Dec 22 / Todd

If You’re Gonna Play in Texas…

…ya gotta have a fiddle in the band! And a couple of monster Defensive Linemen never hurt either.

We’re really here to put some thoughts together about JMU’s dominant performance in the semi-final victory over Weber St., but first we’d just to share with all of you our sense of gratitude and wonder that the Dukes are headed back to the National Championship game for the 3rd time in 4 years! These right here ARE the good ole’ days and don’t get so caught up looking ahead and arguing with Bison fans online to stop and appreciate what an incredible run the Dukes are on right now.

In no particular order, here are our notables from the 30-14 win on Saturday night.

Beer

Oh JMU did you miss out on some cash when the beer ran dry mid-2nd the other night. But probably for the best and they’ll be plenty of time for celebrating in Texas.

Mateo Jackson

We’ve been begging for someone to step up and just be willing to be a little crazy on Special Teams since Sam Kidd went down. And it was thrilling to see the young player from Hermitage in Richmond really making an impact last night.

Icing the Kicker

Thank you Weber! Bet they wish they had that decision back as Ratke left the kick short but the Dukes just turned and threw it up to Riley for the play that essentially ended the competitive portion of the evening. Oh yeah, how much swag does Cignetti have?! Late in the game he called for victory formation. Weber called an unnecessary timeout. So Cignetti got pissed and threw another one up for Riley to end it. It was glorious!

Speaking of Stapletons

Weber St. fans will have nightmares of Riley after two legendary performances against them for years to come. And oh by the way, it must’ve been such a kick in the nads to have Dylan Stapleton joining his brother in marauding through the defense and generally wrecking things all night!

467-256

Those are the yardage totals for the Dukes and Weber respectively. JMU went up 17-0, go the big play at the end of the first half and then grinded through the second half in a way that was more dominant than the final score indicated and continues Coach Cignetti’s just do what needs to be done. JMU’s offensive and defensive lines are just wearing people out and its beautiful to watch. Hopefully with a few weeks to get fully healthy again for guys like Holloway, Nooch, Percy, and Polk this team will be fresh and ready to roll. All things considered, and of course noting that everyone is a little banged up after 15 games, assuming Holloway’s ankle sprain heals up for Frisco, we can’t ever recall a JMU team this healthy this late. Man are they primed for the rematch they’ve worked two years through two staffs to get to.

The Hammer

It’s frighteningly unfair for opponents to have Latrele Palmer enter the game late for the Dukes after Fornadel, Patrick, Wilson, Percy and co. have been getting after people for a few quarters. Needless to say, all the backs are running outstanding right now, but whoo boy is it fun to see Latrele in the 4th.

Up Next

Y’all know. This is the one we all wanted. Have fun the next few weeks, don’t take things too personally, only troll if you can handle the smoke yourself, and most of all, remember we’re lucky to be Dukes! See ya at The Star!

Dec 20 / Todd

2019 JMUSB Semi-Final Preview: Weber St. at JMU

The Basics

Matchup: #3 Weber St. Wildcats (11-3, 7-1 Big Sky) at #2 JMU Dukes (13-1, 8-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m., Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: Mostly clear, 35 at kickoff. Pretty perfect for December in the Valley with afternoon highs around 40 with plenty of sunshine for the tailgate and should stay above freezing till just about the end of the game. Best of all, it’s supposed to be dry and uncharacteristically almost zero wind so should be just fine, especially with a little something for a hot chocolate or coffee.

Broadcast: ESPNU

Boys in the Desert: JMU -16.5, ML -900, O/U 47

What We Know About Weber

JMU fans certainly know and respect the Wildcats, having survived a game the Dukes maybe should’ve lost at home in the Quarter-final in 2017. That’s the one that ended 31-28 on the infamous Field Goal from Ethan Ratke.

This year Weber and JMU have shared one common opponent in Northern Iowa. Weber also beat a notably then-healthier UNI team 29-17 back in late September. Two of their three losses were tight games on the road against FBS teams (San Diego St. and Nevada) early in the year. Their other loss was a blowout at the hands of Montana – a loss they avenged last week.

With the new home-and-home series the two programs have announced for 2021 and 2022 to follow the second playoff meeting in three years, this has very cool potential to turn into a rare intersectional rivalry at the FCS level.

A Couple More Non-Football Notes on Weber St.

Dame Lillard went to Weber St. and they’ve been a frisky mid-major in hoops for decades.

One thing we learned on the Hero Sports Podcast with Weber’s President this week is that the university is truly an open enrollment institution. And we’re not here to pick on that at all. It’s actually pretty amazing that in the era of Aunt Becky and resume-building middle schoolers there are still public institutions that are truly providing “access” to higher education in a way that long, long ago left our own beloved JMU. We’re not nostalgic for those days and we’re incredibly proud that the JMU of today would never accept two morons like us, but it’s good to see there are still schools out there preparing the population, all of it, to go to work.

How the Wildcats Can Win

Feels like a broken record, but turning the Dukes over, making a play or two on specials, and turning this into lower-scoring, grinding affair has to be the plan. Weber appears to be a better, more skilled version of the UNI team that, for all its offensive ineptitude, did a good job in slowing the Dukes and at least playing a game at a pace to their liking last week. If JMU gets untracked early, it’s harder to see Weber keeping up for four quarters if it’s a true shootout.

How the Dukes Can Win

Don’t get suckered on trick plays and win the special teams battle. If there were no trick plays and no kicking game, we think JMU wins this 9 out of 10 times. But there are, and those are two areas that Weber excels and in which the Dukes have shown themselves vulnerable over the course of the season. The uber-aggressive defense has been suckered before on flea-flickers and halfback passes and we fully expect to see their ilk from the Wildcats. Plus, while the Dukes ultimately had a great day results-wise punting last week, they were a whisker away from UNI blocking multiple kicks. Conversely, Weber won their game over Montana with a blocked punt for a TD. And that’s before we ever mention JMU’s difficulty covering kicks and lack of anyone to go full kamikaze on the coverage teams since Sam Kidd went down mid-season – see for example the Monmouth runback.

But if JMU can hold up in those areas, and Ben can be wise with the football (we admit to having some fear here against the Weber pass rush, but believe in Ben’s growth), the Dukes are simply deeper, more talented, and have the ability to eventually hit a few plays that we’re not sure the Cats can keep up with.

Record Watch

This time of year is all about winning the game, surviving and advancing, etc., and that’s as it should be. Individual records won’t mean much on Sunday if we’re not all scrambling for flights. But there are a few records within reach this week (and notably quite a few more if the Dukes get another game) including:

  •  Season Field Goals – one shy of the record
  •  Percy is 3 TD’s shy of tying the single season mark
  •  Polk needs just 87 yards to break the single-season receiving record (and 3 TD’s for receiving TD’s).
  •  Ratke is just 11 points shy of the all-time scoring mark
  •  Daka’s 16.5 sacks are already a record and he can distance himself from the field. 

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. One of the OG’s for craft beer and this year’s batch is particularly tasty. And really, having a semi-final at home in BFS for only the third time ever is very much worthy of celebration. Hopefully we’ll be celebrating at the end as well.

Official JMUSB Prediction

The Dukes finally get loose! Maybe we’re just full-blown optimists, but Weber is finally a team that even Cignetti seems unlikely to hold anything back against. And while the Wildcats seem capable of a few things themselves, we think this is the week we see a fully operational battle station in action from the Dukes.

JMU 38, Weber St. 17

Let’s hope they’re so worried about Riley after his breakout game against them in ’17 that they forget about Polk and co.
Dec 19 / jmusport

Guest Post: Fond JMU Football Memories

Chuck won last week’s prediction contest for JMU’s victory over UNI. Here’s his guest post about some of his favorite JMU football memories.

For my prognostication versus UNI I’d like to thank two of my all-time favorite JMU football players, Scotty McGee and Jimmy F’n Moreland, for wearing the #19 and #6 jerseys. Knowing the game would be a low scoring affair, I opted to use their numbers for my prediction. In hindsight I guess I should’ve used Bryan Schor and Jim Otto’s jersey numbers. Yes, I know Jim Otto did not play for JMU…and, yes, I know JFM originally wore #37.  

While always a fan since graduating in the late 80’s, my heavy rootin’ didn’t start until 2005 – the 2004 Natty was a reawakening of sorts and I joined the Duke Club while also purchasing season tickets. I’m a huge fan of college football and this was a means to fulfill my appetite while supporting JMU athletics. Also it was a means to expose our two boys (at the time 7 and 4 years old) to the college atmosphere and JMU in particular. Below pic is circa 2007, pre-BFS expansion. While they both still follow JMU football they opted to attend schools with stadiums that 3 or 4 BFSs could fit in.

I think all would agree that “pre-gaming” has become as integral a part of the game day experience as the game itself – lubing up the vocal chords with cold beverages, catching up with JMU friends from the past and building new friendships. Our JMU tailgating ventures started in the parking deck – while it was an optimal location for sneaking beers in at halftime during the Montana playoff game (not that I would condone that behavior), it was not ideal for tailgating and a PITA to leave post-game. So a few years back we landed in lot C4 and couldn’t be happier – easy to get in and out, a lively crowd (though it does dwindle as the temperature drops) and an easy walk to the stadium. The irony is not lost on me that C4 is located on the grounds of our 1987 Senior Pig Roast, an event that will live in infamy as the first and only time I’ve been toppled over whilst in a Don’s John. Good times they were…

On any given Saturday we team up with good friends, Janice and John Dec, to eat, drink and laugh. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Janice’s tailgate skills are top-notch and an A+ on the tailgating grading scale. You can quickly determine if she has skipped a game as it turns into a BOC (Bucket O’ Chicken) tailgate. I know I speak on Janice and John’s behalf when I say that all of JMU Nation is welcome to join us in C4 for some pre-gaming. 

Some Fond Football Memories and/or Things I Miss (only includes since 2005 since I can’t remember anything from the 80’s):

  • App State game 2008 – still the most exciting game I’ve ever attended, JMU or otherwise.
  • The Jester in the student’s section circa 2007-09 – dude could pump up the student section and his outfit was on point.
  • U of R game in Richmond’s old stadium 2008 – aka “The Return”. A U of R friend told me he had never heard such an eruption of noise in his life when Scotty returned that punt. 
  • Obese, shirt-less bearded dude.
  • Any game Rodney Landers played in – dude was a human highlight reel.
  • Sam Houston is not a State game – just utter dominance and quieted their annoying fan base. It was cold, it was dark, it was beautiful. 
  • Natty vs. YSU – provided scientific proof that there is a level of cold that will turn Founders Oatmeal Breakfast Stout into slush. Still yummy though…
  • Natty vs. NDSU – despite the outcome, still a fun game…and the weather was significantly improved from the previous year.

As we are on the cusp of another trip to Texas, I’d like to leave with these parting comments:

  • If not already a member, join the Duke Club and attend football games (and other JMU sporting events, for that matter). From my own experience I can tell you it is a great way to keep engaged with your friends from college and make new ones. 
  • Please STOP complaining about the refs on social media. While we all know they are not elite officiating crews, I suspect they miss as many calls against us as they do against our opponents. Yes, booing during the game when they miss a call is standard protocol – but the incessant whining about the officiating on social media makes us look like, well, whiners.
  • When attending a football game please cheer, stand, stomp your feet and root hard – obviously this only applies when we are on defense. If someone complains about your behavior remind them that they are at a football game and that most churches have Saturday services if they’d like something more subdued. 
  • Weber is NOT a state!! (that is for John Dec)

See everyone at the game this Saturday – hope it is less of a nail-biter than the last time we played Weber. Dukes – 26, Cats – 12. 

GO DUKES!!

Dec 18 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Weber State

The last time JMU and Weber State got together in the playoffs, it was an absolute classic. This year’s match-up looks just as good on paper. And we want to know how you think it will play out. Leave a comment below with your prediction for Saturday’s game. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. That’s it. So give us your prediction below and Go Dukes!

Dec 17 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Dukes Dominate UNI

The latest episode of the JMUSB Podcast is up for your listening pleasure. In it, we discuss the amazing effort by the defense in the win over UNI, look ahead to the semi-finals, and then wrap things up talking about some of our favorite nicknames of all time. Give it a listen.

As always, thanks to our sponsors Pale Fire Brewing and Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. Stop by the brewery for a beer and let them know JMUSB sent you and you’ll go home with a free pint glass. And swing over to the fly shop, tell them JMUSB sent you and they’ll hook you up with some cool stickers.

Be sure to subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via Apple Podcasts or Spotify. And give us a rating if you haven’t already. 

Dec 16 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 17 – UNI 0

Survive and advance. That’s exactly what the JMU Dukes did in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FCS Playoffs. JMU took advantage of a stellar defensive effort and defeated Northern Iowa by the score of 17-0. It was the Dukes first ever playoff shutout.

JMU was much more dominant than the score might indicated. The Dukes out-gained the Panthers by 232 yards, limiting UNI to 114 yards while amassing 346 themselves. And JMU had an insane time of possession advantage, holding the ball for over 42 minutes.

The final margin might have only been 17 points, but it was far greater overall. And that’s largely due to the JMU Defense, which had a performance for the ages. UNI was held to only 7 first downs for the entire game. The Panthers had zero net rushing yards and didn’t cross midfield until the final two minutes of the game. There was absolutely nothing they could do. Here are 3 quick thoughts on the win.

The Defense Was Just Mean

You saw those stats above. They pretty much speak for themselves. Except they don’t, because they don’t allow you to see how physically dominant the JMU defense was. Well we have watched a lot of JMU football over the years, and can’t recall too many times where the Dukes have been able to manhandle another team like that. The Panthers could not move the ball.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard all of the talk about UNI’s offense being rather pedestrian. That’s true. But come on? JMU still prevented the #6 team in the country from passing the 50 until garbage time. That shouldn’t happen this deep in the playoffs.

No Style Points in the Postseason

We love watching JMU light up the scoreboard as much as anyone else, but let’s not freak out because the Dukes only scored two touchdowns. They absolutely left some points on the board Friday night. We know that. It’s a fruitless exercise to play the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” game in an attempt to demonstrate that the game very easily could have been a 4-5 TD shutout. The reality is that JMU played a very conservative gameplan and made some mistakes that resulted in missed scoring opportunities. But they still won. In the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Against a Top 10 team. And they’re moving on.

A Christmas Present from JMU

The Dukes reward for winning this game is a semi-final game at home this Saturday, 21 December against Weber State. And our fine friends at JMU Sports have a little Christmas present for our JMUSB community. Click on through to the ticket page using this link and you can get special $8 tickets for the semi-final game in Bridgeforth. Just enter promo code “SPORTSBLOG” when you checkout. And spread the word. JMU is doing this not only because they love you (they do), but also because they want to see Bridgeforth packed on Saturday.

Dec 12 / Todd

2019 Quarterfinals Preview: UNI at JMU

The Basics

Matchup: #6 Northern Iowa Panthers (10-4, 6-2 MVFC) at #2 JMU Dukes (12-1, 8-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. Friday, Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: As rough as it gets. Seriously, pretty sure we can all agree that 29 and snowing would even be way preferable to 35 and raining, but here we are. The good news is that we don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for a few more hours!

Broadcast: ESPN2 – with the very solid Anish Shroff on the call.

Boys in the Desert: JMU – 19.5 O/U 47, ML -1250. This line has gone up all week and seems inflated based on the dummy public underrating of UNI. In any case, the high spread doesn’t match the money line so stay away.

A Bit About Northern Iowa

A regional public in the Cedar-Falls/Waterloo area, UNI is about the same size JMU was 25 years ago with just over 10,000 students. And similar to JMU, they began as the “Iowa State Normal School” and then the “Iowa State Teachers College.”

They play in the very cool “UNI-Dome.” Oddly, they’ve been a 1-AA/FCS powerhouse since just about the time JMU became one – losing the title game in ’05 to App. St. and spending most of ’07 at #1. But the teams have never met before. As we all know, Kurt Warner led the Panthers before his HOF career in the NFL. Like JMU, UNI is fairly well-rounded with their Athletics’ program, frequently near the top of Valley’s strong hoops’ conference and having authored a memorable upset of Kansas in the big dance a few years back. And like seemingly all Iowans, they care more than anyone else about wrestling, where they compete in the Big 12 with some of the true big boys of the sport.

Finally, for the old-heads on the message boards, one unfortunate fact is that UNI has one of the single-worst posters on the internet. He makes Soft Houston’s PodKnows look alright. He’s really right on par with ODuh’s Razor and the guy who almost ruined Montana’s whole program in terms of being a true ignorant douche-canoe. It sucks cause otherwise their fans seem pretty cool and it’s always hard to believe in FCS when one guy spoils a whole community’s opinion of a fanbase.

How UNI Can Win

The Panthers need to ride their legit Top-10 defense and the bad weather to an ugly win. Really it’s the same blueprint they followed last week when they recovered from a slow start and just generally mucked up the game in upsetting South Dakota St. 13-10 on the road. Even in the first round, they basically followed that script when they suffocated San Diego’s high-flying offense in a 17-3 snoozer.

UNI created turnovers in both games, most notably what became the game-winning pick six in their first rounder against the Toreros, and they’ll likely need to so again. Their 7th ranked Defense has given up just 10 points or less in six of their last seven contests.

On offense though, the Panthers have scored 30 just three times all year and scraped out 20 only once in their last five after losing so many of their weapons to injury. Pre-season All-American TE Briley Moore has been out since Week 1 when he was hurt at Iowa St. (though notably he could return this week and still redshirt). Top RB Hoosman has been missing for some time. And they lost top WR Isaiah Weston last week (questionable for this week). But they’ve been grinding the clock with Senior RB Trevor Allen and elusive r-Fr. QB Will McElvain. Nothing explosive – especially if they’re without Weston – but UNI has shown they’re capable of surviving.

How JMU Can Win

Protect the football. Hate to simplify this too much and really don’t mean to disrespect a gritty UNI team that has played arguably the toughest schedule in the country (Weber and Iowa St. out of conference plus NDSU, SDSU (2x), and ISU in the Valley. But they can’t score. And they’re massively banged up on offense. And JMU doesn’t haven’t anyone suspended (yet) for targeting this week. As good as UNI’s defense has been, it’s going to take more than 13 points, maybe considerably more, to beat the Dukes in BFS. If the Dukes protect the football, they should win this game. Forget the weather and handle their business and JMU will be back with better weather and a way better crowd a week from now. Really the best thing the Dukes beyond taking care of the ball is show just how dominant they are capable of being on the defensive side against what could be an overmatched unit in that matchup.

Beer of the Week

Bourbon. Cold. Dark. Perfect. Nuff said.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 30, UNI 9

Ugly. Ruthlessly effective.

Dec 11 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. UNI

The Dukes are moving on. They took care of business in their 2019 playoff debut by crushing Monmouth. Now they’ll take on Northern Iowa and its well regarded defense. And we’d like to know how you think it will play out.

Leave a comment below with your prediction for Friday night’s game. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. It’s that simple. So leave a comment below with your prediction and Go Dukes!

Dec 10 / jmusport

Guest Post: The Prodigal Son Returns to the Fold

Matt Uliana won the prediction for the regular season finale. Here’s his fantastic guest post about his JMU fandom returning long after he played his last game for the Dukes.

The author taking down Georgia Southern QB Raymond Gross in pre-Bridgeforth JMU Stadium (1989)

I’ll start off my guest post by thanking Rob and Todd for giving me the opportunity to make this paltry contribution to their excellent blog. I was told that I could write about whatever I wanted (provided I play nice and don’t slag any players or coaches too bad), so I figured I’d write about the thing I like the most and know the most about…. me. Be advised – this post is long and completely self-indulgent, though I did my best to keep it relevant to the spirit of the blog. 

Like many of you reading this, I am not only a JMU sports fan, but also an alumnus. But unlike most of you, I’m also a former JMU football player – I was a member of Coach Joe Purzycki’s inaugural recruiting class, I played from 1985 through 1989 as a defensive lineman, and I started every game of the 1989 season at D-tackle. Oh, and I lead the team in quarterback sacks my final year (and if you don’t believe me, check out page 172 in the 2014 JMU Football Media Guide). 

Most college graduates I know look back fondly on their school years – it’s always about how it was the best time of their lives, how much fun everyone had, how they wish they could go back, etc. I have never once regretted my decision to go to JMU, but I don’t mind saying here that my undergraduate experience was, quite frankly, not all that great. Sure, I had lots of friends, there was quite a bit of alcohol and random debauchery, and I graduated with a good, marketable B.S. degree, but overall it really wasn’t fun. The main reason for that? Football. 

People occasionally ask about my playing experience, and they generally seem surprised when all I can say is that, in the end, I got more out of football than football got out of me. On the plus side? First of all, it paid for college – I graduated with a solid degree from a damn good school with zero debt. Second, it played a big role in my formative years and the experience made me a much stronger person in all aspects of my life. Finally, I had some truly memorable moments on the field my senior year, I ended my career knowing that I earned the respect of at least some of my opponents, and I was able to walk away from the game with a clear sense of closure.

So what was the downside? First of all, people don’t realize how much playing football at that level monopolizes your life. I won’t bore you with the details but trust me – playing college football takes a lot out of you and significantly limits your available time for scheduling classes, studying, and doing important things like beer slides with your friends in Shorts Hall or road-tripping to UVA on a Saturday to see Hüsker Dü’s final tour. That was all compounded for me by an injury in my freshman year that was initially mis-diagnosed, resulting in a string of setbacks that kept me on the sidelines for my first four seasons. On top of that, we were a perennially .500 team that was not terribly appreciated by the students – sure, people showed up for games, and they seemed to like it when we won, but nothing like the way it is today. The typical attitude other students had towards the football team in those days was generally somewhere between indifference and outright resentment because they thought we had it easy and got all sorts of free money and concessions just for playing a sport. 

Please don’t get me wrong and think that I’m whining or looking for sympathy here – as I said, I got more out of it than it got out of me and I don’t regret sticking with it to the end. But I didn’t have those feelings of gratitude at the end of my career, and when I was done at JMU I blew out of town as fast as I could and never looked back. I didn’t keep in contact with any of my teammates, coaches, friends, professors, anyone. Not only did I not follow JMU football, but I didn’t watch another football game on TV for well over a decade. To me, football and college were just a chapter in my life that no longer mattered, and I was onto bigger and better things. 

I ended up in Austin, got a couple of graduate degrees, met and married the love of my life, and started a career. I hardly thought about JMU at all in those years; in fact, I only found out about the 2004 national championship when I noticed JMU on ESPN playing Bill & Mary in the middle of December. Even after they won that first national championship, I still didn’t care enough to follow the team or even reach out to anyone from those days. 

Then around 2013 I heard that my nephew Andrew, at the time a senior in high school, was dead-set on going to JMU for college. Suddenly I had a direct connection back to the ‘Burg, and I started looking into the current state of my alma mater. What a surprise it was to find that

  1. JMU is a helluva lot bigger! More than twice as many students and extensive development on the other side of IH-81
  2. It’s still one of the best public universities in the state, if not in the country
  3. The football team knows how to win, has made regular playoff appearances since 2004, and – most surprising to me – has a rabid fan base that creates a hostile environment for visiting teams. 

Andrew introduced me to this blog and to jmusports.com, and he let me know about the first ESPN Gameday. Then he got a job with the team and spent his junior and senior years working as the videographer. Suddenly I was not only connected to, but legitimately interested in my old team. I started following the games, streaming video when available and, if not, following the ESPN gamecasts on my phone. I went on-line and bought official JMU Football t-shirts and wore them proudly. I followed the 2016 season religiously and told all my friends and coworkers about how JMU is now the Alabama of FCS. I watched the semifinals at the bar in my friend’s basement, shouting with delight as the mighty Bisons got taken down and as everyone else in the room tried their best to ignore me. Then, after the first of the year, I headed up IH-35 to Frisco, met up with some old friends, reveled in the drunken ocean of purple in the parking lot, and watched the Dukes do something that I once dreamed of doing, back when I was young and still loved the sport. And when it was over, I rushed the field along with everyone else, found my nephew, and managed to get the perfect shot:

Then as I stood on the field, watching those kids celebrate what may be the greatest moment in their lives, I had something of an epiphany. I realized that I am a part of the history of this team. Those years I spent on campus giving up a big part of my life (and my right knee) for this team has, in some small way, helped to lay the foundation for what has become a legendary sports program that is helping to create life-changing experiences for young men, guys that are not too different from the man I was 30 years ago. I’m really proud of that now, and I’ve come to realize that those days I spent on the Quad and on the field actually were some of the best of my life. 

So I’ll end this now by saying thank you to Andrew Uliana for reconnecting me to an important part of my past, to Rob & Todd for keeping me informed and entertained, to Joe Purzycki and all the my former teammates and coaches for playing such an important part in my formative years, and to all of you in the Duke Nation for building the best fan base any school could hope to have. I will see you all on the field in Frisco this January, either in person or in spirit, and I will keep rootin’ till the end!

Dec 9 / Rob

Three Thoughts On JMU 66 – Monmouth 21

Monmouth came to Bridgeforth Stadium ready to shock the world in the second round of the 2019 FCS Playoffs. The Hawks did not shock the world. Instead, the JMU Dukes weathered a lighting fast start by Monmouth and won going away. Things started off kind of bleak for Coach Cignetti and the boys when Pete Guerriero took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage and proceeded to go 93 yards for a TD. Then after Ben Dinucci and the JMU offense answered with a 5 play 73 yard TD drive of their own, Monmouth took the ensuing kickoff back for 6. It was not an ideal start for JMU. The teams traded scores and ended the first quarter tied at 21. Long story, short, the Dukes absolutely crushed from that point forward. Here are three quick thoughts on JMU’s big 45 point win.

Steady as She Goes

We were both in the stands for the game. Maybe the vibe was different for folks watching on TV, but I swear, nobody lost faith even after Monmouth’s fast start. There was plenty of frustration in the stands, for sure, but nobody was panicking or worried that the Dukes were giving the game away in the first quarter. And that’s because there were no signs of panic by any of the players or coaches.

We’d be lying if we said we could tell you the players were thinking after Monmouth went to house on its first play. And we’re not even going to attempt to guess how they felt when the teams ended the first quarter locked at 21. But we sure didn’t see anyone who looked like they’d given up. And we didn’t see players or coaches losing control. We just saw a bunch of guys going about their business.

We’ve said all season that Cignetti’s no-nonsense approach, might not make fans want to run through brick walls, but it pays dividends when the team hits adversity. Yesterday was another perfect example. The Nooch and the offense kept going out there and marching down the field to answer Monmouth. It was as if they knew as long as they did their jobs, the D would eventually get it together, then they’d run away with it. This team is just so steady and determined. It’s a joy to watch.

Weapons and Weapons and Weapons

This is one of the most diverse offensive units that we can recall JMU having. Brandon Polk has done enough in his only season for the Dukes to be considered one of the greats. He caught 6 passes for 83 yards against Monmouth and became only the second Duke ever to exceed 1,000 yards receiving in a season. His battery mate Riley Stapleton did typical “Riley in the Playoffs” things, catching 7 balls for 87 yards. Jake Brown made a few big grabs and Devin Ravenel only had one catch, but it was a great grab that moved the chains on a wonderfully aggressive fourth down call. Oh, and Dylan Stapleton has also become a consistent and dangerous outlet for Nooch. There is so much talent in the passing attack that defenses are routinely forced into bad matchups that JMU can exploit.

And the running game is just punishing teams. JMU’s offensive line has been perhaps the most underrated reason for the team’s success. They’ve manhandled opponents all season, particularly deep in games when lesser units can fade. Juwon Hamilton and Percy Agyei-Obese keep defenses up at night by themselves. Throw in secondary options like Soloman Vanhorse and lately, Erik Kirlew, and it’s not a fair fight.

Hit Pause on the Attendance Shaming

First off, we admit that we’re guilty of stoking this particular fire with some of pregame comments during pretty much every JMU playoff run. Trust us when we tell that we do it more in attempt to rally the troops and encourage folks to go to games, than to actually knock folks who can’t make it to Bridgeforth week in and week out.

We’ve seen the griping online about how many (how few?) people attended this particular game. We were both fortunate to be in the stands though and we’re telling you, the numbers might have been light, but the atmosphere was still fantastic. We didn’t hear anyone griping about empty seats or wasting much effort even thinking about it. We all just rooted and enjoyed the day.

We’d all love the stadium to be packed for these playoff games. But we shouldn’t get so worked up about attendance, that we start taking swipes at each other or doing things that distract us from enjoying this run.

I’ve been a season ticket holder for over a decade and yesterday’s game was the first I was able to attend all year. Yeah, I feel sort of bad about it, but life happens. I’ve got a wonderful wife and two great kids. Weekends fill up fast and sometimes I can’t make the drive to the ‘burg to watch the Dukes. That’s true for a lot of people, especially this time of year. It does nobody any good to get all worked up about it.

I get it. I’ve gotten really worked up about poor attendance in the past too. Ironically enough, I’m 99.99% sure every time I’ve complained about the stadium looks, it’s been from the comfort of my own couch as I watch on television. I know how hypocritical that is. But I have a feeling I’m not alone. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe we personally accept the completely valid reasons we have for not attending a game, while simultaneously discounting that others might have their own valid reasons and hoping they’ll drop what they’re doing to make up for our absence. I don’t know. The human mind is a weird thing.

When I’m in the stands like I was yesterday though, I’m having too much fun and not really concerned with much else beyond what’s happening on the field. So maybe the solution is that we all just root. If we’re sitting in front of our TVs, root. If we’re out running errands watching on our phones, root. If we’re in the stadium, root. Screaming about what everyone else should be doing or where they should be doing it from, isn’t going to do anything than take away from our own enjoyment of the games.