Oct 26 / jmusport

Guest Post: What Can We Learn from Other FBS Jumpers?

Shrowder won last week’s prediction contest. Here he takes a look at a former FCS school that recently made the jump to FBS and wonders if it was worth it. 

We’re in the middle of one of the best seasons in JMU football history. The Dukes are 7-0, have the longest win streak in Division I dating back to last season, and are poised to defend their national title as the number one seed in next month’s FCS Championship Playoffs. There is not much I can say about this team that hasn’t already been said by Rob and Todd and others. So I want to take my guest post in a different direction and talk about JMU fans’ favorite pastime: the great FBS debate.

But instead of advocating for one side or the other, I want to take a more “empirical” look at the options. You see, as the FBS vs. FCS debate has raged over the past few years, most of the arguments have been theoretical. Without actually competing at the FBS level, it’s hard to know exactly how the program and its success would be affected by the jump.  But a school with a similar profile to JMU recently moved from FCS to FBS, and their journey gives us a pretty good idea of what life would be like in the FBS, and can be useful in framing the discussion moving forward. I’m speaking, of course, of Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers were a very similar program to the Dukes prior to joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. As another medium-sized state school tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, App State achieved sustained success at the FCS level, including three national championships in a row between 2005 and 2007. So even though the Dukes have not won three titles in a row, we are still in a pretty similar situation to where App State was when they made the jump.

Since joining the Sun Belt, the Mountaineers have certainly held their own against established FBS programs. In their first three seasons at the FBS level, they have gone a combined 28-10, including 2-0 in bowl games. They have played against college football powerhouses such as Tennessee, Miami, Clemson, and Michigan. As part of the Sun Belt Conference’s TV deal, all of their conference games are carried nationally on the ESPN platform. However, they play in relative obscurity. At the beginning of each season, there is an approximately 0% chance they will have the opportunity to play for the national title no matter how well they do in the regular season. While the Sun Belt has successfully inserted itself into the wider college football conversation (#FunBelt), the conference is more or less seen as a fun sideshow than an actual player in FBS.

Contrast that situation with the current standard bearer in FCS, North Dakota State. If JMU ultimately decides to stay in the FCS, the Bison’s consistent run of success would be what fans and the school would expect out of the team. Last season notwithstanding, NDSU has dominated the FCS level over the past decade. Since 2014, NDSU has gone 40-5 including two national titles and two wins over FBS Power 5 schools (Iowa State and Iowa). While they do not play at the sport’s highest level, they are widely respected across college football as dominating their level the same way Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater are respected for their run of dominance in Division III. But the fact of the matter remains that they do not play at the sport’s highest level, and while respect is good, there will always be the question of how well that success could translate to FBS.

The state of college football is constantly in flux, so it is only a matter of time before JMU starts flirting with the possibility of making a move again. Fortunately for us, other schools have already made decisions in both directions, and we can learn a lot from them about what to expect from either decision. Every year App State plays big time programs and has a majority of its games carried on ESPN, but has no shot of competing for a national title. North Dakota State starts every year expecting to make it to Frisco and has earned national respect and exposure, but will never really test itself against the sport’s highest level of competition.

I’m personally on the fence about a potential move, but I think that looking at these two programs gives us a good idea of what to expect in either direction.

Oct 25 / Rob

Prediction Contest: Dukes vs. Wildcats

JMU welcomes the New Hampshire Wildcats to town for a CAA clash this Saturday. It’s a chance for the Dukes to win their 20th straight, and an opportunity for the Wildcats to avenge last year’s playoff beatdown. On paper, it should be JMU’s toughest contest of the 2017 season thus far. Per usual, we want to know how you guys think the game will play out. Leave a comment below with your prediction. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. Easy as pie.

Oct 24 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Step Away From the Ledge, That Makes 19 Straight

The latest JMUSB pod is up for your listening pleasure. In this episode we talk about how it’s a little bit crazy that folks are freaking out after a 32 point win over William & Mary, look forward to a few match-ups with prolific offenses, and then chat about about some of our favorite sportswriters. Once again, if y’all enjoy listening even half as much as we enjoyed recording it, things will be alright. Enjoy.

Subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via Bumpers or iTunes.

Oct 23 / Todd

Dukes Wreck Tribe Homecoming 46-14 for 19th Straight Win

From JMU Sports: What it Means?

  • Extends CAA-record and NCAA Division I-leading win streak to 19 straight games, which is tied for ninth in FCS history (Duquesne – 1995-96).
  • One win shy of CAA record for consecutive conference wins, which now stands at 14 in a row
  • Program-record eighth straight road win
  • 20th straight win over an FCS opponent
  • 15th straight regular-season win
  • First win in Williamsburg since 2011 – first win for any JMU player on the roster at Zable Stadium
  • Secured 28th winning season in 46 years of college football at JMU

And we’d add to that, (“too early” be damned) it also probably clinched a playoff birth for the Dukes. And by the way, the only other team to do so is the only other playoff-eligible undefeated team and a familiar name, the North Dakota St. Bison. (Technically North Carolina A&T could end up in the playoffs like last year if they blow their rivalry game to Central and miss the Celebration Bowl again, but they certainly haven’t clinched anything; congrats to Columbia who also remains unbeaten though the Ivy League does not participate in the playoffs).

Now on his third number change, but still doing his same ole’ thing!

The Good

Every single thing about the defense. We could write and write and write about this group’s performance on Saturday. All you really need to know is that William & Mary’s normally unflappable HC Jimmye Laycock was so shook he was changing QB’s like a rookie high school coach. It never mattered. When the game was in doubt, the Tribe made it past midfield one time, and that didn’t last long as the Dukes D created one of six turnovers. The front seven put so much pressure on that the interceptions made by JMU’s defensive backs were easy pickin’s. Jordan Brown appeared to be running the route. Jimmy effin’ Moreland dis his thing. Up front Ron’Dell Carter was particularly disruptive and appears to really be picking up steam as the season progresses. Ankrah, Robinson, you name the player and they probably had a highlight reel play at some point. This was really just flat-out unfair against the inexperienced and inept Tribe offense.

Marcus Marshall – Look, his stats weren’t gaudy, but the eye test said it’s starting to click for the highly-touted transfer. On another in a long line of games that have been a struggle for the running game, this was a potential bright spot moving forward.

Ethan Ratke – The redshirt freshman made his two field goal attempts in fine style which bodes well should he be needed more the next few weeks.

Clayton Cheatham – He may lose secret-weapon status soon.  He might even be one of the best targets on this team by the postseason.

Cole Johnson – Baby giraffe sighting!

The Bad

Tyler Gray limping off – Hate to see a kicker limp off as you know that’s gonna be tough to come back from unless your really close to 100%. Coach Houston said it was a minor strain after the game and hopefully that’s accurate because Tyler is clutch.

Creativity/Scheme – Fans are arguing about Schor or Sharp or parts of the O-Line and whether any of those are “not playing up to potential” right now and to us that seems like crap. One thing is clear though – defensive coaches are absolutely on to what JMU does offensively this year. Thankfully, the Dukes talent and depth simply wears teams out and they’ve been able to pull away in the second half. But it’s clear the Dukes need to mix things up more. On the designed rollouts, a linebacker or DB is almost always waiting for Schor. The inside handoffs hardly work at all in the first half of games. And even the drop backs seem to allow teams to force Schor to the side without targets. Houston, Kirkpatrick, and co. have completely earned the benefit of the doubt and maybe they’re just playing vanilla against teams they know the defense will shut down and the Dukes will eventually win 30-8 or 46-14, but it seems likely they all know the offense will need more against UNH/RU/Elon and into the playoffs.

The Ugly

Fans flipping out about 30-8 and 46-14 wins. Take a deep breath people. Remember the 13-12 slogs of late-era Mickey and 7 for 23 performances from Justin Thorpe. Just root people and appreciate the best Dukes defense of the last twenty years.

Oct 21 / Rob

Gameday: Dukes vs. Tribe

Today seems like a beautiful day to win a 19th straight football game. The JMU Dukes have an opportunity to do just that in Williamsburg this afternoon. For the 40th time JMU will play William & Mary. The Tribe is hoping to shock the world. The Dukes are hoping to just keep the train moving. If you’re going to the lesser ‘burg for the game, be safe and have fun. If you’re watching it at home, crack open a beer and enjoy.

Lock the Damn Gates!

Go Dukes!

Keep Rootin!

Oct 20 / Rob

JMUSB Game Preview #7: JMU vs. William & Mary

Coach Houston and the Dukes will make the trip to the lesser ‘burg this weekend for a game against our old friends the William & Mary Tribe. It will be the 40th meeting between the two programs. JMU leads the series (obviously), with 22 wins. William & Mary has gotten off to a rough start in CAA play (stop us if you’ve heard this one before), but will look to pull off the upset in front of a sold out crowd of wild and raucous erudite fans. Let’s dive right in.

The Basics

Match-up: #1 JMU Dukes 6-0 (3-0) vs. William & Mary Tribe 2-4 (0-3)
Kick-off: 3:300 PM on Saturday, October 21 at Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, VA
Weather: Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 70s
Broadcast: WHSV in the Valley and streaming here

How We Got Here

JMU defeated Villanova by the score of 30-8 in front of the Dukes’ second largest home crowd ever last Saturday. It was the 18th straight win for JMU, which is the programs longest streak ever and the longest active streak in Division 1 football. Bryan Schor was a very efficient 20 for 28 with 271 yards and 2 TDs. The defense was the real story however. JMU had the Wildcats on their heels all afternoon and completely locked the damn gates. And of course the game was preceded by ESPN’s College Gameday on the Quad. Over 14,000 rabid JMU fans showed up to make it a day for the ages. William & Mary couldn’t get 14,000 people to show up to anything unless it involved cosplay and free points on the GRE.

William & Mary on the other hand, enters the game with zero game winning streak. The Tribe was shut out by Delaware 17-0. The game featured true freshman Shon Mitchell getting his first start at QB. He performed relatively well against a strong Blue Hen defense, completing 18 for 36 for 101 yards and 2 INTs. He did enough to keep the starting job. He’ll lead the home team on Saturday and attempt to add a spark to an offense that has been somewhat moribund all season.

What W&M Is Good At

School stuff, mostly. But the defense is also solid. With an 0-3 record in CAA play and only 2 wins overall, you might assume that the team is weak overall. That’s not the case. The Tribe has talent on defense and the unit has easily been good enough to position the team for a few wins. They’ve only given up 17.7 points per game and have the second best pass D in the CAA (behind JMU).

So What’s the Problem?

Unfortunately for W&M, the offense has yet to find its rhythm. It’s not fair to pin the struggles on a single player, but we can say that the QB play hasn’t been up to the level Tribe fans would like it to be. W&M QBs have only completed 54% of their passes for 139 yards a game. It’s tough to win with numbers like that, unless you have a dominant running game. They don’t. The Tribe running game is solid, but thus far, hasn’t been good enough to overcome the lack of a passing game.

Sounds Like An Easy W for JMU

Not necessarily. First of all, this is somewhat of a rivalry game. And the teams almost always play each other tough. It’s William & Mary’s homecoming, and they’ll be amped up and ready to try to shock the world. Second of all, QB Shon Mitchell will be making only his second start, but he might be exactly what the Tribe is looking for. He’s not your typical cerebral and moderately athletic W&M QB who studies the game and is coached up by Jimmye Laycock. Yes, he is smart (duh, it’s W&M), but he’s also talented. Crazy talented. He broke all sorts of passing records at Oscar Smith High School in the 757 and has the tools to do the same at the college level.

How the Tribe Can Win

Up the intensity, control the clock, and play mistake free football. This isn’t a trap game per se, because JMU has too much respect for W&M to overlook them. But the Dukes have the proverbial target on their backs and W&M will probably be pumped up beyond belief. They need to use that to their advantage and dictate the pace. With their struggling passing game, the Tribe is going to need to run the ball and bleed the clock to win. If it’s a high scoring, back and forth affair, the JMU D will eventually force Mitchell to make some mistakes. We think the young QB has a lot of big games in his future, but the plan is probably for him to be more of a game manager this weekend. Expect lots of short and safe passes in an attempt to build his confidence and avoid turnovers.

How JMU Can Win

Get after Mitchell and make a few big plays. If you think we’re talking about Mitchell a lot, it’s because he’s one of the keys to this game. If he gets hot, he could ride a wave of confidence and lead W&M to a big upset. If he gets rattled though, it’s going to be a very long day for the Tribe. We all saw what the JMU defense did to a couple of inexperienced Nova QBs last weekend. That’s the blueprint. Pressure the QB, knock him down a few times, and then pounce on the mistakes.

Schor will have his full complement of weapons in the passing game. We expect to see him mix it up and take a few shots down field. And it wouldn’t shock us to see the coaches find a way to get the ball to Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall in space. A couple big plays and an early lead, and the D should be good enough to close things out for win number 19 in a row.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

If you’re not going to have a brew from our friends at Pale Fire Brewing, we’d recommend Sumo in a Sidecar by Evil Twin Brewing. Actually, just have both. It’s the weekend. Sumo in a Sidecar is an IPA, because of course it is. But it’s got a slight twist. It has apricot added. Sounds weird, but it’s delicious. The apricot just rounds things out, more than making it fruity. Not quite a New England IPA juice bomb, but not a piney West Coast IPA either. It’s tasty.

Official JMUSB Prediction

William & Mary is no pushover. Yes, they’re 0-3 in CAA play and fans might scoff at losses to Stony Brook and Elon, but those teams are actually quite good. And so is the Tribe defense. But we don’t think the offense is good enough. This Saturday we think Schor uses all his receiving weapons, the running game makes fans breathe a sigh of relief, and the defense does what the defense does. JMU 31 – William & Mary 10.

Oct 19 / Rob

Q&A With The Guys From W&M Sports Blog

JMU heads to Williamsburg this weekend for game against William & Mary. We figured there were no better people to get us to speed on the 2017 Tribe than our friends from W&M Sports Blog. We answered some questions about the better team for them as well. You can read those here. That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it.

How’s new Zable?! What’s the buzz among fans about the new pad? 
Since the venue opened in 1935, and all the way up until 2015, good ole Zable Stadium hadn’t really changed much. That is, until last season. And when we say it hadn’t changed, it truly had not changed. You’d think you were transported back to the 40s when watching a game there. And as much as we love history at William & Mary, to say it was time for an update would truly be an understatement. So after playing the 2015 season in a stadium under construction, “New Zable” officially opened its doors for last year’s 2016 Season Opener. And boy, has it been well received. The $22 million upgrade includes, among other things, an entirely new upper deck seating section, fully loaded suite boxes, a brand new turf field, an incredible press box with picturesque views, an updated sound system, updated restrooms, and various safety and accessibility upgrades. The new and improved Zable Stadium, coupled with the $11 million Laycock Center shows the school’s continued commitment to the sport, and makes W&M that much harder for recruits to ignore. Even if you’re sitting in the away section this Saturday, make sure to venture over to the home bench’s side to grab some concessions and check out our new digs.

read more…

Oct 19 / jmusport

Guest Post: Bleeding Purple

Jay Deck won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here are his thoughts on bleeding purple and how great we have it as JMU fans. 

I have been following JMU football since 2007 my oldest son entered JMU, and my youngest is in Grad School. I am a very proud Dad of two great Dukes.  To show how far I Bleed Purple, I got my wife a Boston Terrier Bulldog whom we have named “Duke” and he is the life of every tailgate!  The fans love seeing him in either his JMU Bandanna or JMU Football jersey. He has a JMU collar, leash and dog bowls.  There were several topics I wanted to write about including moving to FBS but didn’t want to start a war.  So I decided instead to write about the integrity of our fans. read more…

Oct 18 / Todd


Honestly, this is a placeholder post we can keep linking back to so just bear with us. As many of you know, we’ve started developing our own little shop of JMUSB merch! Of course, in true JMUSB fashion, we haven’t promoted it well, been a little all over the place, and worst of all, created it in two separate “stores” for different items. So in the interest of trying to keep everything in one place and always having a place to refer readers/listeners back to on our actual flagship (the blog! 2011 called and said she’s still hunting for the last remaining blogs in the wild) we’re posting here about everything we have available. As always, thanks to @bpmarkowitz for all the great design work.

Lastly, we’ve got two more great shirts planned this year (a Game of Thrones themed shirt and what will be our staple with our new logo)  and at least one other item plus something great for hoops.

Been friends for 20+ years and this is the first picture where we’re both holding waters.

If you would like our fantastic Gameday shirt, click here.

If you’d like the awesome new Rootin’ shirt in purple or gold, or a Lock the Damned Gates, or even an old Start Wearing Purple, click here.

Oct 18 / Rob

Prediction Contest: Dukes vs. Tribe

JMU takes it 18 game winning streak on the road to the lesser ‘burg this weekend. It’s a match-up with our old friends the Tribe, from William & Mary. It’s William & Mary’s homecoming, so we should expect a stadium that’s 75% or even 85% full and ready to cheer. anxious to get back to the library. We kid. We kid.

This should actually be a great test for Houston and the boys against a proud program that always seems to give JMU fits. If you listened to the most recent podcast (and you should listen to the latest podcast), you’ll know that we have deep respect for William & Mary and its program. On Saturday, the Tribe will be rolling out Shon Mitchell, a freshman QB who has the talent to be a force in the CAA for years to come. It should be a great game.

And we want to know how you think the game will turn out. Leave a comment below with your prediction for Saturday. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. Let’s go.