Sep 26 / jmusport

Guest Post: Revenge Against the Phoenix

Hart won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here’s a little something he put together to get us all ready for this Saturday’s game.

Revenge against the Phoenix.  It sounds like a good movie title or, rather, a good title for a bad sci-fi movie.  I am not a fan of make believe and story time when it comes to entertainment. Let’s stick to what is real – sports, sports, sports.   Fierce competition, Winners and Losers, objective results, let’s find out who is the best. ‘Merica! Speaking of ‘Merica, shout out to our youngest, Chase, who is stationed at the Coronado Naval Base in San Diego.  He is living the dream in sunny SoCal while committed to making the sacrifices necessary to defend our country. Freedom ain’t free y’all.

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Well, Lightning struck twice and somehow I was lucky enough to win the JMU SportsBlog prediction contest again so I get to write the guest blog inserting a bunch of random thoughts and meaningless prose.   Since I am on fire I will throw out this Saturday’s Powerball lottery numbers 1,3,13,34,35 and 21. Please submit 10% of your winnings to the Hart retirement fund. Thanks in advance.

Just a little Conference monologue

It seems the collegiate athletic atmosphere is ripe for JMU to FINALLY make a move to the promised land.  The administration has been teasing us for a decade while former FCS peers have moved up to compete at the highest football level.  JMU said no to Conference USA. JMU said no to the Sun Belt conference. JMU hasn’t made advances towards the MAC. These conferences were all considered not good enough for picky JMU.  Well, good enough is finally here. UConn announced its departure from the American Athletic Conference AAC this Summer and the conference is down to 11 football teams. This is a big boy football conference with exactly the types of universities JMU should align with.  None of them are the state flagship school, but many are a very loud second fiddle in their state: Cincinnati, Temple, East Carolina, Central Florida, South Florida, Memphis, Houston, Navy, SMU, Tulsa, & Tulane. What is JMU’s all-time football record against these teams?  6-3. That’s right kids. This program already belongs even before investment into 22 additional scholarships and other necessities for FBS football.  It is easy to see that there would be a short transition from FCS power to competing at the top of the AAC. Throw in 4 OOC games a year similar to what former peers are getting now and you would see UVA, Va. Tech, ODU, and Richmond/W&M on the schedule too.  Conceding that JMU will never get into a Power 5 conference, the current opening in the AAC is the best case scenario for JMU to move up. If president Alger can’t get all sports into the AAC, then a great plan B is to get only football into the AAC. CAA football is separate from the CAA Olympic sports and it would be an easy separation if needed.  Throw in the fact that the AAC has already shown the willingness to take partial members with Navy (Football only) and Wichita State (all sports except football).

The AAC has a huge, long-term 12 year $1 Billion media contract with ESPN which provides the financial stability everyone is looking for.  The AAC commissioner, Mike Aresco, worked for CBS and ESPN previously and mostly in the negotiations for and the broadcasting of college sports.  In short, he is well connected. Guess who else has worked many years at ESPN with college sports programming. JMU Alum Lee Fitting, that’s who. Can you say JMU to the AAC?  All the puzzle pieces make sense and have fallen into place. Grease the skids Lee! Do your duty for the Dukes of JMU! Check out the numerical sequence for his personal impact… 2015 College Gameday at JMU, 2017 College Gameday at JMU again, 2019 JMU to the AAC.   It is science.

Commish Mike Aresco quote from July 16, 2019 – “People have my phone number. If somebody is interested in our conference, we’d listen. Someone interested in us who could enhance our strength and brand, we would consider it.”   Hopefully, Jeff Bourne is having a daily good morning call with his new best buddy Mike Aresco.

Travel tip of the week

For those who love seeing new places, be intentional and schedule a vacation to Israel (Spring or Fall, not Summer because the desert areas get too hot).  We love seeing different countries and how people live across the world, but our April trip to Israel was top notch. It is a very small country and you can see most of the inhabitable land in less than 2 hours drive East to West and maybe 4 hours drive North to South.  The variety of geography and climate is tremendous in such a small land area. The Mediterranean Sea, snow capped Mt. Hermon, the most productive agricultural acreage in the world, the Dead Sea 1400 feet below sea level and on and on. It is worth the money even though there is a next level hate there with Muslims, Christians, and Jews all claiming the small country as their Holy Land.  There has never been peace there and there never will be for that reason. IMO, it was very, very interesting to see the dynamic up close and personal where you could absolutely feel the tension. For us the coolest part of the trip was walking exactly where Jesus walked. It doesn’t get any more powerful than that and the words of the Bible come alive when you are standing where it all went down 2000 years ago.  The Hart recommendation is to add Israel to your bucket list, you won’t regret it.

This week’s opponent – Elon

Ok, Revenge against the Phoenix this Saturday is necessary to heal JMU nation from last year’s huge upset.  Elon was a massive 28 point underdog last year, but pulled it off with a +2 advantage in turnovers and then a tipped, immaculate reception on the game winning drive seen at the :22 mark of this video clip.

Amazingly, Elon only converted an anemic 1 of 15 on 3rd downs and still won the game 27-24.  Pedestrian QB Davis Cheek completed just 16 of 32 passes and 6 were on Elon’s 16th and penultimate possession.  This is a once in a lifetime type anomaly.  We should not see a repeat this week and JMU’s defense will dominate.  The Dukes are giving up hardly anything on the ground at 69 yards rushing per game which ranks 3rd in the nation.  This spells big trouble for Cheek who survives on play-action passing to be a serviceable QB.  Without an effective running game, he gets exposed for having inadequate passing skill to get it done.  The rumor is that JMU’s elite CB Rashad Robinson will be back from his injury which makes things even more bleak for Elon.   On the defensive side of the ball, the Phoenix are bad this year giving up an average of 30 points per game. If they try to load the tackle box with defenders as expected, JMU could and should have a field day throwing quick, short passes to the perimeter.  JMU WR’s Riley Stapleton and Brandon Polk have no match on the opposite side of the ball. That’s for sure.

One year after the upset, coach Cignetti has been hired away from Elon and is now roaming JMU’s sidelines at $425,000 per year.  This game should not be close, but Cignetti certainly will not run up the score. He was the leader for not only the players on Elon’s current team, but also the new Elon head coach and multiple remaining assistants worked for him.  He intimately knows the strengths and weaknesses of every player on Elon’s roster and it should be a no-brainer gameplan for him. It is, however, his chance to prove that he can beat yours with his and beat his with yours. It is his chance to show that coaching matters in college sports.  In fact, the coach = the program. At hiring day, he stated that JMU significantly underachieved going 9-4 last year and a new sheriff was in town to rectify the situation. He immediately set the expectation at Championship or bust. The road to the FCS National title goes straight through and over Elon as well as other middling teams in the CAA.

Prediction time

I always like to check with my wife for her thoughts on the outcome of the upcoming game of the week.  Her profound and eloquent answer this week was “I don’t knoooooooow”. Exactly, I don’t know either. Nobody knows.  That is one of the reasons why sports are so great and riveting. We could see another once in a lifetime upset like last year, but I’m not expecting anything of the sort.  JMU has control of this one by halftime and Cignetti plays nice in the sandbox so his former players/coaches don’t get too embarrassed.

JMU 34

Elon 13

Go Duuuuuuukes!


The Beer of the week doesn’t fit into JMU SPORTSBLOG’s penchant for niche craft beer, but I stumbled into it at Outback Steakhouse a year ago and now it is my fave. Introducing Sam ’76 a mass produced “craft” beer from Samuel Adams Brewing Boston, MA. It is a hybrid ale and lager that is tasty while not being too heavy on the ol’ stomach.  Just as stated in their advertising campaign, it is crushable. Sam ‘76 – I CAN TASTE MY BEER! Please Bridgeforth Aramark beverages manager person, add Sam ‘76 to your gameday can menu. I will commit to buying one every game. (as part of the deal, must stop ridiculous giant X marker on hand)

And while I’m at it, now is a good time to support building a public Beer Garden in the new Atlantic Union Bank Center.  Other College arenas have already done this. Git-r-done. Beer = $$$ and happy people. JMU sports fans are showing in Bridgeforth stadium that they know how to imbibe in line with James Madison’s vision of yore.  If you ever visit his Montpelier home, check out the gigantic size of his wine/beer cellar. Or refer to his colonial platform promoting beer manufacturing among the Founding Fathers.  Madison wanted to form a national beer brewery in 1809 and appoint a Secretary of Beer to the presidential cabinet. That’s right, Secretary of Beer.  Who wouldn’t want that cushy job? Although Congress didn’t agree with the plan, it was clearly an ingenious idea 200 years ahead of its time. Let’s get this thing done right on the campus bearing his name.  Based on construction photos, it looks like there is plenty of room in the basement of the new Atlantic Union Bank Center to fit brewing equipment. Instead of Sam ’76, let’s start cranking out some James ’09 and all of America’s problems will be solved overnight.

p.s. on a related stadium beverage note, Mrs. Hart is not happy with the elimination of Cheerwine from the soda fountains in Bridgeforth stadium.  Fix it or else! Happy wife = happy life.

Sep 25 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Elon

The Dukes finally get CAA play started this weekend with a game against Coach Cignetti’s old Elon squad. It should be a good contest and we want to know how you think it will turn 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 and Go Dukes!

Sep 20 / Rob

2019 JMUSB Game Preview #4: JMU vs. Chattanooga

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (2-1, 0-0 CAA) vs. Chattanooga (1-2, 0-0 SoCon)

Kickoff: 4:04 PM Saturday, September 21

Location: Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, TN

Weather: Sunny with a high of 88 degrees

Broadcast: ESPN+

Random Collection of Facts I Recently Learned About Chattanooga

One might assume that these JMUSB previews are hastily thrown together without much thought or preparation. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Before some games (but not all), we actually conduct legitimate research into the Dukes’ opponent in a sincere attempt to inform you, our dear readers. Other weeks we just Google the school and see what we come up with. You’ll never guess which route we went this week. So without further ado, here are some random facts we learned about Chattanooga.

Terrell Owens Went There

This is not terrible interesting, but it’s the one thing you’re most likely to find when Googling Chattanooga Football.

Call the School Whatever You Like

We found the school referred to as University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, and UTC. Students, fans, and alums indicated that any of them are perfectly acceptable. They seem like a laid back bunch.

It’s Mocs Dammit

Whoa. They’re far less laid back about the nickname. The team is known as the Mocs. It’s not the Moccasins, as they’re quick to point out. And Mocs refers to the northern mockingbird, the state bird of Tennessee. Again, not moccasins. Prior to 1996, the team was known as the Moccasins, with the school utilizing both a snake and a shoe as mascots at different times. But now Mocs stands for mockingbirds and the mascot is Scrappy, a bird named after a former coach. And he rides around in a train, because of a song. It’s a whole thing. Just don’t call them the moccasins. Seriously. It’s Mocs.

The Mocs Are 62-48 All Time at Finley Stadium

But JMU is 1-0.

Chattanooga Is the Birthplace of a Pair of Iconic Inventions

The Moonpie and miniature golf were invented in Chattanooga. Neither has anything at all to do with UTC or this weekend’s game, but I like them both. So they get included.

Finley Stadium is Getting New Turf in December

Apparently it’s sorely needed. Something tells us, the playing surface will still be better than it was last time JMU played there.

UTC Football Had a Team GPA of 2.79 Last Year

Coincidentally, that’s the same GPA I had in college. UTC considers this impressive enough to boast about it online. I, on the other hand, have been hiding it from employers for over two decades, and convince them that a “May Session 4.0” is a noteworthy achievement.

UTC Has the Second Hardest Schedule in FCS

The Mocs haven’t even reached SoCon play, and JMU will already be the second Top 20 FCS program they play. After defeating Eastern Illinois in the opener, UTC lost to #10 Jacksonsville State. Then they lost to University of Tennessee, which wasn’t that bad since 98% of the UTC students are Vols fans anyway.

Hot UTC Can Win

Play to their strengths, which might also attack JMU’s weaknesses. With only three games under their belts, it’s foolish to pretend we know anything definitive about the Dukes. However, they have shown that the pass defense is susceptible to big plays. And until last week, they failed to generate QB sacks. That presents an opportunity for the Mocs, who have a couple of truly dangerous receiving threats and an offensive line that has yet to give up a sack.

Freshman receiver Lameric Tucker has been a big play threat for the Mocs. He only has 5 catches, but they’ve gone for 111 yards. His fellow receiver Bryce Nunnelly is an absolute stud. The junior was a consensus preseason All American, who averaged 112 receiving yards a game last year. If the Mocs’ offensive line can give QB Nick Tiano time to throw, Nunnelly is the type of receiver who could give JMU fits. The Mocs will need to take advantage of opportunities and connect on multiple big passing plays to pull of the upset.

How JMU Can Win

Protect the ball and shore up the pass defense. JMU is a deserved favorite in this game. The Mocs are better than the Dukes’ last two opponents, but JMU is still expected to take care of business. They just need to limit the turnovers and eliminate big plays in the Mocs passing attack.

There is no need to overthink things this week. JMU is the better team on paper. Provided they don’t make dumb mistakes and turn the ball over on offense, they should be able to move the ball against the UTC defense and get out of Tennessee with a win. UTC has a talented freshman running back in Ailym Ford, but we’re confident the Dukes can handle the Mocs’ rushing attack. But if they give UTC extra possessions, and have the same sort of breakdowns in the defensive backfield that they’ve had the past three weeks, it could be trouble. Hold onto the ball on offense and limit the big plays on defense though, and they’ll be fine.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Some of you are fortunate to be going to Chattanooga to watch this one in person. Most of you are not. So that means you can enjoy a bigger beer while you watch from the comfort of you’re own coach. A bigger beer like The Sixth Glass from Boulevard Brewing Co. It’s a Belgian Quad from a brewery that everyone agrees is terrific, yet still seems vastly underrated. Anyway, it’s delicious and you should drink it.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Scheduling a home and home with Chattanooga was a terrific move for JMU. The Mocs are a solid SoCon program, with a loyal following. But the Mocs ceiling this year is probably only on the fringes of the Top 25 though. They’ve got some talented playmakers, but something tells us the Dukes pass D is going to take a big step forward this week. And Riley Stapleton is back, which should make the JMU offense that much better. We think the O-line busts open holes, running backs have a field day, receivers run free, and the D shuts the Mocs down. Dukes 42 – Mocs 10.

Sep 19 / jmusport

Guest Post: The Power & Benefits of College Athletics

Sean Petrizzi is a long time reader and guy we’ve gotten to know through JMUSB. He won the late prediction contest. Here’s are his thoughts on the power of college sports.

First off, thank you Todd and Rob for their continued coverage of JMU. I was a freshman on campus when they first started. I quickly discovered that college football message boards are not a place I want to be (no shame to those who frequent the boards, just not my cup of tea). I applaud the two of you for always keeping things positive and for, bluntly, covering JMU sports before many others would. JMU has a lot that we are spoiled by and take for granted (something I thought about writing about) and having multiple outlets for JMU Sports news is certainly one of those ways. Congrats on 10 years!

I also want to point out how crazy it is that I last guest wrote 8! years ago and it’s crazy to look at those posts now. First of all, I hadn’t realized I wrote the first guest blog ever and talked about a need for JMU traditions  and later that same season talked about how great it will be to have a true rival in ODU. Somethings have obviously changed. ODU has passed and then been repassed by JMU as a football school (wink wink), I stay in most Thursday nights with my wife and dog, and I graduated from JMU and now work in college athletics. It is from that interested perspective that I think JMU marketing team has done a phenomenal job with building a great game day atmosphere and true-to JMU traditions. A JMU game day is a special event that I do think we take for granted. MOST FBS and nearly all FCS schools would kill to have our tailgating atmosphere, an incredible pep band with a fan favorite signature song like “Start Wearing Purple” and roll out 6-8,000 students every Saturday like clockwork (I don’t care if they leave at halftime.) That is all thanks to the JMU Athletic Department.

BUT until the day it either comes to be or I die, I stand by the need to have purple smoke raise from the smokestack by the stadium after every JMU football victory! It’s perfectly located, and I think it would be just as signature JMU as our streamers. It doesn’t have to be New Pope level smoke. Just get a bunch of those smoke bombs, place it in the bottom, and light em off! The first rules of sports marketing is 1. Everyone loves free tshirts and 2. Everyone else thinks their idea is the best and easy to do but I am CONVINCED we can make this work somehow! Call me.

I digress. What I really want to write about today is the unbelievable power and the positive effects of College Athletics in America. Forgive me for the length of this article, but there is nothing that I am more passionate about than college sports. My angelic wife has been a trooper on every trip we have ever taken because my special brand of geek is visiting college campuses and seeing their sports venues. That has meant taking side trips to Cheney, Washington to see red turf, Yale, Dartmouth and Brown in one trip (not exactly a straight shot from Richmond to Portland, Maine and back) and both Bozeman and Missoula to name just a few. 

Now, there is plenty to be said about the negative side of things and there is plenty I would change if I had the ability. Paying athletes, academic reform and health effects are all things I think people should and will continue to look into. But all you have to do is visit Harrisonburg or any other great college town on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, take off your glasses that takes American College Sports fandom for granted, and realize nothing else other than college athletics can move people in the same way. Bring a European friend to a game as I have, and they will be blown away. One of the few possibly comparable sport is European Soccer in terms of passion, pageantry and ability to unite fans and divide rivals. 

The word pageantry is the best word to sum up what is different to me about college athletics than pro. It is rare that a pro team can match the marching and pep bands, team entrances and traditions each school has. I have worked at or with 6 different universities and been a die hard fan of two others, and each school no matter how big or small, has multiple things that make it their own and endears their fans to not just the sports teams, but the university and the town as well. Wake Forest has their motorcycle, W&M has “The Delis” for your postgame enjoyment, VCU has “You Don’t Wanna Go To War,” and Navy has more incredible traditions than I can count. You can’t tell me many things in life give you chills more than singing the fight song and throwing streamers after a touchdown. It doesn’t get any better than that. I grew up raised on the Giants and Mets (shout out Rob) but it is just not the same level of devotion that I have to JMU.

That extends to your game day routine. Everyone has one, everyone loves theirs. You love your tailgating spot, you love your tailgating meal and beverage of choice, you love your postgame restaurant and bar. At JMU, game day is an event as Curt Dudley is a fan of saying. It couldn’t be more true. What is more fun than college game days? There is no better way to bring alumni, friends, and family together and link them to their school. You don’t have to be a sports fan and your team doesn’t even have to be good to enjoy it (thought it always helps.) And think about what that routine does for small college towns. Harrisonburg would not have half of what the town can offer if it wasn’t for JMU and I am sure many of those businesses’ best 6 days a year are game days. You just would not have that if it wasn’t for college athletics.

Another immeasurable benefit of college athletics is the notoriety it brings to any school. It’s not free publicity by any means, but it is a major effect. Go back to that European friend. I’d be willing to guess you could not name more than 5-10 European universities. But most Europeans could name several American schools. That is not in small part due to college athletics. They know the Texases, the Bamas, the Carolinas and Dukes of the world because of their athletic success; football and basketball but also more popular European sports like soccer. Ask yourself this, if you had to apply to one college in Idaho, what school would it be? My guess is it wouldn’t be Northwest Nazarene, the top ranked school in the state. It would probably be Boise State. And you only know the existence of Boise State because of their blue turf and successful football program. Similar statements can be said for Gonzaga and even in the commonwealth with VCU. I only know the names Fairleigh-Dickinson, Oral Roberts and what the hell a Saluki is because I have seen them on Selection Sunday when filling out my bracket. William and Mary is one of the best public schools in the country. But why are other schools in the conversation academically with them more well known nationally? Cause UVA and similarly sized Wake Forest are in the ACC. Even the most well-known schools in the country see upticks in application numbers when they have athletic success. Wake Forest has a graphic in their stadium showing the applications increase after winning the ACC Championship in 2006. I’d imagine the Cavaliers are reaping those benefits this year and Villanova assuredly has. 

JMU is no stranger to this effect. Most of my mom’s family is from Montana. They know JMU because of 2004. I still talk to them every time we visit about beating Virginia Tech. I am sure you all have your own stories about wearing JMU gear in airports or Disney World and people knowing JMU because of that single victory and then as the team that beat North Dakota State and won an FCS title. I don’t even have to mention the publicity sparked by hosting College Game Day. Until that show goes off the air, every single week they will show clips of their time at JMU. Imagine how much the school would have to pay to get that kind of national exposure.

These are just the benefits to us fans and our school. The true lifetime benefits extend to the student-athletes. Again, there are things that need to be changed and student-athletes work for every benefit they receive and it very well might fall short to what they put in. Much has been said about the “quality” of education some student-athletes receive. I standby that some of that onus falls on the students themselves. All of this is true and I believe those who make these statements. But there is no denying that many have received an educational opportunity because of college athletics. Many who would not have been able to attend college have because of athletics. President Taylor Reveley, IV, the son of Taylor Reveley, III of William and Mary, who I had the honor to work with at Longwood University wrote a great article on this subject. He speaks about the importance of college athletics both historically and looking forward. I ask you take off your bias of the news outlet where it is written, both positive or negative in your eyes, and read it.

So to FINALLY close, join the Duke Club. The two best ways you can affect the outcome on the field is by joining to support student-athletes and then showing up early and staying the whole game. Recruits care about that A LOT. They want to play in front of a full stadium. And I am not just talking about football. Make as many basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse games as possible. We’re so blessed to be nationally relevant in so many sports at JMU. Trust me, not every fan base can enjoy multiple wins over national top-ranked teams, NCAA tournament victories, and so SO many conference titles. The single negative aspect of working in college athletics is not being able to get back to Harrisonburg as much as I want for games since I am often at other college’s games. 

Support your student-athletes who wear your school colors, take in game day and the purple and gold in a renewed light next time you attend a game and share in our fight for glory and honors won while brightening the lights of Madison at your local viewing party this weekend. (Shameless, cheesy plug)

Sep 18 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Chattanooga

Coach Cignetti and the Dukes go on the road this weekend to the site of the 2004 championship game. This time it’s not for a title, but instead for a game against Chattanooga out of the Southern Conference. It should be a step in competition after back to back games against completely overmatched teams.

Like we do for each game, we’re running a predictions contest. It’s simple. Leave a comment below letting us know who you think will win the game and what the score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Now give us your predictions and Go Dukes!

Sep 16 / Rob

Three Thoughts On JMU 63 – Morgan State 12

The Dukes did what they had to do in their week three contest against an overmatched Morgan State squad. Coach Cignetti and the boys stuck out a weather delay and soundly defeated the Bears by the score of 63-12. It wasn’t as close at that sounds. Ben DiNucci got the start at QB, but both Cole Johnson and Gage Maloney got reps behind center. And all three guys made plays, combining for a JMU record-tying 6 touchdown passes. Overall, JMU compiled 507 yards of offense and limited Morgan State to 2.3 yards per carry on the ground. Overall, it was another positive step forward in the journey to prepare for CAA play. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

The Nooch

Caveat it all you want, but Ben DiNucci had a great game. While a large portion of the fanbase can’t move past his disappointing playoff performance against Colgate, he seems to have put it behind him. He opened the season making some big plays against WVU, but also had a few mistakes and a pick. Then last week against St. Francis he made some nice throws, but had decisions in the red zone that Cignetti wasn’t thrilled with. Against Morgan State though, the Nooch was dropping dimes and hitting receivers in stride all game, plus making plays with his feet. And he responded well to Cignetti’s criticism, leading the Dukes to touchdowns on all redone possessions while he was in the game. Yes, we know it was just Morgan State, but he was making the exact sort of throws that everyone claimed he couldn’t make. He’s not perfect and he’s going to make mistakes. But he’s the Dukes’ QB folks. It’s time to get behind him and root, instead of picking apart his games or waiting for the other shoe to drop.

About That Defense

Like the Nooch, the JMU defense sured up some things and took another step forward against Morgan State. Despite two solid performance to open the season, the Dukes had failed to generate much pressure on the QB. JMU was able to get after the Bears’ signal callers to the tune of 3 sacks. The front four was aggressive and in the backfield all game. When the guys on the d-line wasn’t getting to the QB, they were suffocating the running backs. Aden Atariwa is going to be headache for CAA teams and John Daka is a handful. And while D’Angelo Amos is known for his return abilities, he was all over the field and showed everyone how valuable he is on D with his 9 total tackles.

While the run D looks ready for CAA play, the pass D still has some room to grow. Now it’s only week three, so there’s no need to panic. JMU has faced a Big 12 team, and two overmatched FCS teams that had to air it out to attempt comebacks. Against Morgan State though, the Dukes once again gave up multiple big plays in the passing game. We’re still confident in the defense, but there are clearly a few things the team needs to work on to prevent potentially game turning plays.

Developing Depth

One of the great things about winning big, is that it gives Coach Cignetti a chance to pull the starters. Combined with the new redshirt rule, and you end up with a situation where young guys get game reps. And lots of them have been making plays for JMU. We don’t expect JMU to play this deep into the roster come CAA play. And we’ve discussed our desire for a feature running back to emerge. But through three games, it’s been exciting to see how many backups look capable. Six running backs carried the ball against Morgan State. Eleven different players caught passes. And 25 total players got snaps on defense. Sure, some of these guys will end up redshirting and won’t likely see the field during the core of the season, but it’s encouraging to see regardless.

Sep 12 / Todd

2019 Game Preview #3: Morgan St. at JMU

The Basics

Matchup: Morgan St. Bears (0-1) at #2 JMU Dukes (1-1)

Kickoff: 4:00 PM Saturday, September 14th

Location: Zane Showker Field at Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: Mostly Cloudy. Stray shower or thunderstorm possible (20-40%). High 80. Light wind.

Coverage: NBC Sports Washington in-market. FloSports streameing everywhere else. Last week the NBC feed was “accidentally” blacked out by mistake for out-of-market DirecTV folks. This week (and Villanova for Family Weekend) that will apply on purpose. So for many Dukes, it may finally be the week to get raked over the coals by the CAA!

Head Coach Tyrone Wheatley and Other Cool Morgan St. Things

Tyrone Wheatley, yup that one, is Morgan St.’s new Head Coach. Fantasy players certainly remember Wheatley being at top pick for the Giants and as a big ole goal-line touch vulture for the Raiders in his heyday after a stellar college career at Michigan. What we didn’t know was he’s truly paid his coaching dues, having started coaching high school at his alma mater in Detroit, then DII at Ohio Northern and then stops at Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and Michigan in FBS and NFL assistant jobs in Buffalo and Jacksonville. He and his wife have five children, one of whom is sophomore RB at Virginia Tech. Hopefully his name and experience can really boost a program like Morgan St., so long as that starts after this week.

The Bears actually have a long and pretty cool history as a school and as a football program. Morgan St., located in Baltimore, is one of the oldest HBCU’s in the nation, founded in 1867. The football program is also one of the country’s oldest, having started in 1898. And their most famous player is inarguably one of the sports’ all-time greats, Chiefs Hall of Fame Linebacker Willie Lanier.

How the Bears Can Win

They probably can’t. Morgan St. hasn’t played since opening the season at FBS Bowling Green over two weeks ago so they should be fresh, and potentially much improved from that day. Note that a 46-3 FBS loss is really not unexpected or all that bad for a MEAC squad with a new Coach coming off a 4-7 season. The Bears haven’t won a non-conference road game since 2014 though so while there’s a first time and place for everything, Bridgeforth against a monstrous Dukes’ defense seems unlikely to be that place.

Keep in mind though that Morgan St. did go to Greensboro last year and knock off a then-#4 NC A&T team 16-13. That Aggies team had already beaten Jacksonville St. and ECU and would go on to win the MEAC and the Celebration Bowl (and oh by the way, start this season off with a win over CAA Elon). MSU also played CAA Albany very tough last year in a 30-27 loss up in New York. Plus the Bears feature quite a few Virginians on the team (particularly Prince William and Stafford counties) who are familiar with some of JMU’s roster and 17 returning starters from last year, so there’s little chance of them being intimidated.

But they’ll need to follow the same playbook as any really heavy underdog and play a clean (no penalties, no turnovers) game and hope to capitalize on JMU mistakes. It’s really hard to see Morgan St. matching the Dukes up front or in the speed department (at least not up and down the lineup) but the Dukes have got to clean up the mistakes that have nagged them the first two weeks.

How JMU Can Win

Play cleaner. The Dukes have fumbled on offense and specials, kicked off out of bounds, committed untimely penalties, and failed to score red-zone TD’s all in the first two weeks. An FBS opponent and a new regime provide excuses. Frisco expectations and 19 returning starters do not. JMU simply needs to clean things up and they can roll in this one.

Also, we’re convinced on Vanhorse, but it’d be reallllly nice to see the returning contributors Percy and Jawon find a rhythm with the line and in this scheme. Gonna need those heavy hitters here soon.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Funky Buddha Florida Hefeweizen – An old-school light, tangy, hef is not our all-time favorite beer, but THIS is just a classic summer beer, and it’s widely available. After all the awfulness – and let’s be honest, nilihism – we’ve entertained this offseason from the Truly/Naturdays/Claw crowd, it’s time to break out something that fills their cries of “good summer beer” while actually being a) beer, and b) good.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Dukes Devastation. Faster, stronger, and hopefully better coached. JMU played “alright” against a better team in St. Francis last week and still cruised. While MSU has individual talent at certain positions to make a few plays, a full 60 minutes or any significant production on offense seems unlikely. We’re just hoping no thunderstorms causing some of the crazy weather delay/cancellations we’ve seen in this slot on occasion.

JMU 59, Morgan St. 10

Sep 12 / jmusport

Presenting Our First Guest Post of the Season

Amy Cobb predicted the exact score of last week’s game and won the chance to guest post. Here’s her terrific piece about how much JMU has evolved since her time on campus.

JMU: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

Well here I go. My 15 minutes of (JMU Sports Blog) fame. First of all, let me just say this was beginner’s luck because I’ve never even participated in the prediction contest before. Why? Because I usually stink at these things. But participate I did, and won at that. And predicted the EXACT score, which the JMUSB guys say has never happened (really? Go me!) Second, I did actually think about my prediction for more than five seconds. After watching the WVU game, I figured we were good for five touchdowns and three field goals (yeah, not gonna talk about the red zone offense). I nailed it! I’d like to thank Virginia Beach’s own Cole Johnson for that last touchdown! And the defense for being, well, amazing as usual (I NEED to see some interceptions though. Channel your ‘inner Jimmy,’ please!)

I’m not going to write much about football other than to say I’ve been a huge football fan since I was at least eight or nine years old. I can identify pass interference when I see it (hello? CAA refs?) but I still can’t figure out what holding is, much less what targeting is – it’s not shopping at Target? Oh…(kidding!) I remember wearing my #9 Sonny Jurgensen hoodie when I was younger and cheering for the ‘Skins. And though the ‘Skins haven’t given me much to cheer about since, well, Dan (“I miss Jack Kent Cooke”) Snyder, I’m happy to cheer on one ‘Skin and former Duke, Jimmy Moreland, my new favorite pro player (sorry, Gary Clark). As a PR and marketing professional, I recognize the good PR that Jimmy has gotten and consequently, what that has also done for JMU. The free publicity is invaluable! I loved hearing Joe Theismann sing Jimmy’s (and JMU’s) praises during the pre-season and the announcers continuing that in the first regular season game. I hope that continues. Go #32 and go Dukes!

What I do want to write about is how far JMU has come since I graduated in 1987 (if you’re doing the math, yes I’m a 50-something). I jokingly say I attended JMU before JMU was ‘cool.’ I was one of four from my small graduating class of Franklin High School to choose JMU. It was the best decision I ever made. At the time there were about 10,000 students at JMU; I called it my “Goldilocks school”: not too big, not too small. (I still don’t understand when I hear JMU called a “small school” now – just HOW BIG does it have to be nowadays??) You could walk around and get lost in the crowd OR you could see everyone you knew in one day! For you recent grads or current Dukes, here’s what it was like back then:

  • All that stuff on the other side of I-81? Didn’t exist, other than the Convocation Center (which was pretty new then). But we went over there (through the cow tunnel, mooing the whole way!) because back then, basketball was king. Who remembers The Electric Zoo? That place was rockin’ – as were the stands, literally. And we lived to tell about it! 
  • Football games were okay – I remember the team being “average” (not great, not bad). Games were nothing like they are now, and that’s a good thing! Tailgating at a football game? Didn’t happen. (If it did, it must’ve been nowhere near the stadium or the now extinct Godwin Field.) Sing the fight song? Did we have a fight song?? I am ashamed to say I don’t think any of us knew the words to it. It certainly wasn’t printed for us upside down on a shirt (which I think is very clever, by the way).
  • The bluestone dorms on the upper campus? Hard to get into as an underclassman. They weren’t designated by your major. My junior year, Gifford was all male. It went co-ed my senior year, yet I think there were more females there my junior year. And oh the lofts we had!! I lived in Wayland my sophomore year and we seriously had a whole second floor in our room and a living room with a couch, etc. underneath. Fire hazard or not, the lofts were cool! Oh and there was a HoJo’s (Howard Johnson’s) motel at the corner of Port Republic and I-81 that served as my dorm freshman year. Best part of that was being able to have a car even though I couldn’t park it on campus.
  • Incoming freshmen – we didn’t have a parade or an orientation where they taught us what to do at football games, nor did we get to run on the field for the first football game. We did have an orientation earlier in the summer where they taught us not to say “Gibbons Dining Hall” and educated us on all the  other un-cool things to do or say.
  • The campus – always was beautiful, and still is. The statue of James Madison wasn’t there though. I’ve always loved that JMU feels like a real college campus, unlike some of the urban campuses I’ve seen.
  • Registration – this is where I’m going to sound like your grandpa who had to walk five miles uphill each way to school, in the snow. We actually had to STAND IN LINE. You read that right. You stood in line at the Library to register for classes, after looking through pages upon pages of class info in teeny tiny print (I think that’s why I need readers now. Okay, maybe not.) At the end of my freshman year I left registration in tears because I had to go beg professors for overrides. Not fun. I think the year after I graduated they started doing phone registration. I was so jealous. 
  • The food. It was so good! (I hear it still is, thank goodness.) I remember chocolate covered Krispy Kremes for breakfast at D-Hall and lobster night. I would LOVE to get the recipe for the cream of potato soup (Anyone? Anyone?) at Salads Plus, which started in Chandler and later moved to the top floor of the Student Union, and doubled as the Steakhouse at night. Yes, we had a steakhouse – does that still exist? PC Dukes was brand new, too. 
  • Uncle Ron – you would often see President Ronald Carrier walking around campus talking to students. Who can forget what he did for JMU and the surrounding area? He’s a legend in my book! 
  • Snow. Lots and lots of snow. And cold. (This is probably still the case!) As a coastal Virginia girl, that was an adjustment. I remember Super Bowl Sunday of my sophomore year and it was something like 20 below outside. Walked to D-Hall with my roommate whose hair was still wet, and it froze! It was also the first time I ever experienced nose hair freezing. Freaky! My senior year it snowed a foot in January. Then another foot four days later. At the time, I think it was the first time the school had ever cancelled classes (I have The Breeze article in my yellowed photo album to prove it). Nothing like seeing all those kegs rolling across the Quad! (Yes, most of us were legal drinking age).
  • Legal drinking age – it was 18 for beer, then 19, and I grandfathered my way through my college life. This was back before social media captured every stupid thing we did (thank goodness!). I won’t go any further with this. 
  • And let’s just talk about JM’s, which used to be right across from campus (near Converse). I don’t even know what the building is now but JM’s was THE PLACE to be. Maybe because it was the ONLY bar in town, I don’t know? But I spent way too much time there – and have great memories of singing Paradise by the Dashboard Light, buying 10 cent drafts and 99 cent pitchers on Ladies Night (I think our guy friends later sold them for a profit later but we won’t talk about that), and honing my “maneuvering through a crowd to get to the bathroom” skills. 
  • Concerts and movies – I was on the University Program Board (UPB) and we DREW posters on poster board. I think we did get some official movie and concert posters, too, but we definitely MADE posters as well. We had great concerts, even Jimmy Buffett (on a cold, snowy April night in 1987).
  • The bookstore – it was so small compared to what is there now! You could buy books, a shirt, and maybe a few other JMU items, but that’s about it. There was a bank of post office boxes outside of the bookstore where you’d go and check for letters. Yes, letters. People actually wrote letters – on paper – back then! 
  • Graduation on the Quad – yes, we ALL graduated together at the same time. I’m not sure if our parents were able to see us this way or not, but it was great to be on the Quad with all our friends!
  • The ‘Burg – wow, has it changed! Downtown there was Jess’ Quick Lunch and Spanky’s. That’s about it. (And if you didn’t burn your tongue on a Spanky’s potato skin, did you really live?) All that stuff between JMU campus and Valley Mall? Wasn’t there. How did we survive?

JMU was (and is) about so much more than just getting a great education (which I did, despite all the JM’s references!). JMU was (and is) about forming lasting friendships. All these years later and I still see my JMU friends each year. Since 2006, a group of us girls have gone to our friends’ “Four Decs” beach home (you should check it out) in Corolla, NC for our annual “JMU Girls’ Weekend.” We take (and eat) too many snacks and drinks, shop a little, play games, and just catch up on each other’s lives. And every year at Homecoming, we all try to make it back to JMU if we can. We put up our purple tents, eat our tailgate food, wear our JMU gear, and cheer for the Dukes as loud as we can. We even sing the fight song! (Yes, I know all the words now). 

Young Dukes, take note: savor the moments, be present, and form those friendships. Four (or five or six) years go by really fast, trust me. You’ll soon find that life gets so busy and that it’s important to take the time to get together. One day it’ll be 32 years since you graduated and I hope you’ll be able to look back on your days at JMU as fondly as I do. Go Duuuuukes!

Sep 11 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Morgan State

After securing the first win of the Coach Cignetti era, JMU is back at it against Morgan State this Saturday. Of course that means it’s predictions time. Y’all know the drill, but here’s a quick refresher. Leave a comment below with your prediction for Saturday’s game. Include the winner and the final score. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. And one more thing. Use a legit email that you’ll actually check. Every year we have one or two weeks where we get no response from the winner and that’s no fun. We love the guest posts and all JMUSB readers do too. Now give us those picks and Go Dukes!

Sep 8 / Rob

Three Thoughts on the First Win of the Cignetti Era

The JMU Dukes took care of business in their home opener, defeating St. Francis by the score of 44-7. Ben DiNucci lead the way completing 16 of 21 for 221 yards and 2 TDs. JMU deployed a running back by committee rushing game, with Solomon Vanhorse, Juwon Hamilton, Percy Agyei-Obese, and Austin Douglas each getting at least 9 carries. As a team, JMU racked up 295 yards on the ground. The real story was the Dukes’ defense which held St. Francis to only 175 yards and 9 first downs. The word dominant doesn’t do it justice. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

A Step Forward

The Dukes let one get away against West Virginia. And the consensus opinion was that it got away because they turned the ball over, played way too conservative, made mistakes on special teams, and failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Well, in week two JMU had clear improvements in some areas, but have room to grow in others. Granted, St. Francis doesn’t have the sort of athletes WVU does, but pitching a shutout in the interception department was still nice to see. The guys need to hold onto the football and limit the fumbles though. And it was nice seeing Ethan Ratke go 3 for 3, but D’Angelo Amos is too good to not field punts cleanly. He did have a 22 yard return though, and Hamilton also ripped off a 45 yard kick return. The offense wasn’t going deep into the playbook and kept things pretty vanilla. However, even if with the outcome all but decided, most fans will probably be encouraged by Cignetti going for it on 4th in the red zone and pushing to punch it in. While we’re only in week 2 and it’s no time to push the panic button, just like last season, settling for FGs in the red zone seems to be a thing. It’s something we’ll be keeping an eye on the next few weeks. All in all though, there were improvements made from week one to week two. That’s really all you can ask for.

All About That D Though

The JMU defense played lights out against the rush in the season opener. Against St. Francis, the team’s passing defense was every bit as good as the stellar run defense. At one point JMU forced ten straight three and outs. Ten straight. It was almost too dominant, leaving the offense with virtually no time to catch its breath. St. Francis only ran for 2.7 yards per carry and managed just 11 pass completions. JMU’s front four is going to be a handle for team’s week in and week out this season. They absolute punish teams at the line. We’d still like to see them get to the QB a bit more, but are confident the sacks will come.

No Clue Still

Through two games, we’re pretty confident that JMU has a defense that is going to cause CAA teams problems. And we know that they’ve got some great weapons on offense, with a stable of capable running backs. Brandon Polk appears to be a stud and he’s surrounded by a number of reliable pass catchers. Nooch is still Nooch. To us that’s a positive, but others will disagree (vocally). With only two games in the books though, it’s hard to tell where the ceiling is for this team. It’s also probably a waste of time, because the team is still ramping up and adjusting to the new coaches’ scheme. For now though, we’re pleased with some of the improvements we saw yesterday and anxious to see if they can improve the strike rte in the red zone. JMU is 1-1 with an opportunity to get back above .500 next week against Morgan State. The team isn’t perfect, but we’ve got plenty of reasons to be optimistic.