Dec 2 / Todd

Dukes Season Ends at Colgate – Good/Bad/Ugly

Thank you to the GOAT!

The 2018 season came crashing down in heartbreaking fashion as Colgate made a field goal at the buzzer to defeat the Dukes 23-20 in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Surprisingly, given all the drama around the program this week, today’s good/bad/ugly is pretty simple. They’ll be plenty of time for after-action reports on the season and analyzing the coaching issue over the next few weeks this year, but as far as yesterday’s game there really were only a couple of glaring reasons (INTs and a couple curious coaching decisions) JMU lost. If this were 2012, we’d all say this was a decent season from a young team with a couple obvious question marks. But thankfully it isn’t 2012, and our expectations have been rightfully raised, and even looking through the most positive lens, we have to admit this one stings as it probably ended a week or two early relative to JMU’s talent and program right now.

The Good

Jimmy ‘effin Moreland – We have never enjoyed watching a JMU player, or the perseverance and humility involved in his journey, than this young man. From blocking a FG to win at Lehigh in his first season through being off the team but staying in school and right through to yesterday, as fans we simply say bravo young man! Along with Cardon Johnson and Trai Sharp, they’ve been a part of arguably the best five year run in JMU history.

Effort – Like most fans, we had no idea what to expect from the squad given the uncertainty around Head Coach Mike Houston this week, but we can’t fault the effort against a hard-nosed Colgate squad. If anything JMU was the aggressor. The Dukes had a plan and executed beautifully early. The kids hung tough no matter how many turnovers they gave away. Hats off to the Dukes for their focus and resilience and belief in each other.

Play up front – Interceptions and coaching (decisions and distractions) cost JMU the game, but the Dukes played one of their best games up front on both sides of the ball against a very good team today. The O-Line wasn’t perfect but they gave JMU chances at key times and the front seven on D did what they do.

The Bad

Getting away from the running game – JMU wasn’t producing in any explosive way, but the balance they showed in the first half was very encouraging. For some reason for much of the second half, and despite a QB being historically loose with the ball, the coaches actually got away from the running game. Who the hell knows, but it was frustrating to watch.

The Ugly

Colgate and Michigan St. fans – Two road games. Two fanbases throwing snowballs at JMU players. At least at Michigan St. the referee had the the good sense to stop the game and dismiss an entire section of the Spartan’s student section from the premises. This was truly bush league from Colgate. Almost as bush league as Dan Hunt’s comments after the game. We are developing an unhealthy amount of sports hate for Colgate for team JMU has only played twice.

4th Down – This has been the weakest coaching area for JMU all year and it reared it’s head again. We’ll never understand why, when you believe in, and rely on, your defense the way that Houston clearly did this year, the Dukes have  abandoned their aggressiveness on 4th down. First quarter, fourth and 1 at Colgate’s 45, and they punt. Turning into the Raiders first TD drive. Then the hideous fake punt decision late. We didn’t mind going for it, but it’s 4th and 4 or 5, why not just run a damned play instead of running the most obvious fake of the O’Kelly era? Yes, we’ve heard the fake may be Harry’s option, and it’s the first time he hasn’t made it, but it’s still on the coaches putting them in that position. Houston has been a wonderful motivator of young men, and a great general for running a program through his assistant hires and delegation, but game management is something this group still needs major help with.

Interceptions and JMU Fan reactions thereto – No way to sugarcoat this. JMU lost because Ben DiNucci threw four interceptions that were all pretty bad- in other words not the result of fluky plays (the fifth was a hail mary at the half). One less and the Dukes are probably prepping for Fargo. The only odd thing about yesterday was he was weirdly very good on the plays he wan’t throwing picks. He was deservedly benched for possession in the second half. To his credit, he returned to lead a game-tying drive that had us all dreaming again. But equally bad was the reaction online from some corners of the fan base. DiNucci is what he is, but he was the coach’s choice as QB1, likely for a reason, and yet for some reason he gets berated in a way we can’t recall for any other middling QB in JMU history. Justin Thorpe comes to mind, but the criticism of JT was often, and probably rightly, colored by his own decisions off the field and our reactions to them. It just doesn’t make sense that DiNucci gets treated the same even if he’s not Bryan Schor or Vad Lee or Rodney Landers.

Now let’s get ready to root for the Women’s Hoops team, hope for some progress from the men’s program, and set up a great spring with the return of Megan Good to a loaded softball team and the lacrosse team defending it’s title.

272 days to Morgantown!

Nov 30 / Todd

JMUSB 2018-19 Playoff Preview #2: JMU at Colgate

The Basics

Match-up: Unseeded JMU Dukes (9-3, 6-2 CAA) at #8 Colgate Raiders (9-1, 7-0 Patriot League)
Kick-off: 1:00 PM on Saturday, December 1st at Andy Kerr Stadium, Hamilton, New York
Weather: 33 degrees, mostly cloudy (looks like precip will hold off till after the game – barring multiple OTs of course).
Broadcast: ESPN3 and WatchESPN App

How They Got Here

Colgate won a dreadfully down Patriot League by basically shutting out every league opponent, none of whom finished with a winning record. In fact, the Raiders didn’t beat a single team with a winning record all year, though they did beat UNH 10-3 (without Trevor Knight when he was injured) and shut out William & Mary 21-0. Their only loss was to a strong FBS Army team 28-14 two weeks ago in their last game of the regular season. Oh yeah, they also benefitted from ducking a trip to strong SoCon also-ran Furman early due to Hurricane Florence. Colgate’s defensive has been statistically historic, but in the words of SEC radio show callers, “Ain’t. Played. Nobody. Paaaawwwwwllll!”

The Dukes rode a dominant defensive performance and cruised over Delaware at home in the first round 20-6 in a game that feels like it happened three years ago after this insane week.

How Colgate Can Win

Use their crazy-fast, tough defense to take advantage of mistakes by a distracted JMU team and score with short fields. Seriously, Holl (21) and Wiesnewski (34) are fabulous players in the defensive backfield and they’ll have a chance to wreck havoc if the Dukes don’t stick to the game plan and account for them or run plays where they aren’t. If Colgate gets a lead, they’re certainly capable of running it down anyone’s throat with do-everything stud running back James Holland (2).

How JMU Can Win

Forget the bullshit and focus on the fact this janky-assed, ain’t played nobody, Patriot League group of try-harders stole their seed despite not beating a single team with a winning record. Jimmy and Trai and Rondell go full Mox/Harbor Varsity Blues and kick Houston out of his traditional motivational role and do it themselves! In other words, this team should be brimming with tension – if they can channel it the right way (for example when the ’16 team had a bunch of suspensions the week of the Fargo trip) they are absolutely capable of shocking all the doubters and haters. Guys like Cardon and Trai surely remember the sting of losing at home to many of these same players in the 2015 playoffs and if they can convince their teammates to take Colgate deadly seriously, we could be in for a fun afternoon!

Also, it would help a lot for Ratke/Gray to make every good kick opportunity they get this week as points will be precious and for Amos, O’Kelly and co. to find another huge play on specials. This could be a real advantage for JMU if they play mistake-free in the forgotten third phase.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Blue Mountain Dark Hollow. Cold. Dark. Perfect. It’s time.

Official JMUSB Prediction

This one is going to be tight. There is no result (Dukes blowout, Raiders blowout, close low-scoring game) that would surprise us. If the Houston telenovela ruins the Dukes focus, the Raiders are the type of tough, senior-laden team that is fully poised to take advantage. If the Dukes block out the noise and play for themselves with an us-against-the-world mentality, they could ride their superior speed and depth of talent to a statement victory. But most likely, the meager over/under of 34 is actually way too high for these two defensive titans and this is a close, hard-hitting game without a ton of fireworks where one or two big plays (maybe on special teams?) makes the difference.

Dukes 16, ‘gate 14


Nov 29 / Rob

Sure Sounds Like Mike Houston Is Gone

By now you’ve all heard the news that Coach Houston has been offered, and is considering, an offer to be the next head coach at the University of Charlotte. Well, we have thought on the subject. So many thoughts in fact, that it was far easier just to sit down and record a podcast, than to try to sum things up in a blog post. So that’s what we did.

Here’s the 30 thousand foot view. We like Coach Houston and what he’s done for the school, but he sure sounds like he’s got one foot out the door. Maybe there’s a Hail Mary of a chance that he gets so annoyed by the leak, that he gives pause and JMU swoops in to convince to him stay. More likely, he gives pause and another school makes him a better offer. In any case, he’s said all the right things about loving JMU, but it sure hasn’t stopped him from listening to other schools every time they come calling. If he doesn’t take this offer, he’ll take another one. That 10 year contract sounds nice, but we never thought it bought JMU more than a few years. We didn’t really expect him to leaving right now though.

We go into it more on the pod and our thoughts our still evolving. Again, we hope he stays. He’s been good for JMU. But if he leaves, we’ll wish him well and get excited for the next coach. Because there are a ton of uncertainties in this situation, but the one thing we are absolutely certain about, is that plenty of great coaches will be lining up for a chance to replace him.

Go Dukes! Beat Colgate.

Nov 28 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Colgate

And we move on. After defeating Delaware to open the 2018 playoffs, JMU is headed up to Hamilton, NY to face a 9-1 Colgate team. Experts are predicting this one will be a defensive battle. But we want to know what you think. Leave a comment below with your prediction for the game. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Go Dukes! Beat Colgate!

Nov 27 / Rob

New JMUSB Pod: Survive and Advance

We’re back with another JMUSB Podcast for your morning commute (and evening commute…we went long). In this one we chat about yet another tourney win by the men’s soccer team, throw some love to the MRDs, and then dive pretty deep into the football playoffs. And then in honor of Giving Tuesday, we wrap things up by plugging two of our favorite charities, Blessings in a Backpack and Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. If you’re looking for an organization to support, please consider one of those (or both!).

As always, the JMUSB Podcast is brought to you by Pale Fire Brewing. Stop by the brewery for a beer and let them know JMUSB sent you and you’ll go home with a free pint glass.

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

Nov 27 / jmusport

Guest Post: Random Thoughts and a Nifty Bracket

Cory won the prediction contest for the JMU vs. Towson contest, but we held off on publishing his post until after the holiday. Here it is. Enjoy!

It’s been nearly 2 years since I won the prediction contest and you would have thought in that time I would have come up with lots of ideas for my next win.  Either I wasn’t able to or the sheer number of concussive hits in college has made it impossible to remember anything for that long. So I decided to create a potpourri post that will include my official bracket this year (it isn’t what you might think it is).   read more…

Nov 25 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 20 – Delaware 6

Round one of the 2018 FCS Playoffs is in the books. The Dukes took care of business with a comfortable 20-6 victory their CAA rival the Delaware Blue Hens. The margin on the scoreboard was only 14 points, but this one was never really in doubt. JMU’s defense was simply too much for the Blue Hens to handle. Props to Delaware QB Pat Kehoe who rallied to start the game after exiting the regular season finale with an injury. He never found his rhythm was ineffective for the game. Ben DiNucci on the other hand, had another solid performance. He connected with eight different receivers and completed 23 of 31 for 223 yards and a touchdown. With the win, JMU earned the right to play Colgate on the road in round two. Here are three quick thoughts on the game before we all turn our attention toward the Raiders. read more…

Nov 22 / Todd

Playoff Preview #1: Delaware at JMU

We can’t believe how legit this looks either.

All of us wanted to be here and none of us wanted to be here. But the simple fact is the Dukes are in the playoffs and the road to all of their goals is in front of them. Does it appear difficult? Sure. Playoffs shouldn’t be any other way. Is it annoying that for the third straight year, JMU will open the postseason against a fellow CAA team? You bet. But if JMU had to host this weekend, and if you’re going to challenge the Valley rain and cold anyways, might as well do it against someone that gets the blood boiling. Danny Rocco for sure, but all things Delaware too.

The Basics

Matchup: Delaware Blue Hens (7-4, 5-3 CAA) at James Madison Dukes (8-3, 6-2 CAA)

Kickoff: 3 p.m. Saturday, Bridgeforth Stadium, The ‘Burg

Weather: Rain, high 43 – you know, playoff weather!

Coverage: ESPN3

Merch, get your Holiday Merch! – Official JMUSB tees back for a quick two-week window here.

How They Got Here

Both teams have to be disappointed to be in this game given the preseason expectations for each program. The Dukes were expected to keep things rolling following two straight trips to Frisco and after opening the season going toe-to-toe with NC State, everything seemed possible. The Hens had begun to turn around their program last season after bringing in old JMU nemesis, and still imminently punchable, Danny Rocco as Head Coach, getting their recruiting headed back in the direction UD fans were used to, and navigating a rotating cast of players at QB last year to a solid 7-4 record only to be one of those outrageous snubs from the playoffs last season, losing out to a UNH team with the same record that they’d beaten head-to-head. Everyone in the Toll Booth Army seemed sure this year’s team would make “the leap” back to their historical position near the top of the FCS. Even we here at JMUSB thought in the preseason that aside from UNH, UD was the squad most likely to challenge the Dukes’ CAA supremacy. Shows you what preseason expectations actually mean huh?

For UD, a season-opening shock loss to Rhode Island indicated right away that all might not be quite “back.” To their credit, they played a big intersectional game at the Fargodome in September. But no surprise, they were shellacked 38-10. But after that setback, UD rolled merrily along through the middle part of the season. The Hens reeled off wins over Elon, UNH, and Towson at one point and were riding high at the end of October. But after squeaking out a 21-16 win over Albany, UD officially comes limping into the playoffs off arguably their two worst performances of the year, a 17-3 loss to Stony Brook and a 42-21 pasting by a rival Villanova team just playing out the string. Even with all of that said, it’s hard to believe this year marks UD’s first playoff trip since 2010 and it’s hard not to think the program is headed in the right direction again.

On the other hand, the Dukes have responded to their worst loss in the Mike Houston era, the 35-24 flop at New Hampshire to open November that had us wondering about the playoffs much less arguing about a seed, with their two best games of the year in high-scoring wins over Rhode Island at last week at Towson.

How Delaware Can Win

Using the whole hand there doc?!

Make this a slow, ugly game and protect the ball. We’re not sure even the Chickens themselves know who their QB1 is this week. And while diving into the trick-plays might provide a spark, they really need to find a way to make this a grinding game and limit JMU’s possessions with their running game given the uncertainty at that spot.  UD has two superstars on defense in tackling machine Troy Reeder at LB and all-around stud DB Nasir Adderley. They’ll need every bit of magic those two can produce in the form of big/negative plays because overall, the 22 points/game they give up doesn’t scream “shutdown defense,” particularly with JMU humming on offense the last couple of weeks.

How JMU Can Win

Force UD to try and throw the ball on defense and avoid any game-changing mistakes on offense. No matter who plays at QB for UD, it’s likely they will be “challenged” in that regard. This gives the Dukes a great opportunity to focus on bottling up the run game and forcing whoever plays QB (they are legitimately practicing with 4th and 5th stringers this week) to challenge a secondary that is fully loaded for the first time all season (minus Rashad of course). JMU’s playoff formula is simple to see, much more difficult to do. The offense needs to find three TD’s on its own, the D/ST need to find a big play or two for another score, and the defense needs to show what we all think, that spotted 30 points, they can’t be beaten.

The Hens are a very capable unit against the run so the Dukes will need the line to keep the improvement going we’ve seen the last two weeks. Also here’s to hoping we continue to see more Percy! And by the way, if the running game is bogged down and this thing is tight at the half, this is no place for pride or conservatism. In that case, swallow that pride and cut it loose to all the weapons on the outside if needed.

Beer of the Week

Hooligan American IPA from Scofflaw Brewing in Atlanta. If the seeds hold, the goal from this three-week gauntlet of legit teams is a date with the 100% fraudulent HootyHoo/Plankonia Owls from Kennesaw north of the ATL. Might as well start sampling the finer products. This one is a semi-reasonable 7% and lots of melony notes. Plus with the light Thanksgiving-unexpected-game-bad-weather crowd, we need to rely on every single Duke that’s able to make this one to have a little Hooligan in their rootin’.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Who knows what playing this additional game means to the Dukes postseason outlook, but they come into the playoffs as hot as they’ve been all season, and after two trying weeks against pro-prospects Lawson and Flacco, the D will be facing at best a banged up QB and at worst a player that took his first snaps of the season in practice this week. Lock the Damn Gates! Angry Dukes 51, Blue Chicks 17

Nov 21 / Rob

Prediction Contest: Playoff Edition, Dukes vs. Delaware

The regular season is done and now things really heat up. No more time to whine about the bracket. It’s time to get ready for our old friends the Delaware Blue Hens, who the Dukes welcome for an opening round match-up in the ‘burg this weekend. You know the drill by now. Leave a comment below letting us know who you think will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closes to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. And while we’re at it, please not that we’re going to have the winner from the Towson prediction contest, post next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s it. Now go prep the Turkey and get ready to root. Happy Thanksgiving and Go Dukes!

Nov 20 / Rob

New JMUSB Pod: FCS Playoffs Preview With Brian McLaughlin from Hero Sports

Here’s our latest episode of the JMUSB pod just in time for your morning commute (or Thanksgiving drive). It’s a particularly good one, because it features less of us and more of a guy who really knows what he’s talking about. Brian McLaughlin from Hero Sports is our guest. He’s the top FCS writer in the country and one of our favorite recurring guests. He joins us to break down the bracket, talk about if JMU deserved a seed, and make his picks for Frisco. We also talk about the Dukes’ big win over Towson and then end things with a few music recommendations.

Also, we’re doing another run of JMUSB t-shirts. They’ll be on sale for 2 weeks only and you can order them here. They make perfect gifts and will arrive by Christmas if you order soon.

As always, the JMUSB Podcast is brought to you by Pale Fire Brewing. Stop by the brewery for a beer and let them know JMUSB sent you and you’ll go home with a free pint glass.

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