ball. If that happens I’ll gladly say I was wrong. I value JMU wins more than being right about my analysis of football strategy. GO DUKES!

  7. Lively98 / Nov 5 2012

    If we only win one more game this year….it has to be against ODU!!!!

  8. 2004Duke / Nov 5 2012

    “I’m not bashing Thorpe or the offense. I don’t dislike him….I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong ”


    “If we only win one more game this year….it has to be against ODU!!!!”

    And this.

    I don’t hate Thorpe. I wish him the best. I just don’t understand why the Coaching Staff is hell-bent on putting essentially 2 or 3 RB’s in the backfield and running a gimmick offense when they consistently bring in top recruiting classes. If you are going to be Navy and pass 4 times a game and run the option 45 times, just line up in the bone and run the damn offense. It works, but stop pretending you don’t run that offense by lining up in the shotgun just to run the dive option on 4th and 1. Otherwise, put the reverses back in the clown car, put a serious QB in the game, and go play 21st century football. That includes the forward pass.

  9. HatersHatin / Nov 5 2012

    But seriously did Thorpe pay the announcers because they were singing some serious praise yesterday, its seems that they did not watch the Richmond game or completely blocked it out…

  10. MRD2012 / Nov 5 2012

    After reading up on the CAA Tiebreaking Procedure, and unless I’m mistaken, it should go like this, assuming UNH & JMU both win out.

    1. Head-to-head competition. If three-or-more teams are involved in a tie and all have played each
    other, the win-loss percentage is computed using each team’s record against the tied teams as a
    group rather than individually.
    2. Win-loss percentage versus the highest-placed common opponents and proceeding down. When
    arriving at another set of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the tied
    teams as a group rather than individually.
    3. Jeff Sagarin “ELO_CHESS” computation. (Located on & Sagarin ratings page)

    Both teams CAA Records would be 8-1.
    If Richmond wins out, that should leave them tied for 2nd with ODU at 7-2.
    So we’d have to look at JMU & UNH’s record against those two as a group.
    What do you know, 1-1 for both teams. Still tied.
    We’d move on to the outcome of both teams vs. Towson.
    Both JMU & UNH beat Towson… Still tied.
    Now on to Maine. Both 1-0. Still tied.
    Next on the list is W&M. You guessed it. Still tied.
    Georgia State? Still tied. Rhode Island? Still tied.
    And inevitably, we’ve run out of CAA teams to compare.
    This leaves us to the Sagarin Rating.
    UNH is ranked 146th in the country.
    JMU is ranked 130th.

    JMU is your 2012 CAA Football Champions.

  11. M Easy 04 / Nov 5 2012

    Good research MRD 2012 but we may be getting ahead of ourselves a little bit. We are playing the two toughest opponents in our conference in the next two weeks. Yes, we beat an average Maine team but our offense is still a big problem. Now MM wants to pass less and run more option, which makes us even more predictable. Our defense played extremely well against a beat up Maine offense with an inconsistent QB. If they can play with the same level of pride and aggressiveness, we’ll be competitive in both games.

    I’m really concerned about these last two games though. Our offense is not good enough to get into a shoot out with ODU. It will be interesting to see how MM game plans for ODU. Rarely does it seem that he out coaches or has a better game plan than an opponent. At the end of the day we usually have superior talent which wins out at the I-AA level. I honestly don’t know too much about Nova other than it looks like they’re having a good season.
    I look forward to the blog posts this week with more info.

    I’m also looking forward to getting back to Harrisonburg for the ODU game. It’s been 4 years since I’ve last been there. I’m hyped up.

  12. MRD2012 / Nov 5 2012

    I know how you feel, I’m worried about these games too. I was just setting out the best case scenario. And as unpredictable as college football can be, UNH could lose to Towson or blow them out of the water. JMU could go either way these last two weeks as well. The good thing for the Dukes is that their fate is in their own hands as of now. Win out and they’ll most likely claim the CAA, lose either of the games and it will probably go to UNH. We can only hope that the Spirits of Justin Rascati & Rodney Landers will show up and inspire Thorpe, and the football gods are smiling upon JMU. Oh, and a Scotty McGee enlightenment wouldn’t be argued against.

  13. Shady_P / Nov 6 2012

    Finally way to play a dominant game on Defense and tackle and cover receivers. I knew the D had it in them….lets bring that kind of effort for the rest of the season. Awesome job.

    The only positive if you can call it that about GG getting hurt is it forces MM to have a single QB. What is it with MM inviting a a QB controversy. Either way glad to see JT play well, and lets see if he can back it up with another performance in Philly this weekend. JMU needs this win too.

    GO DUKES!!!!!!!!!!!

    I agree with 2004 nothing ticks me off more than the play-calling in short yardage. You give the D an advantage when you lineup in the shotgun to penetrate and blowup your play. I got no issue if you have Drew Brees or Manning back there if you want to lineup in the shotgun but we don’t……so get under center and put a FB in the game to lead block and punch them in the mouth.

  14. tedward / Nov 6 2012

    Thanks Todd. I was thinking we were already in the playoffs. I guess the only way for us to get in with two losses is if UR loses a couple also. I don’t think that will happen. JMU needs to win this week, I’d hate to go into the ODU game having to win that.

    Then again, if JMU loses the next two, not sure I want to watch them in the playoffs.

    Here’s to hoping we win the next two, and storm through the playoffs and raise another banner.

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