May 9 / Rob

Dukes Drop Heartbreaker to Sam Houston State

There’s no easy way to start this, so let’s just rip the band aid off and go. JMU blew a 21 point second half lead and fell to Sam Houston State by the score of 38-35. It’s a loss that sent many fans over the edge. It’s unclear if or when they’ll return to sanity. There’s no sugarcoating it. It was a devastating loss. There’s no good way to spin blowing a three touchdown lead. There’s no rationalizing it away. It was ugly and it’s going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths for a long while.

While it was definitely brutal, one loss does not define a program. One loss, even one featuring a catastrophic collapse, does not invalidate everything JMU accomplished in this pandemic season. One loss, does not mean the program has plunged from previous highs and charted a course for mediocrity. It probably just means that they got beat. It happens. We don’t like it when it does, but it’s not the end of JMU football as an FCS power.

There is much to like about the JMU fanbase. But there has been a discouraging trend toward more and more JMU fans being pathologically opposed to giving opponents any credit whatsoever. Every loss is due solely to JMU’s failures. Plays fail not because the other team does something well, but because the Dukes’ coaches are clueless. In too many fans eyes, the Dukes win because the competition isn’t good enough, and lose because they beat themselves. Things aren’t always so black and white. Sometimes there are shades of grey.

In the loss to Sam Houston State, JMU jumped out to a big halftime lead. The Dukes looked like they were Frisco bound. They were sitting on a comfortable 27-10 lead late in the third quarter. Then bad stuff happened. Lots of very bad stuff. It was the single most frustrating stretch of football that I can remember watching. Jequez Ezzard put the JMU secondary on skates, as he scampered for a 69 yard TD. Not even two minutes later, he took a punt back to the house. The ensuing kickoff got caught up in the wind, landed in between the returners and the up men, and then bounced straight up in the air and Sam Houston recovered. The Bearkats promptly punched it in for six. But they weren’t done. On JMU’s next possession, a pass bounced off the receivers hands and right into the arms of the Sam Houston defender. They punched that one in for six as well. In approximately five minutes of game time, Sam Houston had turned a 27-10 deficit into a 38-27 lead. JMU punched back and scored another TD, but then missed a desperation FG into the wind and Sam Houston held on. Oh, and Cole Johnson got hurt on the last drive, forcing a cold Gage Moloney to come in to try to finish a potentially game winning drive.

Mistakes were made people. We’re not denying that. The special teams were not very special. The coaches wasted timeouts. Defenders missed tackles and committed terrible penalties. JMU battled back instead of laying down though and could have won it. But they didn’t. They lost. They lost in excruciating fashion. However, as bad as it was, the overreaction by much of the JMU fanbase might have been even worse.

JMU is a program that expects to compete for championships. The Dukes fell short this year. Not that short, but short. And apparently losing on the road in the semi-finals is a fireable offense to a lot of fans. Fortunately, the JMU athletic department is not run by a bunch of drunken troglodytes with Twitter muscles, so Coach Cignetti will be back in the Fall. As he should be. He didn’t have a perfect game. He’ll take some deserved criticism for the collapse. He needs to overhaul special teams. But he also deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the job he did this season.

JMU lost a lot of talent due to injuries, transfers, and graduations. Cignetti still managed to lead a starting lineup filled with backups all the way to the semi-finals. He coached up a QB who was so shaky he probably would have lost his starting job forever if not for Covid, and helped him play the best football of his life in the playoffs. He successfully lead his team through multiple cancellations and pauses during a global pandemic. But he’s too conservative offensively, so let’s fire him. Never mind that his “conservative” approach helped JMU out-gain Sam Houston 430 yards to 332 yards while averaging over 16 yards a completion. And he inherited a machine that could coach itself, so let’s fire him. Nevermind that the “machine” he inherited was coming off a season where it followed two losses (including one to his Elon team) in CAA play by bowing out to Colgate in the second round of the playoffs. Cignetti has flaws. So did Mike Houston, Everett Withers, Mickey Matthews and every other coach ever. Like a lot of other successful coaches though, Cignetti happens to have a great many strengths as well.

JMU let one get away yesterday. There’s no denying it. And it hurts. Badly. But let’s take a deep breath. There is a lot to be happy about with the season JMU just had. There were struggles early, but the players responded. Young guys and backups worked through some challenging circumstances and improved. That’s typically a sign of good coaching. So we can look at everything that went wrong yesterday and ignore the good that came before it, and conclude the program is a dumpster fire. Or we can look at the total body of work, be mad/frustrated/despondent about yesterday, and still be excited about the state of the program heading into the Fall.

May 7 / Todd

Official JMUSB Semi-Final Preview: JMU at Sam Houston St.

Solomon Vanhorse wearing all-white uniform
He wears a different number now, but could we see Vanhorse in the passing game in the storm-trooper whites this week?!

The Basics

Matchup: #3 JMU Dukes (7-0, 3-0 CAA) at #2 Sam Houston Bearkats (8-0, 6-0 Southland)

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. EDT. Saturday, May 8, 2021, Elliott T. Bowers Stadium, Huntsville, Texas

Weather: Partly Cloudy, 84

Broadcast: ABC – this is outstanding!

Boys in the Desert: JMU -1, O/U 47

How Sam Houston Can Win

Play their game and don’t get caught up worrying about the bigger picture. Sam Houston is the first opponent JMU has faced this year where we can’t say with confidence that if both teams play their best games, the Dukes are a heavy favorite. Sam Houston under former Delaware Coach KC Keeler have made a point of rebuilding their program from the inside out to be more physical by following the model set by NDSU and JMU. Last week’s ousting of the Bison went a long way towards helping the Bearkats (seriously, with a “k”) shed the #SoftHouston label that Valley and CAA fans have been throwing at them for a decade – with the high-water mark for this shade being the 2016 playoff shellacking in Harrisonburg for a then-undefeated and top-ranked (not seeded, sound familiar Dukes fans?) high-flying offensive show.

But this week Sam Houston needs to forget all of that – the NDSU win, the 2016 humiliation at JMU and the accompanying trash-talk, and the chance to return to the FCS title game – this time against a non-dynastic opponent – and just play their game. The Bearkats need to hit a few downfield throws, run enough power to keep the Dukes honest, and trust speedy dual-threat QB Eric Schmid to make JMU pay when things break down. On the other side, Sam was able to shut down NDSU’s running game last week, a task made much easier because NDSU provided essentially zero threat in the passing game. The game plan this week is likely the same and Sam’s best chance remains stacking the box and hoping Cole has a bad day and/or their corners can hold up against a receiving corps loaded with threats.

Oh yeah, it also wouldn’t hurt the Bearkats chances to not give up multiple special teams TDs the way they did last week.

How JMU Can Win

Sling it! For real, it may be time to #passmore. Obviously JMU wants to run the ball like always and prove even this bulked-up version of the Bearkats can be bullied, but if Sam Houston puts eight in the box as often as they did last week, we could see a repeat of the first half against VMI a couple weeks ago with the Dukes looking to exploit one-on-one matchups on the outside with Wells Jr., Thornton, and Bracey. Addtionally, with the growing volume of jaw-dropping gametape on Wells, Jr., if Sam rolls any help his way, could we see more looks at Clayton Cheatham in the middle or even Vanhorse/Hamilton in the slot or the rarely-used screen game a bit?!

On defense, even if they can’t get massive pressure, JMU’s front seven needs to stay home to make sure Schmid can’t break huge plays with his feet. On the back end of the defense, the Dukes secondary just needs to make plays if (when?) Schmid’s occasionally suspect throwing gives them opportunities.

And Special Teams! Last week we had even more fiascos on specials but the Dukes avoided the worst of the potential consequences. This week actually presents an opportunity against an equally mistake-prone SHSU unit and the Dukes need to at least break even in this facet.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. Of course we still love IPAs and the kick from the higher ABV, but semi-final Saturday with JMU kicking off the second of two national tv games calls for something without all the hipster haze of the New England variety that only leaves you feeling like you’ve eaten a burrito or two. This one is a classic; just west-coast smooth and ready to rock a celebration Saturday!

Official JMUSB Prediction

This has the feel of a great one. A hungry rebuilt Sam Houston in their building defending their unblemished home FCS playoff record against JMU, a true FCS powerhouse finally finding its rhythm, and its swagger, at the perfect point of this Spring season. We think JMU has a bit more firepower to find the clutch drive late when needed.

JMU 27, Sam Houston 23

May 1 / jmusport

Guest Post: A Small JMU World

Dukes4 is a 1979 JMU grad, (with honorary JMU rooting wife) and their three gainfully employed, JMU alumni kids. He won the prediction contest for the VMI game and sent in this fun guest post reminding us that it’s a small world when it comes to JMU sports.

Thanks again to Andrea Clay for sharing her poignant guest post last week. During the podcast Rob and Todd noted they had the opportunity to meet Andrea and her husband and how it’s been cool to engage the JMU football nation over the years as the face of the JMU sports blog.

That comment got me thinking about the friends we have made and how we missed the 2020 fall tailgating season. Moreover, we looked back at some interesting people and characters who crossed our path while enjoying JMU football. We are at a point in our lives that allows for travel to away games and spending Saturday night in the burg. This offers more opportunity to chat-it -up all things JMU and especially football.  Here is a smattering of people we’ve met.

read more…
Apr 30 / Todd

Official JMUSB Quarterfinal Playoff Preview: North Dakota at JMU

2019 JMU Football-Morgan State
WPW – the Championship Combo

The Basics

Matchup: #7 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (5-1, 4-1Missouri Valley) at #3 JMU Dukes (6-0, 3-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. EDT. Sunday, May 2, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown, VA

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, high 82 heading down to 57 but humidity increasing throughout the game from 41 to 61%

Broadcast: ESPN2!!!

Boys in the Desert: JMU -2.5, O/U 52.5

How UND Can Win

Hold up in the trenches and play with their usual near-flawless execution. UND is an upgraded version of VMI. Extremely well-coached and creative in all the ways that have given JMU problems against that other team from North Dakota but with better players than the Keydets had last week. If they execute as normal, it seems almost guaranteed they’ll catch JMU out with big plays on offense and special teams at least 2-3 times. The key for the Hawks is not letting JMU do what that other team did to them early in the season – namely just bully them on both lines and grind them to dust.

How JMU Can Win

To paraphrase Virginia’s own former NASCAR star Ward Burton, “Hammer Down!” (and if you remember the accent with which that was said on the last lap at Daytona, it’s even better). If ever a game called for the Dukes to bow up and push people around, even at the expense of aesthetics and salty fans who still want to #passmore, it was this one. JMU needs to grind and limit mistakes. This could be the rare exception where less possession is better for JMU than its opponent – particularly if that means JMU is methodically running the ball and controlling clock and the ball. Defensively, the headline matchup is JMU’s strong run defense versus UND’s star RB Otis Weah, but it’s the Dukes ability to not get caught too many times in mis-direction and play-calling on the back end that will dicate their success.

And Special Teams! At the very least not losing the specials matchup is critical this week. Last week’s onside kick fiasco, which of course was a repeat of previous fiascos in big games, simply cannot happen. That NDSU fake FG from the last title game – UND will have watched that tape and it simply cannot happen. Coach Cain needs to have his group ready with no excuses for mental mistakes more than ever.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Three Notch’d I’d Rather Beer Fishing Lager – Three Notch’d (you know the one local brewery you can get at BFS) has a collaboration beer with our friends over at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and it’s perfect for this unique Sunday Night Football experience. It’s an easy-drinking, low ABV lager released this spring that you can enjoy during the FCS national-tv triple-header and still be ready for work on Monday. And you can find them around the Valley (the real Valley) now! This one is legit.

Official JMUSB Prediction

No logic this week. Just mindset and motivation. We think the Dukes are finally ready to uncork one of those vintage JMU performances after this insane year.

JMU 42, UND 20

Apr 28 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. North Dakota

JMU is moving on to a quarterfinal matchup against North Dakota. We’re excited for the special Sunday night game and feeling pretty confident about our Dukes. But we want to know how you think the game will play out. Leave a comment below with your prediction for Sunday’s game. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. It’s just that easy. So give us your predictions and Go Dukes!

Apr 25 / Rob

Dukes Beat VMI to Survive and Advance

JMU opened up the 2021 FCS Playoffs (Spring Edition) with a 31-24 win over VMI. Let’s repeat the last part. JMU picked up a win. And now the Dukes are moving on to the quarterfinals to face North Dakota. VMI proved to be a very tough out. The Keydets were well coached and they came ready to play. JMU showed flashes of greatness, but also had more than a few warts on display. Jawon Hamilton and Percy O Agyei-Obese went for 171 and 110 yard respectively to pace JMU. But truth be told it was far from an overall “A” effort from the coaches and players. Again though, they won the dang game.

While we’ve been accustomed to watching the Dukes on cruise control for the first few rounds of the playoffs, this was something different. This Spring season has been challenging for a whole litany of reasons. JMU has played well at times, but due to the stops and starts, the Dukes never got on an extended roll. They just keep winning anyway. We can pick things apart as much as we want, but doing so seems a little misguided given the circumstances. In this weird Spring format, perhaps it’s more important for teams to simply find a way to grind out wins and not worry about how they look doing so.

Let’s face it, there are no style points in football. We would have loved it if JMU won by 4 or 5 touchdowns and turned it into a laugher. But they didn’t. They beat a well prepared team, despite turning the ball over multiple times and making some questionable decisions. There are at most 3 more games left this season. Personally, we think it’s time we accept that this team has flaws. It has flaws and no losses though.

The fact of the matter is this 2021 JMU Spring Football squad is never going to beat the 2016 team. Or the 2019 team. They’re also not going to lose to them, because the teams will never play. It’s fun to debate how different JMU teams stack up against each other. It’s also ultimately kind of pointless. This year’s team is not as good as a number of JMU teams from the past. We get it and we won’t argue otherwise. It doesn’t need to be though. On Saturday, it just had to be better than VMI and it was. And this Sunday it just needs to be better than North Dakota. And we’ll take things from there.

The Dukes under Cignetti are nothing like the Mike Houston JMU teams. They’re not even that similar to the 2019 Cignetti team. It’s a totally different approach. Everyone likes to say that JMU doesn’t rebuild, it reloads, but the fact is that the Dukes had to replace a ton of great players. And they had to do it on the fly during the weirdest football season of our lifetimes. And they just keep winning, despite looking more than shaky at times. At a certain point, it’s probably best if we focus and appreciate that, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking they’re going to evolve into something they’re not. This JMU isn’t likely to blow teams out and win going away from here on. But they’re still playing and they definitely have a chance to keep winning. Style points or now style points.

Apr 23 / Todd

Official JMUSB Playoff Preview Round of 16: VMI @ JMU

And suddenly all the nonsense falls away. The potential insanity of a spring season, transfer portals, basically everything in the world for 2020-21. And now it’s just the playoffs! In four short weeks, the sun could be shining on a Dukes team in Frisco. In three weeks, the Bison themselves could be at Bridgeforth. Next week, a chance to start shutting up the MVFC could be on the line. But none of that matters because a very old rival comes to town for the first time in many years this week with all of that at stake.

James Madison quarterback Cole Johnson throws during the Dukes' win over Richmond on Saturday in Harrisonburg.
Still love those gold lids

The Basics

Matchup: #11 Virginia Military Institute Keydets (6-1, 6-1 SoCon) at #3 JMU Dukes (5-0, 3-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EDT. Saturday April 24, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown, VA

Weather: Cloudy with occasional rain in the afternoon. High 59F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.

Broadcast: ESPN3

Boys in the Desert: All oddsmakers agree that JMU should be a heavy favorite over VMI – either 14 or 14.5-point favorites (according to Sports Betting Dime). But when it comes to betting the moneyline (i.e. JMU to win by any margin), the odds vary drastically. JMU is as short as -800 and as long as -560. That means bettors would have to risk 42.8% more at certain sportsbooks to obtain the same return.

How VMI Can Win

Be more than happy to be here and force JMU to outscore them. First and foremost, the Keydets need to lock in the game itself and make sure they aren’t merely celebrating so many firsts in this special spring season for the boys from Lexington. First FCS playoff appearance, first trip to new Bridgeforth, first SoCon title in 40 years, first win over El Cid in longer than they’d like to admit. All of that was nice last week and will be even nicer over scotch this summer, but if they want to keep achieving firsts, they need to be focused on a JMU team that is starting to find it’s fully operational form after lots of fits and starts this spring.

And make no mistake, a 6-1 SoCon champ can beat JMU. But VMI probably can’t do it in a 16-10 grinder. If they’re going to win, VMI needs to force JMU to play their way. They need a game with lots of possessions, lots of plays run, and lots of opportunities to trick the Dukes’ defense and bust big plays. The headline-drawing matchup all of us fans are looking forward to is VMI’s Air Raid offense, with all its schematic creativity and plethora of weapons led by 6’4″ WR Jakub Harres, against JMU’s vaunted defense led by CAA Defensive Player of the Year Mike Greene. But in reality, that matchup could be a wash with VMI getting theirs so to speak while also giving the Dukes a few chances for gamechanging plays. This game is more likely to come down to the other side of the ball for both teams. Put simply, unless VMI can get off to a blisteringly fast start with a multi-score lead, then their defense is going to have to show they can hold up to JMU’s bruising running game and its constant attempt to grind teams into dust by later in the game. The Keydet defense cannot allow 2 or 3 long drives that keep their O off the field.

How JMU Can Win

Don’t believe the hype, DO NOT turn the ball over, and play with the same level of gameplanning, execution, and ruthlessness they have against William & Mary and Richmond the last month. First, the Dukes need to throw out all past conceptions of VMI as a “lesser” FCS team. Any 6-1 SoCon team, regardless of recent history or the color of the uniform, is capable of winning at this stage and needs to be taken seriously.

Second, JMU needs to control the ball, the tempo, and the clock. VMI’s AirRaid can only score when it’s on the field, so not turning it over and giving them extra possessions is crucial. If JMU can produce a couple of long drives, they will have a chance to let the big O-Line lean on VMI later in the day. With the inconsistency (we hope it’s getting better) the Dukes have had in the passing game this year, this is not the team to fall behind by multiple scores against.

And finally, it all sounds so simple on paper, but if both teams play well, the Dukes probably win this by 10. So just do your job ruthlessly and see where things end up.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Woodstock Brewhouse Tower Stout – We normally break out the cold/dark/perfect stouts and such for the brutal Valley-in-December playoff games. We’re hopeful this game – with potential cold-ish rain – will be the only game worthy of such a selection the next three weeks. This one is nitro-brewed so it’s smooth and of course is named for one of the Commonwealth’s best gravel climbs up Woodstock Tower Rd. to the Woodstock fire tower – the cyclists know this one for sure!

Official JMUSB Prediction

This could be a fun one. We’re guessing this one is competitive as hell and we all need reminding that we should treat VMI more as a 6-1 SoCon Champ (think how we’d view this game if it was 6-1 Furman or Wofford) instead of “just VMI.” But the Dukes are finally figuring out the competition aspect of this wild Spring Season and they’re looking like the talent-laden squad we’ve all come to expect.

JMU 31, VMI 17

Apr 23 / jmusport

Guest Post: The Heart of JMU

Andrea Clay is the parent of 2 Dukes (Class of 2018 and 2020). When she’s not rooting, she’s a nonprofit fundraiser living in northern Virginia with her husband and two mischievous dogs. Here’s her guest post, which is probably the most touching thing we’ve ever had on the blog.

When JMU’s spring football season started, I told myself to just enjoy the ride. Wins didn’t matter—what mattered was after 14 long, strange months I would get to root for the Dukes again. Watching the first three games of the season, I mostly kept that perspective (the first half of the Elon game notwithstanding). It was great to see the team on the field despite uncertainty about who should be QB1, how the O-line was going to perform without newly-injured Liam Fornadel and how many games we could play while COVID was still a real threat.

And then something happened…I got the call that everyone dreads. One of my brothers had a massive stroke and I needed to fly across the country to be with him. Suddenly football was more and less important all at the same time. The day of the W&M game, I was able to catch a bit of the game while my brother was resting. It was nice to have a brief respite from the reality of my brother’s situation which was extremely serious. The hospital has a very distinct smell and rhythm that feels abnormal the minute you arrive. Watching the game and discussing it in our family group text gave me a few minutes of normal

Then things got complicated. JMU’s season hung in the balance as did my brother’s precarious health. There was no football to distract me (although I do enjoy other JMU sports—especially baseball and softball!). Each week I hoped to hear the team would be able to take the field but understood there are things bigger than sports. My brother had good days and bad days but he was finally stable enough for me to fly home at least for a few weeks.

My days consisted of working a full day and then spending an hour or two trying to coordinate my brother’s care. There was an endless stream of paperwork to complete along with researching facilities that might offer him the best chance to recover. Last week, we were close to finalizing a long-term care plan for my brother AND the Spiders finally agreed to play JMU.

Friday morning started like normal except for the first time in months, my husband and I were planning our trip to Harrisonburg for the game. Then I received a call that my brother had suffered another stroke and was heading back to the hospital. The rest of the day was spent hearing somewhat conflicting reports on what his prognosis was but everyone was clear I didn’t need to head back to Arizona immediately. So I booked a flight for early Sunday morning so I could attend the game like planned.

It was a glorious sunny day in Harrisonburg. The sky is so blue in the Valley this time of year. As we walked to the stadium, everything felt weirdly normal. We found our seats and on cue, I got teary eyed when the current JMU video extolling everything that makes JMU special was shown on the big screen. Then my phone rang with an update on my brother. Things had taken a very serious turn and I frantically tried to see if I could get to Arizona any sooner. It was clear very quickly that my Sunday morning flight was my best option. So I tried to just focus on the game knowing this would be my last bit of normal for quite some time.

While the Dukes got off to a fast start, it took me a few minutes to really get into the game. But then something happened. I took a couple of deep breaths and tried to just focus on the moment in front of me. Ethan Ratke kicked his CAA-record field goal and we closed the first quarter up by 10. The defense played well and after trading field goals, we headed into the fourth quarter. By this time, I had spoken with the doctor in charge of my brother’s care so ensure our family was united in the decisions that had to be made. He didn’t pull any punches in telling us what the outcome was going to be and we all appreciated his honest compassion as he spoke with us. 

It’s now late in the fourth quarter and the Dukes were deep in Richmond territory with 1:00 to go. My husband asked me if I thought we’d try to score and I said yes. I said we have something to prove to the selection committee and we should get more points on the board. (Foreshadowing perhaps?) Instead the Dukes took a knee and the game ended with another key victory over the Spiders. 

The drive back to northern Virginia is a bit of a blur but it was great to have three hours when my biggest care in the world was whether Cole Johnson should really be running the ball that much and what was happening in the Fargodome. And that’s the beauty of sports. Sports can transport you from your reality for a few hours into something special. Something different. That is especially true at JMU. There’s something about being in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley that gets into your DNA and it’s like no other place. If this were the plot of a classic sports movie, the ending would have us winning it all in Frisco next month. That would be great. But for me the ending isn’t the point this season. The point is JMU football was around when I needed it most. Go Dukes!

Apr 21 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. VMI

All the talk about seeds and autobids is behind us. It’s time to look ahead to JMU’s first round playoff matchup with VMI. The Dukes welcome the Keydets to Bridgeforth this Saturday and we want to know how you think it will play out. 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!

Apr 18 / Rob

JMU Beats RU and Gets 3 Seed

Coach Cignetti and the Dukes took care of business and soundly defeated Richmond by the score of 23-6. While JMU has become accustomed to much larger margins of victory over the Ticks recently, this one was never in doubt. The Dukes D completely shut down Richmond’s offense. And the offense jumped out to an early lead, before grinding it out in the second half to secure the victory. The win capped an undefeated spring regular season for the #1 team in the land. The reward was a #3 overall seed for the playoffs. Alrighty then.

First up, let’s appreciate this win. JMU does not have the sort of “light it up” offense of recent years. What it has is a unit that limits mistakes, takes care of the ball, and ultimately wears the opposition down. JMU under Cignetti probably isn’t going to run up the score or rack up 70+ point wins like it did under Houston. Yesterday was a good example of that. The Dukes could have taken some bigger strikes or even tried to punch it late. But they didn’t. They stuck with what was working, took what RU gave them, and walked away with a dominant win.

Likewise, Cole Johnson is probably never going to reach the heights of some recent JMU QBs. But let’s give the guy some credit. Since assuming the starting role after temporarily losing his spot, he’s played with much more confidence. He’s making better reads and seems way more decisive. Sure, he’s not going to be a Payton Award Winner, but when he plays like he has the past two games, JMU can beat any team it faces.

And we suppose we should say something about the defense. It’s just dominant. Fans bemoan the fact that the pass rush isn’t near last year’s level, but JMU lost a couple of its most effective pass rushers ever. As a unit, this defense is getting the job done. Much of the social media chatter during the RU game was about how Richmond’s Joe Mancuso was a much better throwing QB than anyone expected. We agree. The kid looked capable and he possesses a good arm. JMU held him to 125 yards and 9 completions in 24 attempts. That’s an impressive showing by the D. Again.

As a reward for its dominance, JMU earned the third overall seed for the playoffs. In case you weren’t paying attention, JMU was the #1 overall seed when the committee released its preview rankings a few weeks ago. Then following a couple of impressive wins, JMU fell two slots to third. Predictably, that has many JMU screaming mad.

There’s a legitimate argument for South Dakota State and Sam Houston to be deserving of the top two seeds. But it’s harder to make one, when the committee releases the ridiculous (and utterly worthless) preview rankings with JMU on top. Just don’t bother. It servers no purpose. If all this flip-flop does is get JMU playing with a chip on its shoulder next week in its opening game against VMI, then maybe do release them actually.

Finally, the committee awarding four of the six at-large bids to teams from the Missouri Valley Conference is flat our ridiculous. It’s a good league, but any argument relying on “good” losses is flawed from the start. This year more than any other, it’s tough to judge teams from different leagues. So maybe a little more weight should have been given to actual wins. Teams can only beat the opponents on their schedules. The committee seemed to act like MVC teams with multiple losses deserved bids because they would have hypothetically won more games if they played in a league other than the MVC. At the same time, the committee completely devalued real wins in actual games played by teams in those other leagues. Do better NCAA.