JMU fell to UNCW by the score of 87-76 in the Convo tonight. Losses are never super fun, but it was actually a pretty entertaining game. We’re still in January, but UNCW is looking like one of the best teams in recent CAA history. And in their first game since learning Yohanny Dalembert was done for the season, the Dukes played tough and at least made the Seahawks earn it. We’re not big “moral victory” guys, but JMU looked far better than the 6-15 team it was entering the game.
The fact is JMU played well enough to beat most CAA teams tonight. UNCW is just really good. The Seahawks have shooters galore and they move the ball very well. And they seem to have a real knack for hitting a few shots in a row, every time their opponent threatens to go on a run. They certainly did that tonight. It went from close game to double digits so quickly, it was almost hard to notice. Jackson Kent lead all scorers with 23 points. He was one of 5 Dukes, and 11 players overall, who reached double-figures. Here are three random numbers on the game.
That’s the number of turnovers for JMU. UNCW had 11. There weren’t many people who expected JMU to win the turnover battle tonight. The Dukes had the CAA’s worst turnover margin coming into the game. They’d averaged over 15 turnovers a game. UNCW on the other hand, had the CAA’s best turnover margin, forcing 16 a contest. Pretty much everyone expected UNCW’s pressing defense to rattle JMU and lead to easy points for the Seahawks. It didn’t. JMU had one of its strongest games of the season, ball control wise.
That’s how many more points in the paint JMU had than UNCW. Yes. Playing without YoYo, JMU scored 38 points in the paint versus only 28 for UNCW. It really was a game that defied expectations in a lot of ways. Everyone expected JMU to struggle against UNCW’s press, turn the ball over, and suffer down low with YoYo out. Instead JMU won the turnover battle and poured in points down low. It kind of makes you wonder how they lost by double digits. Which brings us to the next number.
That’s how many more three pointers UNCW attempted than JMU. Glancing at the box score and the standard shooting percentages, it looks like a pretty even contest. JMU managed to hit 41% from three, while UNCW was even better at 46%. Overall, both squads had great shooting performances. UNCW shot 55% from the field, while JMU hit 51%.
The difference was that UNCW launched 35 from behind the arc, compared to JMU’s 17. Dig a little deeper into the shooting numbers to compute the effective field goal percentage (FG + .5 * 3P)/FGA), and we see some serious separation. UNCW had a ridiculous 69% (nice) EFG tonight compared to JMU’s 57%. That’s a good night for JMU, but an outstandingly efficient night for UNCW. The teams appeared to be trading baskets all night. They were, sort of. It was really more a case of the Dukes hitting twos, and then UNCW matching with threes. That’s how it looked like a back and forth game, but suddenly became a double digit loss for the Dukes.
After a rough start in OOC play (understatement), we’ve been relatively pleased with JMU’s .500 record in CAA play. And with UNCW coming to town later this week, the Dukes have an opportunity to pull off the biggest win of Lou Rowe’s young career. They’re going to have to try and do it without Yohanny Dalembert unfortunately. The school announced yesterday that YoYo has been shut down for the season due to an undisclosed illness. Boo.
It goes without saying, that the most important thing here is Dalembert’s health. And it’s a pretty devastating that the senior’s career is ending this way. We hope that he quickly recovers from whatever is ailing him. But this also sucks as a JMU hoops fan. It really, really sucks.
Dalembert was pretty raw when he arrived at JMU. He was one of those guys who came to the game relatively late in life, playing seriously for the first time as a high school student. Even as a senior, he lacked the consistency to be a truly dominant player. But at his peak, he was a definite difference maker in the CAA. He was also my personal favorite player on JMU. He was a good rim protector and had a surprisingly refined post game at times. I also found him to be an excellent passer out of the block. When he was playing well, he was one of those guys who could reach double figures despite not even attempting 10 field goals. Efficient and strong. He’ll definitely be missed.
YoYo’s departure creates a big void for the Dukes. Paulius Satkus has been playing great this season, and JMU will need that to continue. Head Coach Lou Rowe will also need Tom Vodanovich, Ivan Lukic and Dimitrije Cabarkapa to elevate their play. It’s actually a big opportunity for the Serb, who hasn’t seen much playing time in the CAA portion of the season. It’s a big opportunity for all three players.
College of Charleston may only be one game back of UNCW in the CAA standings, but it’s starting to look like it’s the Seahawks and then everyone else playing for second. UNCW won again over the weekend, pushing their record to a perfect 8-0 in league play. JMU lost to CofC for the second time this season and currently sits in a 3 team log jam at 4-4 in the middle of the pack. Here’s a quick rundown of the weekend’s action.
CofC 73 – JMU 60
No YoYo and missing 78% of their attempts from long range, all added up to a big L for the Dukes. Paulius Satkus lead the way for JMU with 20 points. He’s been brutally efficient this season, shooting an astound 64% from the field. Jackson Kent struggled to get into the flow, missing all of his three point attempts and hitting only 2 of 7 FGs. The Cougars shot 80% from the charity stripe and both Joe Chealey and Grant Riller scored 17 points. The loss dropped JMU to 6-15 (4-4). Things have been better in league play, but JMU still has moments where the entire team looks completely lost. At least their competing night in and night out though.
Towson 75 – Delaware 58
Towson is suddenly a hot team. After opening CAA play 0-4, the Tigers have won 4 straight. Sure, two of those four wins have been over the rebuilding Blue Hens, but they also defeated a solid Northeastern team. In Saturday’s win, Towson held Delaware to 33% shooting overall and held a 14 rebound advantage on the boards. Offensively, the Tigers had a balanced attack with 5 players reaching double figures.
Hofstra 78 – Northeastern 73
A few weeks ago, it looked like Northeastern might give UNCW a run for its money. The wheels have sort of come off in the last 3 games though. In the CAA’s #NorthernBias game of the week, Hofstra held serve at home and snapped a 6 game skid with a win over the Huskies. Justin Wright-Foreman dropped a career high 30 for the Pride. He went 4-7 from long range and 11 of 15 overall. TJ Williams lead 3 Huskies in double-figures with 25 points in the loss. After a perfect 5-0 start in the CAA, Northeastern is now 5-3. Hofstra’s win got the Pride to 11-15 (2-6).
Elon 71 – William & Mary 62
We still can’t believe Elon is in the CAA, but the Phoenix have proven to be a competitive team this year. They earned the win at home, thanks to be slightly less awful from the field than the Tribe. Elon made only 20 of 56 shots (35.7%) in the game. Amazingly, W&M was even worse, shooting 33% on 22 of 66. Good defense? Tough for players to adjust to shooting in the not quite cavernous Elon gym? Just an off night? You decide, but based on the box score, I’m quite pleased that I didn’t watch this brick-fest. A win is a win though, and Elon has won 4 of its last 5, to get to 4-4 in the CAA. W&M is a game back at 3-4.
Yesterday was the icing on the big-ass cake that has been the last year of JMU Football! Almost a year to the day from when Mike Houston was hired as the head coach, JMU gave him a raise and a one-year extension. Second only to his hiring, this is without question one of the best signs we’ve seen from AD Jeff Bourne and the JMU administration that they remain serious about competing at a high level. Seriously, there is no overstating how happy this makes us. And while it can be viewed a break from the nickel-and-diming that JMU has at times engaged in with coaches like Brady, Withers, and to a lesser extent the Rowe hire, it’s also hard to argue that when someone truly delivers both on the field AND in helping JMU be “a national model for the student-athlete experience,” the admin has returned the favor. Ask Mickey Dean or Kenny Brooks and now Coach Houston how they feel they were/are treated by the administration and I’ll bet you won’t get shade thrown in response. In other words, as frustrated as we get with certain moves in a vacuum, when we take a look at the big picture, it sure looks a lot more like those that merit better in fact are awarded better.
Now as we all know, coach contracts in today’s world are worth as much as the paper they’re printed on, but in reading the linked article and Houston’s quotes about family and knowing a bit about his path, it sure looks like he may be here a while. He has so far been very intentional in his moves and he sure “seems” happy in the Valley. With everything a coach gets at JMU, if he’s good he’ll win and things will be great. In other words, JMU will continue to be really good with Houston in charge, and Houston will always, barring scandal of course, have random G5 chances for the next few years anytime he wants them so no need to hurry out to friggin’ San Marcos. On the other hand, if he wins another title, or even just keeps the program in the top 10 year after year for a few more years, the local P5 dream job is probably more achievable that way than by jumping to a mediocre G5 now.
And not to cross the streams, but if three or four years down the road JMU ever gets another shot at FBS, which G5 spot would Houston rather be? At the place he’s rooted his family and really built something sustainable that’s filled with momentum or in Storrs, CT or Mobile, AL, or El Paso, TX? No brainer. In any case, LOCK THE DAMN GATES AGAIN!
Oh yeah, the Men’s Hoops team lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer to W&M 73-72 in Williamsburg last night when a last-second putback clearly came after the buzzer. Of course, still no word from the CAA officiating crew on what caused their momentary blackout when Snowden got manhandled on the layup attempt before the buzzer. In any case, as disappointing as the loss was it’s obviously hard to argue that this team is still making progress.
While we (and most of you presumably) were locked in on the football team, the Lou Rowe era got underway for JMU basketball. The Dukes played their way through the out of conference schedule in a way that was, um, uninspiring? They looked out of sorts and nothing like a team that was expected to be in the middle of the pack in the CAA. JMU managed to pick up only two wins, against lowly Longwood and Eastern Mennonite, prior to CAA play. This season had all the makings of a disaster.
But JMU has actually shown signs of life in league play. The Dukes are off to a respectable 4-2 start in the CAA. That’s good enough for 4th place in the league. Had Joey McLean’s late lay up attempt fallen against CofC, they’d probably be 5-1. To say this is a surprise after OOC play is a gross understatement. We didn’t expect them to win 4 league games all season after watching them play in November and December. But they’ve played pretty well and look like they’re starting to gel under Rowe. Last night, they played a strong game and earned a 60-59 win over Elon in the Convo.
Jackson Kent lead all scorers with 21 points. Yohanny Dalembert had his best game of the season with 15 points and a career high 17 rebounds. Paulius Satkus also chipped in 12. Here are 3 random numbers from the win.
That’s the total number of field goals missed by YoYo and Satkus combined. Both players had very efficient games and took advantage of the scoring opportunities they were given. YoYo went 5 for 7 from the field and Satkus was 5 for 6. If you have two guys each hit double figures, despite only putting up 13 attempts, it’s a good night.
That’s the number of offensive rebounds Joey McLean had. Sure, it’s not an eye popping number, but it had McLean tied with YoYo for the game high. Keep in mind, he’s a point guard and he’s often the smallest guy on the court. He’s still got a bit to learn in terms of running the point, but you can’t question his effort. Every time I watch him play, I’m more impressed with his fearlessness in the paint. He manages to pull down big rebounds with smart positioning and more effort than anyone else on the court. The job he did on the boards yesterday was huge.
That’s how many points below his average, Elon’s leading scorer managed yesterday. JMU limited Steven Santa Ana to 5 points on 2 for 10 shooting. JMU played great defense, especially down the stretch. They made Elon’s shooters work for looks and challenged shots repeatedly without a flurry of bad fouls. YoYo had a particularly strong defensive series on the final play, closing out on the shooter on the wing and getting a hand in his face.
Rob won our (first ever) FCS National Championship prediction contest last week. He earned the right to submit a guest post. Here we go.
It was a surprise and an honor to be selected to write the guest post for this week. I am a long-time reader of the blog, and I really appreciate all the hard work that Rob and Todd have put into this site over the years. Unfortunately, I am better at score prediction than writing witty prose, so I will just make this a short, sweet love note to my favorite place on earth, JMU, and our National Championship Dukes.
My love of JMU football started waaaaay back in 1993 during my freshman year as a member of the JMU Marching Royal Dukes. I joined the marching band in hopes of meeting JMU girls. I was unsuccessful. I attended all of the home football games, and many of the away games depending on whether the band traveled with the team. In the waning years of the 20th century, JMU fielded a very respectful team under the leadership of Mickey Matthews. We made the playoffs twice during my time at JMU. Both times we travelled to West Virginia to watch the Dukes (to play Marshall and Appy State respectfully). Both times JMU played well, but lost close games.
In positive news, during my fifth year “victory lap” at JMU, I finally persuaded a beautiful JMU girl to date me (I was delivering pizza for Dominos and she was attracted to my ambition). After many years of trying, I persuaded that beautiful JMU girl to marry me. Needless to say, JMU worked out for me on many different levels.
My wife and I continued to follow the Dukes after we graduated. We had the opportunity to travel to Chattanooga to attend the National Championship Game in 2004. But we couldn’t convince any of our fellow JMU friends to come with us, so we ended up watching the Dukes win the championship in a sports bar in Arlington. It was a great experience, but we always regretted not being there in person.
We experienced the same regret in 2010 when JMU beat Virginia Tech. My wife and I actively discussed whether to make the trip. But we ultimately decided that we didn’t want to drive over 5 hours only to watch the Dukes lose 45-0. Imagine our regret when we watched on TV as the Dukes came from behind to shock the turkeys. It’s something that we still talk about today.
So when JMU was traveling to Frisco for the chance to win a second national championship, there was no way we were missing it. From start to finish, the game represented everything great about this year’s group of players and everything that is great about JMU. On the field, we had contributions from everyone – with no weaknesses in any part of our game. I can’t believe the transformation in the defense from just one year ago (or even from the Richmond game). By the end of the season, our defense was as good (or better) than anything I have ever seen. In the stands, we had the fan base that our beloved team and University have long deserved. My wife and I “rushed” the field at the end of the game along with everyone else – although because the stadium served beer on top of all the tailgating, it was more of a collective drunken stagger. It was fantastic to see all the seniors rewarded with such a well-deserved championship, and for them to be surrounded with a field of devoted purple fans.
It’s been a long journey for us with the Dukes, and we can’t wait to continue it next year. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the parade on Saturday. My wife and I will be in head to toe purple championship gear with three embarrassed children in tow!
It’s a bit overwhelming to even think about where to begin to breakdown the blur of bliss that was this entire trip. So we’re gonna do a little something different this week and have a second, extended edition of “The Good” at the end of this piece. There’s just so much personal love we want express and we realize it may not mean a ton to most of our readership (and it’s only tangentially football-related), but after working on this little labor-of-love dorkfest for eight years we can’t let this opportunity go by without spreading the love in true JMU style!
Your James Madison Dukes are National Champions! – It wasn’t miraculous or unexpected or kind of out of nowhere like 2004, but it was a fitting coronation for all the building and growth that has taken place at JMU since that night in Chattanooga a dozen years ago. The most incredible part is JMU has become a “football school” without losing it’s soul. It didn’t play in some far-flung, academically laughable league that took them to some crummy bowl game, it didn’t raise football up at the expense of Softball or Women’s Hoops or Field Hockey, and best of all it learned from its own mistakes (bids on home games, allegedly turning down CUSA, the hiring of Keener/Dillard, reconnecting with athlete alums, building AlphaDogs to do things like hire great coaches and have fancy unis) while still building. Basically, that feeling anyone ever connected to James Madison University – that indescribable pride and inexplicable-to-outsiders love – stayed intact while the Dukes truly built the brand and fleshed out the infrastructure. Exactly the way we’d all expect from JMU folks!
The Fans – What can you say about JMU Nation? They rolled deep as expected. They’ve become an unwieldy, giddy, plugged-in, work-hard/play-hard group that’s pretty much a direct reflection of the JMU we all know and love. That was an epic performance folks. The parking-lot destroying, streamer-carnage creating, and beer-draining ridiculousness was everything we thought it would be. And even if there’s a little hyperbolic rumor in the “sold the stadium out of beer” and “craziest crowd Toyota Stadium has ever had” quotes, there’s no doubt that it for the earliest game we’ve ever attended, our folks were revved up and ready to enjoy the moment!
The DEFENSE – Make no mistake, while Special Teams may have made the game’s biggest play with the Wellons punt block at the outset, and while the offense has all the big names, the defense was unquestionably the unit that made this game a long coast to the trophy. They were so good in all aspects that you can’t even single out a player or unit that made the difference. Martez Stone, Darrious Carter, and Simeyon Robinson (how great is he when healthy?) dominated the line of scrimmage. Gage Steele did Gage Steele things. Kyre Hawkins played lights out after JMU lost Dimitri Holloway early. And the entire secondary gave YSU zero chance of completing anything but short passes all day. And by the way, guess who’s fully back? Jimmy ‘effin Moreland that’s who. Moreland and Robinson and Jordan Brown and Raven Green will all get a chance to lead the D next year too!
Khalid Abdullah – No real surprise that the nation’s best player (regardless of what various polling sources say) did his thing. 101 yards even against a very strong YSU D. Set JMU’s all-time yardage and all-time points mark in the process. Nothing else to say really. Pretty sure it was extra “dusty” in my little part of the field when he went up for the MOP presentation. Good luck at the combine Khalid!
Kloosterman – If you were really plugged in last year, you know the then-skinny kid behind JMU all-timer Dean Cheatham was good. He seemed to make tough catches with soft hands (like the first TD) and always be in the right place (like that fantastic peel-back effort on the Schor scramble in the 2nd). But even the most optimistic of us I’m guessing didn’t have the sky-high expectations we do for the young man after this season and as he gets ready to lead the offense next year in his senior season!
Tyree Chavious – Told you he’d be fine, and he’ll only get better. YSU’s set of DE’s are NFL-caliber players, probably the best the Dukes have seen all year outside of the kid from Nova, but Chavious held up well after many fans complained about his struggles with nerves in Fargo. There was no shame in the way he and Aaron Stinnie held up against Rivers and Moss this week even though JMU didn’t have to throw all that much after building the early lead. The experience he and Mack Patrick gained this postseason will also be invaluable in replacing 2 of the 3 OLinemen the Dukes lose this year.
National FCS Reporters’ comments after the game – I had the real pleasure of spending ten minutes on the field with after the celebration with one of the very few reporters who is truly dedicated to FCS on the national level. You can probably guess who it was but I’m not sure he’d want his comments on the record. But he made two big points worth sharing. First, he was pleasantly stunned by JMU’s fans. Just so excited about the numbers, the passion, and the connectedness. He mentioned how nuts it would be if JMU ever played NDSU in the title game. But even better for a proud alum, he noted how impressive JMU’s student-athletes are as a group. Without specifically calling out other programs, it was cool to hear from someone who would know that for all of our administration jokes, JMU is delivering on its promise to be a model for a well-rounded collegiate athletics’ experience by recruiting and developing players that are the kind of Dukes we can all be proud of. And yes, those squeaky wheels in the Faculty Senate can zip it!
Youngstown Fans – Yes, some old dudes in slacks peed on and broke a bottle on our friends’ car. And yes, some drunken jerks told our big-boned friend to “eat a salad” in the stands. But every fanbase has a few of those, and I’m absolutely certain that includes a few Dukes. But on the whole, this group of midwesterners couldn’t have been nicer. Hyper local, proud of their team, eager to talk about an oft-overlooked area of the country, and equally excited to talk about JMU, our crazy fans, and best of all for us, the actual game and our actual team. Even if a few folks were a bit overwhelmed by the youth, the passion, and the diversity amongst the Dukes, we would love to see this group again someday at Bridgeforth.
Frisco/Plano, Texas and the DFW Dukes – So we’ll be covering Toyota Stadium and the NCAA in a different part of this post, but the community itself could not have been more excited about, and welcoming to, a group of folks in town for a game much of the country wouldn’t know existed. Their passion for football down there was evident and many bars and restaurants were not only welcoming, but truly catering to, both fanbases. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that JMU was a tailor-made, if slightly more rambunctious and a whole lot younger and more diverse, replacement for the Bison hordes they’d gotten used to the last five years. And of course the DFW Duke Club, who just like last year at SMU, were well-prepared with events and information beyond all expectations! Thanks guys and see you at MAC again next year!
The lack of rhythm in the game – We underestimated the tv timeout factor for sure. But we also underestimated how this game would go once JMU got up 21-0. We’ll never ever complain about JMU winning a title game, but let’s be honest, this was a boring-ass game for any neutral observer.
Going back to real life – Ugh. But sure is a lot easier with this weekend in the memory bank.
Bo Pellini losing his mind – Hard to imagine that if this had been any other non-famous FCS coach they wouldn’t have gotten a penalty for being on the field and in the refs face constantly the way this assclown was.
Toyota Stadium and the NCAA – I’m sorry, but as great as Frisco was as a host community, and as conveniently set up as the tailgate lots are, this place is trash. The security delays getting in were completely caused by their own unpreparedness and disorganization. You can’t hear the bands at all under that carport they have in one end zone. The concessionaires were totally unprepared to move quickly (and hey, how about “beer only” and “food only” lines so both families and lushes can calm down a bit?). And worst of all, to both the stadium and the NCAA, how you allow a venue that is in total disarray and obviously under major construction to hold the event is beyond all reason. That literal dirt and those two goofy construction workers watching the game and catching extra points looked like shit and screamed “small time” and “we don’t care.” We know you don’t actually care at all about FCS, but there’s just no excuse. Winning bid or not, if the stadium isn’t ready, the game should’ve been held somewhere else, even if only for this year. As great as this run was, and as unsure as we remain about non-AAC G5 conferences, that bullshit is why we remain skeptical of JMU’s place in FCS.
Tyler Gray – Just kidding Tyler’s mom, but we know you’re reading. We’ve always believed in Tyler, and after making arguably the biggest play of the season up in North Dakota (and with the assistance of the odd, but tightly-knit fraternity of JMU kickers) we’re darn sure he’s set up to be a true team leader the next couple of years!
The Good (Personal Addendum)
First, to everyone who came by this weekend to say hi at Gingerman or at the tailgate, thank you! We were both thrilled to meet many of you (Chase, Jason K., CKiddy, etc.)! Our apologies that it turned into a bit of a meathead-fest thanks to some of old friends (ok, thanks to us too) by 9:30ish.
Partlow, Price, Dric, Priz, Evangelista, Markowitz – Our “staff” – The best!
The entire “Fight for Glory!” group – names omitted to protect the innocent and/or connected but love you guys even if we’re all nuts.
Finally, we planned to list all the folks we wish to thank and send love to for the incredible experience we’ve had as JMU fans since we started this project eight years ago (and we’re sorry in advance for anyone we forget). Some of you are old friends we’ve reconnected with, some of you are people we never would’ve met but for this site, some of you are even JMU employees, but all of you enrich our lives and our JMU experience immensely. Our closest friends and family may make fun of us for having friends 15 years younger and 20 years older because of this, but you truly have become friends and we love you all! Alas, there’s simply no way to write a list this long, at least not without inevitably forgetting someone. So just know so many of you have made this whole thing worthwhile. Now let’s run this back next year!
This is it. We’ve been waiting for JMU to play for another National Championship since 2004 and today is the day. Your JMU Dukes vs. the Youngstown State Penguins in Frisco, TX for the title. There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said already. We’re not one to question anyone’s fandom, but if you’re not pumped up for this one, we just don’t know. The two of us are fortunate enough to be at the game. All Dukes fans are welcome to our tailgate. We will post our final location to @JMUsportsblog on Twitter and our the JMU Sports Blog Facebook page. If you’re in Texas, we hope you swing by to say hello. For everyone else. We hope you’re all settled in and ready to root wherever you are. Whether you’re by yourself on the couch, with friends at a watch party, or in Frisco, this is a wonderful day to be a Dukes fan. Consider this your official open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game chatter. It’s time to Lock the Damn Gates!
Youngstown St. Penguins (12-3, 6-2 MVFC) vs. #4 James Madison Dukes (13-1, 9-0 CAA) for the FCS National Championship
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas, Noon EST (that’s 11 a.m. local for those of us in TX) on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app.
JMU Watch Party List Available Here (trust us, your city is most likely on there). Special note, will someone that attends the Greensboro party collect names and emails for me since my slack behind forgot to do so for the last one.
FEPO: JMU -8 but that line seems to have crept up higher than it should have based presumably on Dukes fans alone.
How YSU Got Here
We’re gonna bet we all know how the Dukes arrived in Frisco, but did you know that YSU is the first team since the playoffs expanded to their current configuration to make it to the final without a bye? The “‘Guins,” as their fans like to call them, hosted a decent-not-great Samford team in the first round and then had a hugely impressive upset of #3 seed Jacksonville St. down in Alabama in Round 2 (JSU looked a bit disinterested and rusty off the bye on film but who knows?). YSU caught a big break when fellow unseeded Wofford upset #6 Citadel, thus allowing YSU to return to “The Igloo” to host the Terriers in the quarters. YSU managed to keep Wofford’s triple option in check a bit and ground out an OT victory. As many more of us know, like JMU they went on the road to beat the other side of the bracket’s top seed, Eastern Washington, in the semis, winning on one of the most ridiculous last-second TD catches you’ll ever see when the Penguins backup TE managed to pin the ball against the back of the defender and keep it there for possession on the last play of the game.
While some of YSU’s good fortune on matchups in the playoffs can be nitpicked, you can’t argue with beating the 2 and 3 seeds on the road in the playoffs. Plus the Penguins three regular season losses really aren’t anything to be ashamed of (at FBS West Virginia, NDSU, and eventual 8-seed SDSU). Goes without saying anyone still playing is really tough.
How YSU Can Win
By using their huge, athletic defensive line (in particular the DE’s) to BOTH bottle up JMU’s running game and pressure/confuse Bryan Schor without having to send extra guys. Listen up Dukes, we as fans need to take YSU’s defensive front very seriously. This is a huge group coached by a veteran staff that’s had three weeks to prep just like JMU. But if they rush Schor and don’t get there in a hurry, we’ve all seen what can happen. If they run-blitz and guess wrong, we also know the last thing opposing teams want is Khalid running into your secondary. YSU will be working without both starting safeties due to similar suspensions to JMU, so if JMU can get time in the passing game or into the second level on the ground, that could be a huge factor.
On the other side, YSU has shown in the playoffs they’re capable of putting up big numbers and points. But trying to get in a shootout with the Dukes is a recipe for disaster. Just ask our old friend KC Keeler and Soft Houston St. The Penguins will likely try to reduce possessions much in the mold of their MVFC-brethren NDSU against JMU as opposed to defense-optional teams like JSU and EWU (think Withers-era JMU and #PartyInTheEndZone for those two). If they can keep the Dukes offense on the sidelines AND shut said offense down like basically nobody outside of Villanova has done all year, the Penguins can absolutely pull off the upset.
How JMU Can Win
Dance with the one who brought you. That’s pretty much the motto this week for the Dukes. Houston and the coaching staff have had the boys ready to play week in and week out all season. There’s no need to change things up now. The Dukes need to punish the Penguins with the same balanced approach they’ve used all year.
To do that though, the offensive line needs to play a high level. Youngstown’s D has racked up 47 sacks thus far this season. They managed 3 in the semifinal against Eastern Washington. JMU’s big guys up front must give Schor time and open up holes for the running game. If they do that, the offense will be just fine.
On defense, it’s all about tackling and limiting yards after contact. The Penguins have a run heavy attack, with some dynamic and shifty backs. JMU can’t let them break off big runs and get the momentum. They’re solid at QB, but don’t have the sorts of weapons in the passing game that JMU does.
In short, it’s the same as it’s been since the second half at RU. Let the players make plays on offense and play assignment football on defense. Lock the damn gates.
Beer of the Week
It’s the Natty. It’s time to go all out here. So we’re offering not one, not two, but tres suggestions for our BOTW. First up, in the Southwestern/Big8 craft beer category, it’s Prairie Bomb from Prairie Artisan Ales in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is a legendary beer we simply can’t get back east and as an espresso/chocolate/ancho-chile imperial stout, it’s pretty much perfect for a 7 a.m. tailgate. Next up, we’ve been delighted with the breakfast stout offering from Charlottesville’s fittingly named Champion Brewing, the Hogwaller Scramble. Again, what better way to start the day? But the real key to a two-day bender of celebration is learning to find a true appreciation for a state (or is it a country?), Texas, that has its very own “cheap domestic,” in this case the world-famous Lone Star. Basically, Texas takes your Bud heavy and Miller Lite and turns them into Shiner Bock and Lone Star in every bar you’ll ever walk into and instead of fighting it, just learn to love it!
Our plan as of Thursday night remains to be in Blue Lot, and we’ll definitely be parked and eating kolaches by 7:05 a.m. but follow @JMUsportsblog and the JMU Sports Blog Facebook page for updates Saturday morning. We’ll post our location to each once we’ve parked. You’re all welcome and we hope to meet many of you. We’ll have food (kolaches and sausage rolls) and drinks (mostly beer, but bottled water for the under 21 crew) until they’re gone. We’re not gonna be mad if you want to bring some stuff to share though.
Official JMUSB National Championship Game Prediction
C’mon. You really need to ask? The Dukes didn’t come this far to lay down. Schor and Abdullah pace the offense. Gage Steele and the boys keep wrecking shop on defense. The fans pop bottles and the Dukes win their second National Championship. JMU 42 – YSU 20.
It’s ALWAYS a great day to be a Duke – always has been, always will be – but it’s hard not to feel particularly fortunate during a week like this one. Thought we’d do a little look at how different things are from the last time we made this trip to now so we can remind everyone how damned awesome everything is these days even if we all have our complaints and concerns about the sustainability of FCS (though we acknowledge the G5 is no better in this regard) and ANY conference at any level that has some schools with football and some schools without.
For those that weren’t around or don’t recall here’s a quick list of things that didn’t exist prior to 2004:
- Bridgeforth Stadium as the badass thing it is.
- Tailgating in any major capacity. Seriously, all that craziness we have now did NOT exist.
- Success, and a belief in success. JMU had good teams and some great players prior to 2004, but having lived through both runs, most of us “hoped” the Dukes would beat Lehigh and Furman, much less Montana. We’re all rolling to Texas this weekend fully expecting a Penguin beatdown!
- Failure that mattered. In the same way we didn’t have success, we also didn’t have quite the heartbreak that expectations produced. The NCAA screw job on the matchup and the world’s worst spot of the ball ever in ’06 at Youngstown St. comes to mind. So does the fumble at App. St. and the Rodney Landers injury in the ’08 semis. That shit hurts. And it produces…
- …A real fanbase. We had hardcore folks (I see you BSKB, Dukester, etc.) and parents. But we didn’t have “the mob” former CAA commish Yeager referred to, we didn’t bitch at coaching hires, AD decisions, or the off-field issues of the diving and field hockey teams. And we certainly didn’t have massive explosions of all things purple like Gameday or this weekend. The games at W&M and Chattanooga in ’04 were “well-attended” by a bunch of us twenty-somethings and the hardcores but they weren’t anything at all like the Homecoming-On-HGH we’re about to see both in Frisco and at viewing parties around the country (shoutout to Grey’s Tavern in Greensboro).
- The Hill. The hill may be filled with seats now for softball, but the massive success across the board in basically everything but Men’s hoops and baseball was NOT the norm. Again, JMU had good teams and great players, but the expectations for success were just not the same.
So as we convene our massive purple lovefests this weekend, let’s all give a HUGE tip of the cap to that ’04 team, their beloved coach Mickey Matthews (who by the way recruited almost all of the current team’s top stars and leaders), and even some of the admin folks along the way with the vision to support athletics even if things don’t always move at the pace some of us desire. When YSU shows up with their budget-ass 1400 fans, just know that was us once. And when we turn Frisco purple, maybe send a little thank you up that you’re a part of the greatest place on Earth.