Jan 25 / Rob

JMU Gains a Football Coach, But Loses a Softball Star

JMU made a couple of big announcements on Wednesday. One of them has fans very excited, and the other one has fans in a bit of a panic.

First the good news. Head Coach Mike Houston hired Steve Shankweiler to be the new Offensive Line Coach. Shank (can we call him Shank?) will replace Bryan Stinespring who left to join the Maryland Terrapins staff. Like Stinespring did, he brings a wealth of experience to the ‘burg. He’s been in coaching for over 40 years, with over half as an offensive coordinator. He most recently served as a defensive analysts for NC State, but he’s really known for coaching offensive and building some rather impressive offensive lines at places such as ECU, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech. He’s a terrific hire to fill the big vacancy that Stinespring’s departure created.

And now the bad news. Megan Good is out for the entire 2018 softball season. The school announced that she suffered some sort of knee injury. Not a lot of details were provided, but she did say that she’ll be back to play next season. Presumably that means that she’ll take a redshirt year this season.

Good of course was the Dukes best pitcher, and arguably the best pitcher in the entire NCAA. Given how reliant college softball teams are on their aces, this is bad news for the Dukes. There’s no real sugarcoating it. However, maybe we can grasp for a bit of a silver lining. The Dukes are in the market for a full time head coach after Mickey Deane left for Auburn. The prospect of coaching Megan Good next year only makes the job more attractive. But for now, it’s a real dagger for interim coach Loren LaPorte and the rest of the JMU softball program.

Jan 23 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: JMU Hoops Has a Winning Streak

In the latest edition of the JMUSB Podcast, we chat about JMU basketball’s winning streak. That’s right. The boys have finally strung together a few Ws. We also discuss a few of our favorite teams, that weren’t really “our” teams. It’s probably the first time since the game ended in Frisco that we haven’t had to fake enthusiasm for talking JMU sports. Give it a listen.

Thanks again to our podcast sponsor Pale Fire Brewing. Drop in for a beer next time you’re in the ‘burg.

Subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via Bumpers or iTunes.

Jan 19 / Todd

Men’s Basketball Wins a Game!

Really, that happened. Men’s hoops actually won a CAA game. And even more incredibly, they didn’t just win the game, but they did it in grand style by turning the tables on a top-half team and coming back from down 10 in the last two minutes to tie the game and then cruising in OT. As you probably know, they’d become almost comically expert at being on the other end of this, racing out to leads and then finding ever-more-ridiculous ways to blow games.

Not sure if the personal interjections make this better or worse, but it’s also confession time. I quit on this game with about three minutes to go feeling like Charlie Brown with the football being pulled away again for even having invested time and hope when they had run out to a solid first-half lead and then given it away again. After watching a 40-28 Dukes lead turn into a 49-48 deficit midway through the second, one of The Breeze’s outstanding writer’s this year, Kevin Romm (@Kevin_Romm) tweeted something about “this could come down to the last shot” and we snakily said something about that boding well. Once the Dukes had fallen into the hole in the last five minutes, I shut it down and started thinking about how I’d write about the meaning of the word “bode” and, in an homage to the original Wizznutzz blog that was one of our earliest inspirations, go off on a tangent about despondent Russian poetry and how that relates to following a truly horrible team. [Side note: Hey Wizards fans, if you aren’t old enough to have suffered through the Gar Heard/Calbert Cheney/God Shamgod years, then you don’t get to complain about this year’s team being inconsistent].

Alas, the joke’s on me, and I was thrilled to go back and watch highlights a couple hours later. Short version is this. Stuckey Mosely buried a deep three in the last ten seconds of regulation to force OT. Probably the biggest shot of the year for JMU because they would hit the gas in OT, where they never trailed and pulled away. And the surprise star of the night was freshman Darius Banks, who absolutely went off with 20 points and 15 huge rebounds, both career highs by considerable margins. Mosely did his thing as usual, leading all scorers with 24, but the Dukes had real balance last night with not only Banks, but solid contributions across the stat sheet from Ramone Snowden, Matt Lewis, and Develle Phillips.

And not to get all carried away, but a – dare we say it? – winning streak could be on the horizon with the CAA’s other cellar-dweller Drexel visiting the Convo Saturday at 4 p.m.

Jan 17 / Rob

A Little Bit Better and a Little Bit Worse for JMU Hoops

If you listened to the most recent episode of the JMUSB podcast, you’ll know that we here are not ready to abandon ship with JMU hoops. We didn’t do much more than keep a watchful eye on Head Coach Lou Rowe’s squad for much of the early season, but we slowly got more involved as football wound down. Now that football is over, we’re all in. And that’s not as easy as it sounds thanks to the team being 4-15.

After watching a few games more closely though, our eyes told us that this roster is more athletic and has more upside than any recent Dukes squad. It certainly seems to be more talented than last year’s JMU team. But 4-15 is 4-15. So we thought we’d take a look at the numbers and see how this year’s team really does stack up to Rowe’s first squad. read more…

Jan 16 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Diving Into JMU Hoops

Our little post football hiatus is over and we’re back with another episode of the JMUSB podcast. In this one, we attempt to dive into the world of JMU hoops. We discuss how the men appear to be snakebit in close games, but why all hope is not lost. And then we chat about Coach O’s approach to building a different type of winner on the women’s side. Finally, we close things out with a discussion about our famous sports movies. Give it a listen. We’ll be back to writing about hoops later this week.

Thanks again to our podcast sponsor Pale Fire Brewing. Drop in for a beer next time you’re in the ‘burg.

Subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via Bumpers or iTunes.

Jan 9 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Coming to Grips With the National Championship Result

 

The latest episode of the JMUSB Podcast is up and available for your listening pleasure. We discuss the national championship and attempt to come to grips with the result. It’s not all doom and gloom though as we look forward to next season and take some time to appreciate the streak.

Thanks again to our podcast sponsor Pale Fire Brewing. Drop in for a beer next time you’re in the ‘burg.

Subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via Bumpers or iTunes.

 

Jan 7 / Rob

JMU Lost the Championship, Now What?

The Dukes lost a heartbreaker to North Dakota State by the score of 17-13. And it really was a heartbreaker. We haven’t had to recap a loss in a long, long time. And truth be told, we’re not really sure what to say. After 26 straight wins and a championship, it’s kind of difficult to come to grips with JMU losing. Credit to NDSU for limiting the mistakes and and getting the job done. Really though, it’s pretty difficult not to go the other direction and focus more on the mistakes JMU did make. We’ll try though. Here are 3 quick thoughts on the loss.

These Were the 2 Best Teams and It Wasn’t Really Close

If you watched FCS football this year, it was pretty obvious JMU and NDSU were the class of the subdivision. While yesterday’s result was bound to disappoint some folks (and unfortunately it turned out those folks were us JMU fans), it only reinforced the notion that JMU and NDSU were the best teams.

Both defenses came into the game with plenty of hype, and both lived up to it. And then some. It was an absolutely slugfest. Just a hard fought game all around where nothing came easy. And the stats show how close it was. After running roughshod over everyone in the playoffs, the Bison running game squeaked out a meager 2.8 yards per carry. JMU was only slightly better at 3.1 yards per carry. Neither D bent much in the passing game either. NDSU threw for just 130 yards and JMU for 148. It really was close.

It Came Down to A Few Plays 

Yeah, you can say this about pretty much any football game in history. It was especially true for this championship contest though. Maybe we were a little drunk on purple Kool Aid, but it sure seemed to us like JMU was the better team after the break. That scoring drive looked clinical. The receivers had the Bison corners on their heels and Schor was making plays with his feet. It was the first drive all day where either team’s offense looked in complete control. And the defense was having its way with Stick and the Bison offense. So what happened?

Mistakes happened. Bad breaks happened. Receivers dropped passes. Stapleton made a highlight worthy catch and then fumbled (didn’t fumble). Schor took a hit and coughed up a pass/fumble thing and the d-lineman made a catch that Franco Harris thought was close to touching the ground (and that’s meant as a compliment, not a gripe about the call). Just when it looked like the Dukes were ready to take the lead, and dare we say, pull away, NDSU got the ball back and that was kind of it. It was that kind of day for JMU.

Winning is as much about avoiding big mistakes as it is about making big plays. We’re 100% positive that if JMU was the team that benefitted from these same sort of mistakes, we’d be talking about the Dukes’ championship character and how they dug down deep to find a way to win. So let’s be the bigger people and admit that NDSU did just that. Neither team was able to establish any consistency on offense. NDSU won by not beating themselves. That’s a real way to win folks. Even if it is difficult to accept for us as JMU fans.

Throughout the record winning streak, JMU consistently limited mistakes and frankly, caught a lot of breaks. There was bound to be a game sooner or later, where things didn’t really go the Dukes’ way. It just stinks that it was in the championship.

Still Damn Proud to be a Duke

This hurts. I found myself in the position of being the guy who has to try to cheer folks up and get them to look at the bright side yesterday. Not sure why, but sometimes you get to be the fan who howls at the moon and sometimes you get to be the one that comforts friends and family even though you’re hurting too. Yesterday, I was the latter. And it was actually rather cathartic. I was at peace with the loss. Then I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. My mind was flooded with visions of sure handed receivers dropping passes with nothing in between them and the endzone. Replays of Stapleton going to the ground with the ball secured. Bad breaks and close calls all around. It’s not so much painful as it is incredibly frustrating. JMU was that close to repeating.

Despite all that, it’s still a great time to be a Duke. Yes, our boys lost yesterday. But Coach Houston and the entire program have completely spoiled us the past 2 years. As fans, this really hurts. It’s nothing compared to the pain the players, especially the seniors, are going through though. But let’s have some perspective folks. Even with the loss, those players gave us all a gift. We don’t wan to be melodramatic, but there aren’t too many things in life that can bring thousands of people together like college football. Life is about shared experiences with folks you love. The Dukes have given us one heck of a shared experience. Whether that experience was traveling to Texas with old friends, gathering with family to watch on the couch, or even watching by yourself but texting and tweeting other fans. It’s all special folks. Sure, JMU lost. But we win for being fans.

 

 

Jan 6 / Rob

FCS Championship Gameday: JMU vs. NDSU


There’s nothing more we can say folks. It’s a big day. It’s THE big day. JMU and NDSU kick off in a few hours. The winner is the undisputed king of FCS football. We have nothing more to say. Really. It’s time to Lock the Damn Gates!

Go Dukes!

Keep Rootin!

Jan 4 / Todd

JMUSB Official Playoff Preview #4: North Dakota St. vs. JMU

Someone’s starting to look a lot like a certain other heroic RB!

The Basics

#2 North Dakota St. Bison (13-1, 7-1 MVFC) vs. #1 James Madison Dukes (14-0, 8-0 CAA), 11:00 a.m. CST Saturday, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

Coverage: ESPN2. The Deuce. Yes, it’s at high noon on the east coast so you can even roll out a brunch theme for your watch party if you’re not in Texas.

Weather: Mostly sunny, 52 beautiful degrees by gametime. If your plane can get out from whatever East Coast airport is teaching you to leave on Thursday for a Natty, it should be absolute perfection when kickoff comes around in Texas!

What’s at Stake?

Rings. And the unquestioned title of King of FCS. NDSU fans have been consistently referring to JMU, and their loss to the Dukes last year, as a “speed bump rather than a roadblock,” on the road that is the Bison dynasty. If their boys win, that will at least appear to be true for another year. On the other hand, if the Dukes win their 528th straight there would be no doubt who the new heavy is in FCS and the “S-E-C” type cries from Valley fans will be shut the heck up for another year. It would be in no way hyperbolic to say this is the biggest game at the 1-AA level in at least a decade and would rival even the Marshall/Ga. Southern/YSU/App. St. games of yore. In all seriousness, as fans we all need to take a breath and appreciate that we’re actually getting this matchup on the level’s biggest stage.

How NDSU Can Win

They can’t.

Man I wish we could just leave it at that. Alas, we’re only joking. What the Bison really need to do is control the clock and hit a few more plays than they did last year. Obviously, in the oldest of old school midwestern football cliches, the Bison really do love to huddle up and milk the clock like it’s the 1950’s. But it works because it allows them to use their size and strength to grind opponents into the ground. That said, this year’s squad is scoring at a crazy rate and has found big plays, especially wheel routes to TE’s and RB’s, when they’ve needed them. Last year however, even though they did eventually churn out some drives against the Dukes, they never really managed to hit a big play to anyone on the outside. Partially their receivers couldn’t get much separation against the most athletic defensive backfield they’d faced and partially QB Easton Stick struggled to throw a ball well enough deep to really give his guys a chance to make a play. But this was a fine line for the Dukes to walk last year and will likely be the same tight dance this year. If the Bison hit a few big plays, the outcome could be very different.

Similarly, on defense the Bison have to force the Dukes to be one-dimensional by stopping the run. If Marshall goes off Abdullah-style like he did in the semis against SDSU, JMU is nigh impossible to stop. However, there have been games this year where JMU has been stymied in the run game. Against lesser teams (looking at you Delaware and RU), the Dukes always had enough in the passing game tank to take them over the line. But against the Bison and their blitz-heavy schemes, this would not be a gamble the Dukes would like to have to make.

How JMU Can Win

Make more big plays on special teams or trick plays and just do what they do. Haven’t seen much trickeration from the Dukes this year but with three weeks to prep and likely (Weber??) the strongest opponent they’ve faced all year, we expect to see a few things we haven’t seen and it would be huge for the Dukes to hit a few of these. Other than that, they need to avoid some of the careless turnovers and continue to find a way to run the ball a little even if there isn’t huge yardage available in the ground game. And just like last year, JMU is probably going to need QB Bryan Schor to make 2 or 3 true Schor plays and open things up.

On defense, the Dukes need to get off the field when they get the chance on 3rd down. NDSU is big and strong and capable of wearing even the best defense down if given the chance. This is why it’s going to be crucial for the Dukes not to get left out there too long on many possessions and take advantage when they have a chance to get off the field. For any given play, we’d take the JMU D over anyone anywhere, but they can’t win this by themselves. This also means the JMU O needs to avoid 3 and outs as often as possible to give the D a chance to refresh.

Streamergate

We really are going to leave this topic alone. Except for one thing.

Buy streamers, pack streamers, hide streamers, wear streamers, argue about security streamers, incorporate streamers into wands and wardrobes and purses, taunt folks with streamers, throw streamers in a high arc over the #2 seed’s fans, bust out streamers before a score, and of course throw streamers like no one is watching and the NCAA can never even imagine at every score and the final whistle! We’re counting on you Dukes!

Beer of the Week

We can’t have just one for title week.

La Cumbre Brewing’s Project Dank IPA – Thanks to an old friend and fellow Duke from New Mexico, I got to have this exceptional brew over the holidays. Not sure if this Albuquerque brewery distributes in Texas, but chances are a lot better than back in VA and NC. This stuff is outstanding so keep an eye out.

Southern Prohibition Brewing’s Devil’s Harvest Breakfast IPA – This Nashville brewery cranks out the perfect title game beer. We love IPA’s and it’s a breakfast tailgate. What could be better?!

Lone Star – Let’s be honest, we’re gonna enjoy some serious Texas beers, but when 7:00 a.m. Saturday rolls around and it’s really time to root, there’s only gonna be one flavor of tall-boy can rolling around the tailgate. Lone Star! And despite our usual beer elitism, when a state has its own low-end beer, we will always celebrate this fact.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Duuuuuuuukes 31, Bison 21. And everybody gets figuratively naked in Frisco!

Jan 4 / Rob

FCS Championship Prediction Contest: JMU vs. NDSU

And here we are. The Dukes and Bison have been on a collision course all season. If the season has taught us anything, it’s that JMU and NDSU are the class of the FCS. And now the two teams are ready for the talk to stop and the game to begin. There’s really nothing more to say. So let’s just make some predictions.

Leave a comment below letting us know which team you think is going to win on Saturday. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Easy as we could make it. Now give us your prediction for Saturday’s championship and Go Dukes!