Feb 24 / jmusport

Guest Post: Proud and True

Randy won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here’s his reflection of being around for the start of the JMU football program.

Proud & True. Many of you know that to be the name of the Duke Club fund that supports JMU sports. The naming could not be more appropriate. In my 42 years since graduation, I’ve encountered graduates of all ages. The common denominator among them is the pride they feel for their university and the value they place on their experience as a Duke.

Though I will never be remembered for my exploits on the field, as a football alum, my pride in our football Dukes runs deep. My first year, though not quite ground zero, was the beginning of Madision
College playing a legit Division III, NCAA schedule. That was 1974. We were playing on a brand-new AstroTurf field, the first in Virginia. This was the early turf which was easily 15 degrees hotter than grass and could absorb your skin as easily as it did heat. We completed the season with a winning, 6-4 record.

The following year, we were undefeated with a 9-0-1 record. That season remains as JMU’s only undefeated season…. so far. We all hope that changes this year. That was a special time for JMU football.

Today is a special time as well, for JMU football and for theUniversity. Part of the pride that we all share stems from the sense that our University is always moving forward. We won regularly as an upstart new football program and we continue to win today. Beyond sports, the accolades continue to pile up.

I am sure every group of players to come through JMU in the last 40+ years feel their own unique connection and sense of pride in their university. The presence and support of those early players from the 70’s however, is easy to see at today’s games, at tailgates or at Duke Club events. The pride from
this group of D-III, non-scholarship players, is unmistakable. There is a connection to, or a sense of being part of the greatness that has since followed.

Proud & True! Go Dukes
Randy’78
P.S. Early prediction on May 16 th game: JMU 28, NDSU 17

Feb 24 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Robert Morris

The Dukes took care of business with a shutout victory over Morehead State in week one. Now they welcome Robert Morris to Bridgeforth for their final tune-up before CAA play begins. And we want to know how you think the game will play out.

Leave a comment below indicating who you think will win and what the final score will be. 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 and Go Dukes!

Feb 24 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Spring Football…is Kind of Awesome

The latest episode of the JMU Sports Blog podcast is live for your listening pleasure. It this one, we break down the big 52-0 win over Morehead State, go around the docket for other Spring sports, and ramble on about our usual nonsense. You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your pods.

As always, the JMU Sports Blog Podcast is brought to you by Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. Swing by the shop or visit them online for all of your angling and outdoor needs.

Feb 21 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 52 – Morehead State 0

JMU opened the 2021 (Part 1) season with a convincing 52 point shutout over Morehead State. As the score might indicate, the game was never in doubt. The Dukes scored touchdowns on their first three drives and turned the game into laugher early. JMU’s defense overwhelmed the Morehead attack, limiting it to only 98 yards. The JMU offense on the other hand, moved down the field at will to the tune of 556 yards. None of us expected the game to be anything more than an early season tune-up, and that’s all it was. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

read more…
Feb 18 / Todd

2021 Spring Game #1 Official JMUSB Preview: Morehead St. @ JMU

Cole Johnson, JMU Starting QB
Guess who’s back!?

We did it! We all did it! After 13 months without Dukes football, it’s go time. It’s hard to believe this is happening but we’re choosing to love it and enjoy every second we get of it this winter and spring. We often say that being a college football fan requires being comfortable with a certain level of cognitive dissonance and this weird season may stretch that to its limit, but while it’s here, we’re going to enjoy the warmth JMU will bring to the longest and coldest of winters with everything we have.

We can, and will, do two things at once. First, acknowledge and pray for the fact that even in our small group of fellow JMU fanatics, there are those that have lost siblings and parents this last year. And way way down the list of import, it also may not make any financial, logistical, or rational sense to have an FCS spring season. But we can do a second thing at the same time. We can choose to accept and support that players, coaches, and fans all want throw streamers, even if it’s in our living rooms. And this can be fun and there’s no need to apologize to anyone for being joyous. And if we’re lucky enough, maybe we’ll even get to throw real streamers at a real game sometime in early May!

The Basics

Matchup: Morehead St. Eagles (0-0, Pioneer) @ #4 JMU Dukes (0-0, CAA)

Kickoff: 12 noon ET. Saturday February 20, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Sunny, high of 29

Broadcast: NBC Sports Washington Plus (this is the “other” channel you use when Wiz and Caps play at the same time. It’s available on Dish, DTV, and Fios. Also streaming on FloFootball.

Boys in the Desert: JMU -41.5, O/U 54 – Exciting that we can talk about this openly and with more glee this year thanks to the legalization of sports betting in Virginia. But that “location services” thing on your DraftKings/FanDuel app should prevent you from actually wagering on the Dukes if you live in Virginia. More to come on this as the season goes along.

How Morehead St. Can Win

The Eagles probably can’t. Unless JMU is too cold and too nervous and generally overconfident and under-aggressive, it’ll be an incredible victory for MSU to stay within 3 scores. Frankly, if the Eagles can make the trip safely from a ‘rona and icy travel standpoint and escape without major injury, it’d really be successful start to the year.

As a reminder, Morehead St. is a mid-sized public school from Morehead, Kentucky, which deep in the hills about halfway between Lexington, KY and Huntington, WV. MSU serves the eastern part of the state way better than Eastern Kentucky actually does. The Eagles play in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League. San Diego wins that league’s auto-berth to the FCS playoffs almost every year, except on occasion when Dayton has an NFL-Caliber Tight End. The league’s existence is one of the quirkiest and least-explainable things in all of college athletics, and that friends is saying something. It stretches from Cali to Ohio and down to Florida and flies those teams all over hell’s half-acre in order for a bunch of non-schollie schools to play each other at the FCS level. Most of the member schools are reasonably well-respected some reason that has zero to do with football. Read that again and tell me you don’t love this madness. All that said, this league is about to get REALLY interesting next Fall, when two new members join the league. One is a school, South Carolina’s tiny Presbyterian College, who didn’t care enough about football and sort of unofficially got itself thrown out of its conference, the SoCon. The other, the University of St. Thomas, the pride of St. Paul, Minnesota (again, the geography of this league is friggin’ wild!), absolutely and very officially got itself thrown out of its conference, D3’s Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), for caring entirely too much about football and shredding both D3 rulebooks and opponents for too many years. St. Thomas was “involuntarily removed” from the MIAC last year and somehow will find itself in the Pioneer during its four-year transition to full FCS status. Needless to say, both of these proud programs are going to significantly up the interest and competition levels in the PFL soon.

Also, the PFL is elite in terms of team names. Stetson Hatters, San Diego Torreros, Dayton Flyers, St. Thomas Tommies, and now the Presbyterian Blue Hose! The boring Eagles of Morehead lose in the name game and are likely to lose Saturday as well. But Phil Simms and Kenneth Farreid went there!

More Than a Game

We’re trying something new this year to make something better from the collective power of Dukes everywhere. This week in honor of JMU’s opponent, Morehead State, we’ll be donating to Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland. You can click here or text “ROOTIN” to 707070 to get started. Let’s just say our old friend Joe Suhoski and his beloved Bills Mafia may have been on our minds and hearts this year.

How JMU Can Win

Mickey Ball! It could be back baby! Complete with dominant line play serving as a draft showcase for Liam Fornadel, wide blockers, and 58 running backs in the same position group that would start for every other opponent they’ll play this year. We’ll have to get to April or May for the weather to allow Coach Cignetti to truly throw a visor, but with the season kicking off on the absurd date of February 20th – a time of year when the central valley experiences approximately 47 minutes of daylight and this Saturday’s expected high of 29 can be considered balmy – a return to the program’s ground-and-pound roots seems in order. I’m sure we’ll see an effort to begin incorporating all the new faces catching passes, but given the opponent and the weather, we’d expect to see a whole lot of RB’s alternating between trucking dudes and running away from them.

The more interesting thing will be to see how things set up on Defense, where team-leader Mike Greene will be trying to raise the level of play of so many new guys in new roles around him. There’s a ton of talent out there that may not always be in the right spot for a while. That should lead to big plays both for and against the Dukes at times and that’s where the action is. The key to this wild Spring season seems likely to be the health of the top two linebackers – Azanama and Tucker-Dorsey – and the development of the largely unproven cornerback group.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Hopslam. Football is back at JMU and Bell’s is back in Virginia after the Commonwealth spent a couple years acting the fool. It’s not even our favorite bigass IPA, but it’s February 20th during a pandemic ice storm and as Chris Tucker would say, you ain’t got shit to do. Seriously, you aren’t going anywhere. None of us have any plans. And the Dukes are on. I still hate paying for Flo, but this year I’m saving on tickets, transport, accommodations, concessions, etc. so it isn’t even the financial outlay, it’s just the principle. There are principalities involved! So grab a sixer of this 10% monster that really does use a spoonful of honey to help the medicine go down and enjoy the hell out of a Dukes Saturday!

Official JMUSB Prediction

We’re not yet confident the play from JMU will be as consistent and flattering as the final score may indicate, but the Dukes should distance this thing early. Also not sure even Coach Cig’s most conservative, sporting effort in the second half can keep the Dukes’ talented and hungry ballcarriers from continuing to score late. JMU 48 – Morehead St. 7

Feb 18 / Rob

An Idea to Help Some Folks

We’d like to try something a little different this football season. In the decade-plus we’ve been doing the blog, we’ve been amazed by the passion of the JMU fanbase. We thought we’d try to harness that same sort of enthusiasm that folks have for the Dukes, in an attempt to do some good.

So here’s our idea. Every week of football season, we’ll choose a food bank or some sort of charity that provides meals for the needy and ask fans to donate a small amount. We’ll choose the charity and set up the donation form online. We’re not looking for folks to break the bank and the default baseline donation will be set to $5, but anyone is welcome to give more. Our hope is that Dukes fans rally and we end up making a real difference for folks in need. Things might change as the season goes on, but this is the jumping off point.

This week in honor of JMU’s opponent, Morehead State, we’ll be donating to Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland. You can click here or text “ROOTIN” to 707070 to get started.

With the weird home and home format, we think it’s going to give us a chance to cover charities both in the opponents’ regions and in the Valley. We know it’s a tough time for many people and not everyone has extra cash laying around. But if you do, we’d love it if you could pitch in a few bucks. Let’s help out others and let the college football world know how generous JMU fans are.

Go Dukes!

Feb 17 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Morehead State

Coach Cignetti and the Dukes kick off the “2021 Spring Season” this weekend with a game against Morehead State. It’s a unique situation for reasons we don’t need to explain, but it’s football. And we love football. We also love hearing predictions from our fellow JMU fans. So let’s run the prediction context back again.

For anyone who needs a refresher, it’s pretty simple. Leave a comment below letting us know who you think will win the JMU vs. Morehead State game and what the score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post on the blog. If there is a tie, we have tiebreakers. Fair warning though, they’ll be arbitrary (we’ll flip a coin, go in alphabetical order based on name, etc.) because we’re in charge. Anyway, let us know who you think will win and what the score is and Go Dukes!

Feb 15 / Rob

The JMU Dukes are Better Than Duke

JMU picked up a couple of big wins over Hofstra this past weekend. If you haven’t been paying attention, Coach Byington has the guys playing some good basketball in his first season at the helm. Very good basketball. The Dukes shot up 44 places in the RPI over the weekend and now find themselves as the 104th best team in the country according to the metric. College basketball blue blood, Duke University also moved up a few places and is now only 27 spots behind the mighty JMU program.

Outdated and relatively arbitrary metrics aside, things are definitely trending in the right direction for JMU. The Dukes swept Hofstra over the weekend to move to 8-1 in the CAA and 13-5 overall. Thanks to Towson’s defeat of Northeastern, the JMU is in sole possession of first place in the CAA standings. That’s right. First place.

We were pretty high on the Byington hire, but did not expect JMU to have this much success so early in his tenure. Three of the programs top four scorers transferred in the offseason. Byington brought in an impressive collection of transfers and freshmen to join preseason CAA Player of the Year Matt Lewis. We thought they’d do better than the ninth place they were picked to finish, but we’d be lying if we said we expected them to get off to an 8-1 start.

And it’s not just the fact that JMU is stacking up wins, it’s the way that they’re doing it. Lewis has been terrific, but this isn’t a case of one player putting a team on his back. The Dukes played almost the entire second game against Hofstra, with him on the sideline after he dinged his knee. JMU is getting contributions from up and down the roster. Vado Morse has been a terrific number two scoring option behind Lewis most nights. Michael Christmas has taken a big step forward in his second year. And no freshmen class has excited the fanbase since the days of Nation, Cooke, and Curry.

Watching this JMU team is fun. Really. The defensive effort is light years ahead of anything we saw under Coach Rowe and the team doesn’t seem to get rattled in big moments. During Saturday’s game against Hofstra, I literally jumped off my couch and started pumping my fist after Christmas hit a three to give JMU the lead. I jumped for joy, not out of frustration or anger. That’s something I haven’t done in years. But I can’t wait to do it again.

Feb 12 / Rob

JMU Football is Back and So Are We

As you might have noticed, the blog has been a little devoid of fresh content for a while now. And we feel like we owe everyone an explanation. So here it is. Simply put, we’re lazy.

Now if you could permit us to abandon our typical tone and actually approach earnestness, it’s more than just that. We started the blog all the way back in 2009. We’ve published 1,756 posts, several of them mildly tolerable. For the most part, it’s been incredibly fun and rewarding. But it’s a labor of love. And it’s been way more “labor” than “love” in those off-season periods in between the end of hoops and start of football in the Fall.

Sure, we’ve had fun writing about deep postseason runs by softball and lax, but the blog has primarily been focused on football and basketball. So when the college sports world shut down last March, the blog kind of did too.

Things had been slow in the weeks leading up to Covid anyway. Rowe was a dead man walking and we were just waiting for JMU to turn the page. We’d be lying if we said we had any sort of plan at that point. Scraping together “content” over the summer when there’s no JMU sports in progress, has never been our favorite thing. The thought of doing it for an indefinite hiatus wasn’t particularly appealing. We tossed around a few ideas, discussing posting about classic JMU games, creating some sort of wacky bracket, etc. But much like the jigsaw puzzle that currently sits 3/4 completed in my house or the sourdough starter I carefully nurtured, but never used, some plans never came together during quarantine.

That’s enough looking back. It’s time to move forward. College basketball has been a stop and start affair, but the early returns on Mark Byington are positive. Our guy Coach O has a young team that has struggled to find consistency, but still has a very high ceiling and a bright future. And of course our Dukes are ready for the brave new world of Spring Football.

So we are back. We might be using training wheels for a while, but we’ll be trying. It should look largely the same for long time readers (if you’re still out there). We’ll be doing our weekly game prediction contests, Friday previews, and being smugly dismissive of Richmond. Beyond that, we’ll take things as they come.

Oct 20 / Rob

Potentially Reading Too Much Into Towson Opting Out

Something big was going to have to happen to break us out of our Covid-induced blogging hibernation. Yesterday something big happened. And no, we’re not talking about Ben Dinucci becoming the first JMU quarterback to ever take a snap in an NFL game. (That was amazing though.) We’re talking about Towson football dropping the bomb that they’ve opted out of Spring football.

There are a number of things that surprised us about the announcement. First of all, if we’ve learned anything from observing the way college administrators have operated in this pandemic, it’s that it (oddly) does not pay to be decisively early. We’ve spent most of the Fall watching athletic directors walk back decisions. Whether we’re talking about the B1G calling off football only to scramble to jury-rig a schedule, or W&M eliminating and then reinstating entire teams, it seems like further analysis and a little patience can pay dividends.

Clearly these decisions are made in part to save face and grab dollars, but there’s also an argument to be made that some leagues threw in the towel before truly understanding their options. With Spring football still months away, it’s odd that Towson bailed yesterday. Things change daily with the pandemic. There’s a very real chance that the situation deteriorates and nobody can play in the Spring. But there’s also a chance that things will improve and playing sports becomes an easier proposition. Given that, it’s hard to understand why Towson pulled the plug already.

According to Towson’s head coach Rob Ambrose, “more than 75% of the team did not want to trade a full season next year for a six-game season this spring.” Kudos to Towson for giving the players a voice, but if that’s true, the players logic seems questionable at best. Thus far, the virtually all of FCS is planning to move forward with Spring football. If things proceed as planned, the Fall season will be abridged or delayed. It will have to be. Towson sitting out does nothing to change that. Maybe Towson is taking a calculated risk that other programs will follow the Tigers’ lead and things snowball and so many teams quit Spring ball to the point where the majority of FCS teams are able to start on time next Fall. As things stand currently though, Towson just sacrificed Spring football to capitalize on an opportunity that does not exist.

Finally, JMU fans have long believed that Towson was more committed to football than the majority of other CAA schools. Nobody believed they were willing or able to commit the same level of resources to football as JMU, but most of us assumed they were a heck of a lot closer than some of the league’s straggler programs. Well, this decision certainly calls that into question. And it’s another sign that JMU and the CAA at large might not be on the same page. It’s been documented that JMU was one school advocating for a CAA Football Championship Game in the Spring, but several schools opposed it. We can debate whether or not JMU should have jumped to FBS years ago all we want. And we’ll probably never agree. But for fans who are paying attention, it seems pretty obvious that JMU and the CAA are nearing a breaking point. If some better alignment can’t be found, the two could be heading for a divorce down the road.