Oct 14 / Rob

Quick Thoughts on JMU Over Richmond

mickey faceThe Dukes got the job done and defeated Richmond by the score of 38-31 on Saturday. After a hard fought first half, JMU was clinging to a 7-6 lead. Dejor Simmons provided a much needed spark with an electrifying 100 yard kickoff return for a TD to open the second half. Feeding off Simmons’ energy, the Dukes went on to play far and away they’re best third quarter of the season. Michael Birdsong and Brandon Ravenel connected on a 71 yard passing play that led to a Quintin Hunter TD. The Ginga Ninja followed that up with a 16 yard TD pass to Deane Cheatham that put JMU up 28-9. Things got dicey in the fourth quarter though and Richmond stormed all the way back to pull within a touchdown late. Luckily, JMU recovered a Spider onside kick and ran out the clock to seal the win.

The Switcheroo

The third quarter has been the Dukes’ nemesis all season. In each of JMU’s losses, they carried leads into halftime only to let their opponents back into the game after the break. There were probably more than a few JMU fans bracing themselves for a disappointing quarter after halftime. Instead we were treated to an amazing kick-off return, quick strike scoring drives, and inspired defense. But just to keep things interesting, the Dukes went ahead and had their third quarter letdown in the fourth.

Richmond scored 22 points in the final period. The Spiders were a recovery of an onside kick away from being in position to drive for a game tying TD late. The game should have been a laugher, instead it was more than a little dicey down the stretch. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. The first few scores seemed to be a case of the entire program (players, coaches, fans) taking its foot off the gas. Only Richmond didn’t stop playing. JMU hung on for the win, but they almost gave one away.


After years of the entire fanbase begging for the Dukes to pass more, this year’s team is finally airing it out. The Dukes were held under 100 yards rushing, but still scored 38 points. That’s not something we would have seen in years past. But this year’s offense can move the chains by throwing the ball. Much of the credit rightly goes to Michael Birdsong. He’s still learning and has some things to improve upon, but he can make throws that recent JMU QBs could not make.

It’s not all Birdsong though. The Dukes have some seriously talented receivers. Quintin Hunter, Brandon Ravenel, and Rashard Davis are all solid route runners with good hands. And Daniel Brown just adds a dimension that the Dukes haven’t had in years. He has serious big play ability. The receiving core is so deep that DeAndre Smith, a very talented receiver, could be moved to the defense to play corner (he played pretty well by the way).

The Defense

The defense played vintage Mickey Matthews style for the first three quarters. They virtually eliminated the run, gave the QB the short throws, and then tightened up in the red zone. It was bend, but don’t break at its finest. The corners have fallen victim to a number of big plays all season, but they showed some slight improvement yesterday. Richmond did complete a few long passes, but on most of them it was more a case of the receiver making a play to come down with the ball, then the corners just getting left in the dust.

The Dukes still gave up 400+ passing yards. Even if many of them came after JMU took its foot off the gas, that’s a lot. Watching in person though, I thought there was improvement. For much of the game the corners were matched up in man with no help over the top. The big cushions might drive fans crazy at time, but it’s better than letting the receiver run past everyone into open space. This isn’t a dominating defense by any stretch, but it has the potential to get a lot better.

Odds and Ends

Beating Richmond is fun. There was plenty of trash talk between the players in the week leading up to the game. The potential was there for both teams to play with a lack of discipline. The Dukes didn’t. The Spiders did. After seeing dumb penalties and mistakes cost the Dukes against Delaware, it was kind of nice to see their opponents shoot themselves in the foot on several occasions. For instance, Cameron Starke’s field goal in the fourth quarter came immediately after a Richmond offsides put the Dukes in FG range. And there were several other costly penalties for Richmond. The squirrel was pretty cool too.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk lately about the attendance (or lack thereof). It’s frustrating that the stadium isn’t packed week in and week out. I actually think listening to people bitch about it (or attempt to lecture the students via Twitter, blog comments, etc) is even more frustrating though. Life gets in the way sometimes. Despite the forecast, I made the trip back to the ‘burg with my 2 favorite little Dukes fans for the game. The weather held and we had a great time. Some weeks I just can’t make it though. It happens.

We don’t know what the solution is, but it probably involves a little more patience and a lot less whining. Personally, we’d rather be invited to go to a game and shown a good time, than lectured. For the past few years, Todd and I have tried to encourage a few friends to join us going back for games. And some of them actually get the bug and want to go back again. Some of them even take the plunge and buy season tickets. And that makes it more fun for us.

With that being said, we’re bringing some friends down for the ‘Nova game on November 2. We’ll be putting together a big tailgate. We’ll provide details closer to gameday, but we’d obviously love to have as many readers as possible stop by. And if you bring a friend who’s relatively new to JMU football, that’d be great too. We’ll do our best to minimize our complete JMU sports geekiness and help you show them a good time.

Pic courtesy of our favorite site for JMU photos, epicsnapshots.com


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  1. Mike / Oct 14 2013

    Came over for the weekend from Ohio. Like you I cannot make it to every game as the distance is too far but make it back usually 3 times each season. I think the fan support is good for the most part. Weather was kind of lousy during the day leading up to the game but fine during it. Some of the MAC schools in Ohio don’t draw as well as JMU does so I agree with you….let up on the complaining about the fans. Some exciting big plays for the Dukes but at the end when it got to 38-22, I was hoping JMU would take the ball and have a long drive and not let up but it did not happen. Don’t know if that is Mickey ball or whether all teams kind of do the same thing-have seen Ohio State do it many times where a sustained drive would just put the game away and they just go 3 and out losing yardage. Pass defense obviously gave up lots of yardage and the ability of UR to convert alot on 3rd down was maddening but the secondary looked better than it. Did when I saw them in. Akron earlier in the year. Thanks agin for your work on the blog. I am. Coming over. For HC in a couple of weeks and will look to see if I can. Find your tailgating spot.

  2. JT2001 / Oct 14 2013

    Seems like our team perennially believes in itself a little too much. I know for a fact that they (players and coaching staff) believe that their talent is top-notch and shouldn’t be beat. What that looks like on the field, to me, is that at times they think that they don’t have to really bear down because they’ll succeed simply by virtue of being better athletically.

    The truth is that our talent is on par with the better teams in the CAA but they still need to play every down hard.

  3. Shady_P / Oct 14 2013

    Nice win for the Dukes, should have been by a bigger margin – but JMU dominated for about 50 minutes.

    My Pet-Peeve:
    – Attendance
    1 – Student attendance down right SUCKS, I am not going to sugar-coat it. Not sure what else these students have to do on a Saturday afternoon at 3:30. I don’t want to here the go out/party excuse – it was a 3:30 game. The weather was nothing more than an occasional light mist. It was a ‘must-win’, home game against JMU’s biggest remaining rival in the CAA and we cannot pack the student section. We have 20,000 freaking students and 1/3 cannot bother to come to the game. I applaud and appreciate the students that do have school spirit and support the athletic programs and I appreciate the MRD, but for the rest F’em – your opinion does not matter. They are simply too self-absorbed to care. I have given a pass to this point with weather and opponents as an excuse but I am done with it.

    2. Paid Attendance was disappointing too — What is the deal, I enjoy a nice tailgate as much as the next guy, but if that’s all you want to do just stay at home and have a BBQ. Put your crap up and get to the game 30 minutes before kickoff. It pisses me off every gameday as I walk to the stadium and it seems like half the folks would just assume stay in a parking lot and tailgate as go to the game. JMU should enact starting the very next home game a policy that tailgating in the on-campus parking lots must be shutdown during game time. This is done at other big-time schools and if that’s what JMU needs to do to get these folks out of the parking lot I fully support it.

  4. Bob / Oct 14 2013

    I believe we trailed Akron 14-13 at the half. We only led the Delaware game at the half.

  5. Rob / Oct 14 2013

    You’re right Bob. I stand corrected. JMU was done at the half against Akron.

    @Shady_P, I get the frustration but statements like “F’em – your opinion does not matter” do not make any sense, nor do they help the situation. What’s your desired outcome? I assume it’s a full stadium with a packed student section. In which case, the opinions of students who are not currently attending do matter. They matter very much. In order to fix the “problem” you’ve got to understand what the cause is. Maybe some students simply don’t like football. Maybe there are students who are completely unaware of the schedule. Maybe others don’t know the ticket procedure. All of those issues would have different solutions. And if the problem is simply student apathy, then it would take an entirely different approach altogether. Regardless, dismissing their opinion and complaining about it, doesn’t help. Just my 2 cents.

  6. KB / Oct 14 2013

    I couldn’t make it from Philly this week but have made the 5 hour trip each way 3 times this year with a 4 year old and a 1 year old in tow. I sell or trade away my season tickets for every game I can’t get to. The attendance is a direct result of not winning. If you don’t win and make the playoffs, your not going to get the casual fan to the game. Obviously most of us who read this will go no matter what. But, what fills stadiums are the casual fans and they only show up for good playoff teams. Missing the playoffs most of the last few years has really hurt. I agree with inviting friends to games, we have done it twice this year and probably hooked them into coming at least 1 game every year.
    As far as the game, the defense is a complete Jekyll and Hyde. They can look so dominant (mostly against the run) and look so feeble against the pass. I honestly think that game is a different story if their best receiver doesn’t go out in the first quarter.

  7. Shady_P / Oct 14 2013

    Well to say:

    – To say students are unaware of the football schedule is somewhat absurd. This is not soccer, field hockey, baseball where games are basically played off campus and the times and game days vary. Football is typically 5-6 home games on Saturday. I know these folks are all over social media because they almost have a ‘device’ glued to their head.

    – Not knowing the ticket procedure is crap too. Just another excuse. If they cared it is easily available via social media messages as well.

    – Opponent does not seem to matter.

    – Game time does not seem to matter.

    – Conference vs out of conference does not seem to matter.

    – Weather does not seem to matter.

    – The pre-game and in game entertainment has been re-worked and is much better this year; but that does not seem to matter either.

    – It seems to me that JMU makes it very easy for student to come to games and does care about improving all aspects of the gameday experience….but JMU is not gonna pay them to come, but heck that would probably not do it either.

    I do appreciate the students that do come and the efforts of the Student Duke Club and MRD…..but we have waaayyyy too many apathetic students and at some point I say F’em because lets stop worrying about the people who don’t care or why they don’t care and pay more attention to those that are there.

  8. Rob / Oct 14 2013

    I was simply hypothesizing that there could be multiple reasons for students not attending. I wasn’t stating that I knew the reasons. And I see no reason to dismiss any of my suggested reasons for poor attendance unless you actually know the real reason. You clearly do not.

    If you really do want to say F’em and stop worrying about it, then please do so. Your comments thus far however, seem to indicate that you do care (not a bad thing btw) and it does upset you.

    My personal opinion is that these are just growing pains. The stadium was expanded just about the time that the program became mediocre. If the Dukes get back to their winning ways and start making the playoffs again, the crowds will bet bigger.

  9. Rob / Oct 14 2013
  10. Shady_P / Oct 14 2013

    JMU can’t make them care about football….if the students want to come to the football game they will take the 30 seconds (max) it takes to find out if there is a game and what time.

    Nothing to base this on, but I think some of this is a side effect from a large number of students living off-campus especially as some of the off-campus housing/apartments get farther and farther from campus. Once they get past walking distance hard to get them back on campus for anything.

  11. Cory / Oct 14 2013

    The JMU student turn out was so good for the first few games when we were playing lower tier opponents (even if they did bail at halftime). Then the conference schedule starts and the weather gets bad and they don’t show up at all. That makes me think that the students aren’t invested in the team and may not be until they prove that they are an upper echelon FCS team. But then at that point won’t we complain that all the students that are now coming are just jumping the “great JMU team bandwagon?” There may be no winning in this student attendance situation.

  12. Sean / Oct 14 2013

    Do you know how many schools would kill for the “problem” of having “only” 20,000 fans?

  13. deepsouthduke / Oct 14 2013

    attendance is a culture thing. It’s not about incentives, or who’s hardcore and who’s not. In 2008, when I was a student going to football games was “the thing to do” because the team was on fire and the program had a lot of hype. When your friends go, you will too.

    When we’re on top, or starting to play bigger name teams in FBS a home game culture should develop again. As far as this week against Richmond aka a big rival… I’ll be honest I doubt current students even knew that a rivalry existed between the schools, so don’t fault them for that.

    Move to FBS, finish the stadium, I believe a healthy athletic culture will grow from there.. as long as tailgating continues to be permitted (shutting it down for the first quarter is a good idea though).

  14. Sean / Oct 14 2013

    And to say weather doesn’t matter is absurd

  15. CupofJoe / Oct 14 2013

    I’d have to agree with the point that KB (and others) have made about student attendance and the performance of the team. I think you would be hard pressed to find a team anywhere, at any level that fills the stadium week in and week out when their team isn’t playing well, playing consistently,or playing to potential. Watching the Dukes play mediocre ball the past few years gets frustrating to the die hards, and leads to apathy of the lukewarm fan (just look at the girl who shows up to the game in a Banana suit in this threads picture).

    I think the team performance is the root of the issue of lack of student attendance. With team success comes more buzz on campus, which leads to revival of fan culture, which leads to the increase social draw, which leads to a more electric game time experience, which keeps fans there past half time.

  16. Shady_P / Oct 15 2013

    Two points – I am not talking about announced attendance. That number is very misleading and is based on tickets sold, NOT butts in seats. They are two very different things. I feel very safe in saying there have not been 20,000 fans at any home game this year. There may have been 15,000 at the season opener.

    And while we would all like the team to be more successful, it is not like they SUCK either. Yeah some of the recent 7-4 seasons have been disappointing but they are still solid seasons. What type of success does it take, because you are not going to go undefeated or 11-1, 10-2 every year. 7-4 means all the home games are relevant/important for post-season opportunities. Translated – that means that JMU is not playing out the string in meaningless games on the way to sub .500 records.

  17. Kevin / Oct 15 2013

    Weather and the availability online and on TV matter. A horrible week of depressing rain leading up to gameday and a dicey, miserable forecast with a lingering downpour on 66 had my wife and daughter simply seething at me on the way down. I was faced with a decision; go forward and know that no matter what we were going to have a miserable time as a family (I’ll power through but pay for it) or make alternate plans on the fly. It ended up being a no brainer for me. Detour to Barrel Oak Winery for a few hours of quality indoor family bonding, then home for tailgating with the neighbors and the game on HDTV from the warm, dry comfort of my living room. My tickets, my money, my time, my choice. Sorry. Same circumstances and I’ll make the same decision 80% of the time.

  18. Tony / Oct 15 2013

    Hey guys, 2011 Duke here. Couple of thoughts–

    1. @Kevin– I agree that this was probably the biggest factor for the light attendance on Saturday. We went to the Charlotte game in September, and it’s just so much harder to convince friends to come with when the weather is crap. We still have some undergrad friends there and even with a tent set up we could barely convince them to come and hang out, much less come to the game. Of course, if it’s a huge game this could be a different story, but the Charlotte game just wasn’t.

    2. @CupofJoe — Current undergrad friends gave me the impression that the general student population is caring less and less, but with what you described, I agree a turnaround is possible.

    In the end even if the team plays mediocre ball but squeezes out a home playoff game, I think it we’d see a full stadium.

  19. 2004 Duke / Oct 15 2013

    In totally unrelated news:

    Former JMU Offensive Coordinator Eddie Davis has passed away. He lost his battle with cancer.

  20. Jeff Clark '98 / Oct 15 2013

    I went to JMU from ’94-’98. JMU made the playoffs twice during my four years. I was in the marching band my first 2 years so I had to be there for all of the games but I couldn’t get any of my friends to go to the games. My last 2 years, when I wasn’t in the marching band, I went to 1 game. It’s frustrating as an alumni, but I did the same thing when I was there.

  21. JT2001 / Oct 16 2013

    I think the school doesn’t do enough to integrate activities for the students. Student attendance was highest when they let them turn it in to a party. I know why they went away from that but we have struggled with it since they changed that a few seasons ago.

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