Guest Post: A Hazy Look Back at the Glory Days
Zac won our prediction contest for the SHSU game. Due to the holidays and general business of the season, we delayed publishing his guest post until just now. We think you’ll find it was worth the wait.
(Edit: I began this before we played the Semifinal, but wasn’t able to finish in time. The beginning was written before the Bison game)
Hey guys, zac here with another guest post after correctly predicting the Dukes would blow the pants off of Soft Houston State. So glad to be back here with all you Rooters out there. After a few days of looking back and enjoying the complete and total dominance of the Dukes last Friday, I was given the task of a guest post for the JMUSB. I struggled, as I often do, to come up with a guest post topic. Part of me really wanted to make a List. Everyone loves lists! But I couldn’t come up with one that inspired me.
Then, I thought about dissing the Bison. Sure, nobody talks trash as well as old DirtyDukes. But, I just wasn’t into it. I mean do I think most Bison fans are delusional thinking they will beat us by 2 TDs? I absolutely do. But I do have a grudging respect for them and what they’ve accomplished. I also think it’s a pretty well worn subject. Every team’s fan base can make fun of North Dakotans pretty easily.
I thought about what I could write about with the most passion. At the SHSU tailgate, I had the pleasure of tailgating with Todd (we coaxed him out of the slums of D-Lot into the promised land of P-Lot). We recently realized that we were both present at an event in 2004 (no spoilers, but you can probably guess), a pretty amazing coincidence. I then realized that some of the younger guys that are such big Rooters these days (Shoutout to Evangelista) weren’t even around then. So I came upon my topic: A recap of my journey through the 2004 playoffs with the Dukes. I was lucky enough to be at every game that year, so I have a unique perspective.
FAIR WARNING: THIS IS A LONG READ. Sorry in advance. I won’t be upset if you don’t read it all or if you need to come back after the Dukes beat the Bison this weekend and we have time to kill before Frisco. And for those of you who don’t want to read it all – TLDR: Dukes rule.
(A little intro to 2004: Pregame video from 2004 with Aerosmith knockoff. So good)
Week 1: Lehigh
Thanksgiving timing for first round games is always annoying. What’s also annoying: JMU only giving students 2 days off for Thanksgiving. For those of us with family that isn’t nearby, 4 days is pretty brutal to try and fit a trip home in, especially on the worst traffic Holiday of the year. Had I gone home to GA, I would have spent over 24 hours driving and had 2 days at home. Not really worth it.
However, I was lucky enough to use the short week excuse to get out of Thanksgiving with my family and head up to Medford, NJ to spend Thanksgiving with my buddy Tommy Chill. Tommy’s family were all suuuuper Italian, and it was exciting for me being from the south and never having had an Italian Thanksgiving. I didn’t know what to expect. Ravioli on Thanksgiving? Yes, please!
Thanksgiving didn’t disappoint (Lasagna and turkey pair real well), but then we had a few days to dink around before heading out to Bethlehem, PA. I remember thinking Lehigh’s campus was kind of like ours, only if the mountains were way closer into campus. As we came into the stadium, the Lehigh fans were friendly enough – some lady asked if we were from Wisconsin. We said no ma’am, Virginia, and found our seats. That game was a low scoring affair, with lots of defense. On our last drive, we were down 13-7. We drove down to the redzone, and we were lucky to have a flag thrown on 4th and goal from the 1 to give us another 4 downs. It took us another 3 downs but we finally punched it in for the 14-13 victory.
I remember thinking we were really lucky and probably wouldn’t do so well next week against perennial Socon power Furman.
Week 2: Furman
I was really excited for Furman because the SDC planned a big bus trip down there. I was also able to convince my Dad to make the trip up from Savannah to Greenville – he grew up going to GSU games and knew the level of football was great. I remember the bus ride down got pretty rowdy; we had snuck some beers onto the bus and were talking about how lucky we were to win at Lehigh. When we got to Greenville we went to some bar downtown – I remember the bus having a hard time in the city streets – for the JMU Duke Club event. I remember drinking underage while talking to Jeff Bourne and thinking huh this is pretty cool. My Dad showed up and had some beers with us while trying to get the lay of the land. I don’t remember anyone being super confident before the game. After a couple of hours we got back on the bus and headed over to the stadium.
I remember my Dad not having any JMU gear at the time and kind of sticking out in all the Purple and Gold. I also remember him being impressed with how rowdy our fanbase was. Shoutout to my boy Cumbo who brought some sort of moonshine to the game that we were nipping on the whole time. My dad instantly loved throwing streamers (although early we only had 1 TD to throw on). The game was a low scoring back and forth affair that we really shouldn’t have been in. There was a fumble recovery on our 2 yard line that saved us from going down 20-7. Towards the end of the 4th we were driving and had a 4th down and goal. I remember Eugene Holloway took the ball and went in the endzone off the right side. I also remember, like the week before at Lehigh, I was insanely nervous on an extra point to go ahead 14-13. We then held them on some desperate passes and we were going home.
On the way home I remember the bus coming up with some amazing ideas for signs for W&M, and came up with the whole “Lang Campbell steals bikes from kids” and “Lang Campbell likes nose candy” faux rumors. Great times.
(Check out this amazing video recap. Some things to note: that terrible soundtrack was played over every JMU highlight video that season, and every time I hear it I just think: Championship. Also, how bad is the quality of that video? I know it’s probably been deteriorated after multiple uploads but dang!)
Week 3: William and Mary
Oh, man. I remember never being as excited for a game as I was for W&M. We had lost to them earlier in the season on a heartbreaking (but impressive) FG as time expired. We were out for blood.
I also remember that we had a big group going down to Williamsburg. All my college buddies who usually weren’t so into the Dukes decided to make the trip. We got to Wburg and met up with some CAAZone Board Members (Shoutout to BSBK!) and stole some of their booze. It was a rainy, wet tailgate. Here’s me and easily the best thing I’ve ever made:
I remember walking into the stadium through some sort of path in woods where their fans were tailgating. It was pretty intense; dark out, their fans yelling at us, I remember the lady behind me got hit in the face with a unopened can of beer, and they really let us have it. It was a pretty exciting time because W&M had brought in lights so they could play the game at night; back then they didn’t have lighting. Also, all of their fans had these amazing tshirts on: “Not in our house, not on this night.” When we went into the stadium I was less than surprised to see that almost 50% of the stadium was wearing purple.
The Dukes got out to a fast start, going up 21-0 in the first quarter. Zable was rocking with purple. That one guy had his amazing “Rascati with the Vickness” sign that we all talk about to this day. However, my sign was getting negative attention. Don’t get me wrong, I remember being texted that I was on the broadcast like every 2 seconds, but some punk ass tough guy nerd took offense to the sign and tried to get me to come down out of the stands to fight him. He looked exactly like Joe Millionaire. I was VERY confident I would have destroyed him (he was like 5 foot nothing), and I had no real reason to leave the comfort of the stands. Everyone around me starting booing him and he left.
The nerds staged a comeback in the 2nd, and the game went to halftime 21-20. After the half, the nerds came out and scored a TD, but went for 2 and didn’t get it. They were up for the first time, 26-21. Needless to say, Mickey probably went nuts on the team, and the Dukes dominated from there out. Rascati found DD Boxley in the endzone with an amazing stretched out over the head catch for the first of the Dukes 27 unanswered points, putting us up 48-26. W&M scored with like a minute left to make it look more respectable than it was. I remember all the fans lining up on the sideline to rush the field. I was one of the first 2 people out there and you can see me toting my sign onto the field in the broadcast. After the game, we went to Hooters and got served underage. It was amazing. After that, we went back to the team hotel that we were luckily staying at and had a party with the players – someone had a keg and things got pretty weird. For NCAA violation reasons I won’t put it all down here. I remember the next morning checking CAAZone in the hotel’s business center and just being so stoked for the Dukes to head to Chattanooga.
(This amazing photo pretty much sums up that entire game)
Week 4: NOOGA
I remember us all being so excited to head down to Chattanooga. So many people were going, almost every one I knew. When I was a freshman, I was the only person in my dorm (okay other than Hittie sorry bruh) who went to games. Now, random fraternity brothers and dorm mates and my closest buddies were all going to the game. It was incredible.
I remember driving down to Nooga from Harrisonburg. We were staying on the outskirts of the town. We got down early enough to head to a liquor store and buy some moonshine and vodka and Hawaiian punch. We did some drinking in the hotel that night but didn’t get too crazy because we were saving it for the big show.
We pulled up into the parking lot of UTC’s stadium, and randomly decided to park next to an RV of Dukes’ fans. While we’re unloading and getting our tailgate ready, I see some alumni fraternity brothers of mine come out of the RV. It was my big bro’s actual big bro, and some other alumni who I knew pretty well. Also, there was TODD. No really, it was confirmed he was there. I don’t remember him being there at the time, but that would have been the first time we had met. The Pi Kapps had a watermelon and we had the moonshine, so we decided to combine the two.
I remember it just being the perfect day. We were throwing the football, other JMU fans we knew were showing up, and we had like 8 hours to tailgate. It was perfect. What WASN’T perfect, though, was our implementation of the moonshine/watermelon strategy. You see, we forgot to drain the watermelon of its own juices first, so when we cut the watermelon in half it was pretty much just a punch bowl for moonshine. Your boy zac here has a problem with clear liquor: that is I can’t taste it after the first sip. So once I had one bite of watermelon I couldn’t taste the rest. So I may have over imbibed that day. Actually, I know I did. People were saying I was just scooping the moonshine out of the watermelon with my cupped hands and drinking it like it was from a mountain stream. Here’s the last picture I ALMOST remember, before heading into the game:
Apparently after that, I needed a nap. Luckily, I have amazing friends. Even though they couldn’t wake me up, they were kind enough to put sunglasses on me and “Weekend at Bernie’s” me into the stadium. Apparently they each took a shoulder and just pretended like we were super excited to be walking into the stadium. I have no idea how we got thru security. I do know I woke up at the start of the 3rd quarter, with a mark on my face from the metal bleacher where I had been sleeping. We were up 10-7! The Grizz couldn’t stop our power running game and we wore them down over the course of the game. We scored to go up 17-7, then they scored two unanswered TDs to go up 21-17. Again, I remember Mickey going nuts on them and getting them into shape. We started to ground and pound on them again and scored the remaining 10 points to lead us to our 31-21 victory.
After the clocked reached 00:00 everyone started jumping down onto the field. Which if you haven’t been to UTC, it’s like a 12 foot jump. We were all running around going nuts. I found Matt Lezotte, our Senior QB who had lost out his spot to Junior Transfer Justin Rascati, and told him that if it wasn’t for him gracefully stepping aside and keeping the team united that we wouldn’t have been there. I also remember seeing Tremonte running around almost naked, which eventually made its way into Sports Illustrated. We went back to the car and headed over to team’s hotel for the big party. It was just an amazing day.
So there you have it, folks. Our 2004 run. While I personally think we’ll beat the pants off of YSU and avenge that horrible 2006 loss there, we should still enjoy every moment because runs like this don’t happen every year. Just every 12 years. So as Coach Houston says, Go Deyukes, and Lock the Damn Gates.