Nov 30 / Todd

JMU Seeks 5th Straight Awesome Coach

The Dukes have been through this before and we’ll go through it again. Being a coaching factory is stressful, but it means you’re winning. A lot. But here’s a snapshot of what the last four JMU coaches have done:

Mickey – Built the program, won the first Natty

Withers – modernized recruiting and fundraising; First Gameday

Houston – Won the second Natty. Locked the Gates! Second Gameday

Cignetti – 52-9, 19-4 in FBS transition, Third Gameday

The next coach has a program and a university that’s in an entirely different place than it ever was during any of those previous hiring cycles. So here’s an initial list of candidates, with notes but in no particular order (other than the categories themselves), to win the first official Sun Belt title and take the Dukes to the playoff!

Serious Internal JMU Candidates

These guys should be serious candidates and are potential coaching stars. They would likely stablize the current underclassmen and recruits. Is that worth it long-term if you’re unsure on any of them as the head of the snake? Would they rather be a HC than go for $ w/ CC?
Tino Sunseri – seems like a star candidate, ‘cruitin’, QB whisperer
Bryant Haynes – recruiting and D scheme, would need OC
Mike Shanahan – scheme great, not certain where he is on ‘cruitin’

Legitimate External Candidates

All of these should be taken seriously and have to be on any “long-list.” Question here is can/will JMU afford them and will they take a chance without a boss since Bourne is leaving? JMU offered to make Cignetti the highest paid coach in the Sun Belt and increase the salary pool for assistants. If JMU is serious, that should be enough for most of these guys.

Rich Rodriguez – HC Jax St., enormous track record, recruits this part of the country now
Chuck Martin – HC Miami, Oh – solid prospect, probably a better job but could we
actually pay him more than currently making?
Ja’Juan Seider – PSU RB Coach – absolute beast recruiter in the Franklin mold, should be on all
short lists
Joe Harasymiak – Rutgers DC, former Maine HC – Probably one of our favorite candidates in terms of skill
(we know he can flat-out coach from Maine days), age, and potentially wanting the job
Jerry Mack – Tennessee RB Coach, former North Carolina Central Head Coach – HC experience and
recruiting prowess that took him to Tenn.
Drew Mehringer – Oregon TE Coach – former JMU assistant under Withers, offensive guru,
young, ‘cruitin’

Tony Gibson – NC State DC – Incredibly exciting prospect, does he want to be a HC now?

Josh Gattis – Maryland OC – local recruiter, good coach, is his agent planting his name though?

Manny Diaz – PSU DC – definitely just wants to coach again. Great recruiter, will make Cig’s game mgmt look incredible though.

Trendy FCS Names

Getting players up from FCS with something to prove has been a great plan the last two years. Could it work with a Coach or does it end up like ECU?

Bob Chesney – Holy Cross HC

Clay Hendrix – Furman HC

Willie Simmons – FAMU HC

Fringier External Candidates
Alex Atkins – FSU OC – arguably #1 choice (recruiting, creativity, etc.) but makes way more
already and could be positioned for a bigger job next year.
Jerry Kill – HC New Mexico St., former HC App, poor man’s RichRod, gotta peek under the
hood, obviously has recruited the area and would piss off App sooo much!

Bobby Hauck – Montana HC – proven great coach, baggage

The Lunatic Fringe

Someone will bring them up; they would be shocking for JMU

Dana Holgerson

Both Grudens

Other JMU-ties Candidates

These guys are all going to be mentioned by JMU fans and boosters who know them and have an opinion. We mostly do not share those opinions.

Scott Lemm – HC Bridgewater, successful HC experience, bleeds purple, can he recruit at this level? Could another new guy convince him to come be OC/OLine/etc. first? Lots of other Dukes on his staff now/past

John Miller – JMU RB coach, time at Texas for ‘cruitin’

Justin Rascati – Vikings Assistant OLine, was Chattanooga OC so has been in college

John DeFilippo – USFL New Orleans Breakers HC; has been interested before; never recruited

DeLane Fitzgerald – HC, Southern Utah (FCS), former Frostburg St. HC

Blaine Stewart – Tight Ends Coach, WVU

D.J. Bryant – Penn St. Recruiting Coordinator

Dudzik, Schor, Hawkins are all starting out in the business

Stinespring – Roanoke College HC, for the 100th time, no.

Mike Houston – results speak for themselves, particularly once forced to build a roster

Our Personal and Early Uneducated Favorites

  1. Shanahan and/or Haynes and/or Sunseri
  2. Harisymiak, Gibson, Mack, RichRod
Nov 22 / Todd

JMU at Coastal Carolina: Official JMUSB Game #12 Preview

Quick Note from JMUSB HQ

We not only have the usual preview, but we’re thrilled to present a guest piece from current JMU student Annalee Hunniford all about last week from the student perspective. She wrote the kind of raw, unfiltered good shit we used to aim for but have slowly mellowed away from without even realizing it. When she reached out we were skeptical for a moment. But then we read it! And holy hell did it make us proud to be Dukes and so reassured about everything we’ve been saying on the pod about how these students are going to be an entirely different breed of JMU fan than anything prior to about 2015. Students now are fans from Day One and they bleed purple without any hesitation about hanging onto whatever shade of orange that may have been hanging in their childhood homes. Hope you love it as much as we did and enormous thanks to Annalee!

The Basics

Matchup: #24 JMU Dukes (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (7-4, 5-2 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EST, Brooks Stadium, Conway, South Carolina

Weather: 66, partly cloudy

Broadcast: ESPN2

Boys in the Desert: JMU -9, O/U 50.5

How We Got Here

JMU suffered the most heartbreaking regular season loss in program history last week and has spent the week with everyone from university leadership to fans like us handling it with the the maturity of a worn-out toddler being told to go to bed. Before the OT-winning TD, JMU was rolling through a dream season and regardless of postseason outcomes, it’s beyond frustrating to forget about all that greatness ON THE FIELD despite terrible rules outside our control or horrendously handled PR from our inside the house.

Coastal got beat into submission last week by an Army team that made a surprise return to the full triple option. But taking a closer look at Coastal, they’ve had a deceptively good year despite being without Grayson McCall for the latter half. With last week’s exception, their losses came early. At UCLA was understandable and the losses to the two SBC Georgia teams JMU stomped were also back when those teams knew how to play football. Before the loss at West Point, the Chants had won five straight SBC games @App, @Ark St., vs. Marshall, @ODU, and vs. Texas St. – all solid opponents and good wins. After McCall left the App game injured, they won the other four with two different QBs and generally have been solid in all phases.

How Coastal Can Win

One thing that seems obvious with Coastal the last two years over two coaching regimes is they only show up when they have to and when they have something at stake. Last week against Army had no bearing on their SBC East chances and they played like it. Last year at JMU was the same (plus their coach was leaving that week). But this week they have everything at stake (in no small part thanks to JMU leadership). Win and they not only clinch another trip to Troy for the SBC Championship game, but this year they would also do so without even the huge asterisk from last year as they’d be tied with JMU and App by record but have won it outright given wins over both. Lose and they could still get in with a Georgia Southern win over App, but that would be an even larger asterisk than last year.

On the field, they should probably just throw it over and over to school legend WR/TE sam Pinckney because as the Dukes have shown, their defense seems designed to give up 10 yard possession-style catches all day unless the rush gets home – something it hasn’t been able to do nearly as effectively since losing Jalen Green a few weeks ago.

Defensively is the spot where Coastal has been underatedly competent all year. As usual against JMU, the question is can you pressure McCloud enough for four quarters to prevent the nearly inevitable Brown/Sarratt explosive plays?

How JMU Can Win

Find motivation. That’s it. Simple gameplan questions for the Dukes this week as usual. On offense can they run the ball enough to keep the Chants honest and open up their explosive passing game? On defense, are they will to send more guys in the pass rush against a backup QB and risk playing more press-man coverage on the outside?

But none of that really matters if the players and coaches are still as devastated and distracted as us fans have been come Saturday. It definitely takes a few days to shake off a loss that tough, but the Dukes have to realize no matter what’s happened on the “eligibility” front, they’ll still remember this season waaaaay differently if they win this one to get to 11-1, win the East again, and finish ranked no matter what happens around the country in terms of bowl eligibility. And if things do break their way around the country this week (still a distinct possibility), making the program’s first ever bowl appearance at 11-1 will feel a hell of a lot better than 10-2.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – The OG. At turkey time, you want a little more malt flavor to pair with your leftovers even if you still love hops like us and this old standby will never steer you wrong.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 24, Coastal 23 – Most people outside of JMU fans (and even many of those) won’t realize this, but this would arguably be the most impressive win of the Cignetti era in terms of difficulty. Coastal is competent (meant as a real complement) at everything and playing for a legit East title instead of last year after an impressive turnaround midseason this year. JMU is trying to recover from having a tough loss and a letdown from the adults all around them that shouldn’t make this all so rough. But we simply believe in the 10-1 team more than the 7-4 team and guys like Lawton, Brown, and Kromah playing in their last regular season game with no guarantees beyond that aren’t going down without getting their teammates to fight.

Special Student Retrospective on All the Incredible Things From Last Week by Annalee Hunniford (Class of 2025)

Hello fellow dukes and friends!
My name is Annalee and i am a Junior here at JMU. It’s currently thanksgiving break
and i just got my wisdom teeth out yesterday, so please excuse any run on sentences
and random prose.
a quick intro
last Wednesday during my evening class, my professor was talking about an old
Harrisonburg bar called the “Highlawn Pavilion”. the glory in which he described this bar
peaked my interest because in 2023, the Harrisonburg bar scene is absolutely nothing
to write home about. therefore, i obviously had to google this bar, which landed me here
at Rob & Todd’s blog, on a guest article written about “the best short lived Harrionburg
bars”. i spent the better part of the 2 1/2 hour class reading their blog and imagining the
savory Harrisonburg social scene that i never got to experience. things are quite
different these days it seems; the bar scene is small and strict and the frat parties and
tailgates usually don’t last more than a few hours before getting busted. regardless, i
still have the time of my life every weekend. JMU is the BEST school and i will die on
that hill. BUT I DIGRESS… i come from an SEC family, so little ol’ freshman annalee
was determined to make the most of CAA sports, regardless of the “commie” vibes they
gave off. Fall semester of 2021, i was one of the only lunatic freshman standing at the
front of the basketball arena’s student section screaming and holding a sign depicting
“FUCK THE CAA”. you could catch me at every sporting event in head to toe purple,
carrying some random sign i scribbled in my dorm room. when JMU switched to the
SBC, that’s when things REALLY started to get good. as a then sophomore, i had more
freedom; a car, a job, an apartment with a tv….and the money to buy espn+ so i could
indulge in all the JMU Sports i wanted. thus began the mass frenzy of students and
commentators bugging the N*AA to LET US BOWL!
the calm before the storm
flash forward to November 2023. i don’t think i can put into words the excitement
coursing through the student body’s veins when we heard ESPN College Gameday was
coming to Harrisonburg. when the news broke across social media, my roommates and
i were shrieking in our living room; their enthusiasm stemmed from the impending arrival
of the Jonas Brothers, while mine was fueled by the anticipation of College GameDay
spotlighting our team as we prepared to whoop up on some ‘neers (or so i believed).
the only thing i’d kept from an ex-boyfriend during my freshman year was a 2017
College Gameday shirt from the last time ESPN graced JMU. i whipped that thing out
and strutted around campus while everyone asked me where they could get one. you
see, the excitement level was unparalleled because this recognition doesn’t happen to
us Dukes. until this year, we were overlooked by mainstream sports media. the
university’s stringent administration and local PD leave little room for revelry, and school

spirit suffers when students routinely leave games at halftime. when the news hit that
College Gameday was headed to Harrisonburg, all hell broke loose in the best way
possible. at the Pat McAfee show on Friday, Coach Curt Cignetti ignited a collective fire
within us as he vociferously criticized the NCAA for denying us a bowl game. perched
atop my tall friend’s shoulders, the crowd and i chanted “TALK YO SHIT” at Cignetti, a
slogan which i later made into my gameday sign. Pat in his sleeveless JMU Football
tank top was the most attractive and energetic motivator of school spirit we’ve seen yet.
that dude is something else!
my business fraternity friends and i decided we were going to host a 4am “marty”
(morning party) on Saturday. half of us camped out on the quad Friday night in hopes of
getting a spot in the pit, while the other half opted for an early bedtime, popping
melatonin at 7pm (myself included). the plan was simple; get to the party by 4am, rage
our faces off, then walk to the quad by 6am. my mom thinks i’m crazy, but this is the shit
i live for. after all, when else would it be socially acceptable to indulge in vodka
monsters at 4am?
when my alarm went off at 2:45am, i was UP & AT ‘EM. win or lose, the student
body was dedicated on that fine saturday morning. i was astounded at the marty’s
turnout. every Duke in town, past and current, was up and ready to fucking rumble.
even those unfamiliar with or uninterested in college football found themselves in town,
swept up in the infectious excitement ahh, there was an unmistakable energy
permeating the air this weekend.
picture this: it’s 4am and our downtown house is packed full of dukes, hokies,
hoos, and anyone who made the trip down 81 (because, at JMU, hospitality is our forte).
if there’s one thing i’ve learned from our less-than-ideal streak of 12pm kickoff regular
season games, it’s that in order to get people to show up before 9am, someone has got
to take one for the team and pick everyone up. so there i was, cruising down devon lane
in my soccer-mom Honda CRV at 3:45am, picking up anyone who was ready. one of
my friends hopped in the car sporting bloodshot eyes courtesy of yakking from a 3am
empty stomach tequila shot (i never claimed we were the brightest bunch). to my
satisfaction, the box of pancakes i had meticulously prepared the night before was
devoured within 30 minutes of my arrival. those pancakes were my feeble attempt to
ward off the fraternity’s inevitable 4am puking-from-drinking-on-an-empty-stomach.
there ain’t nothin’ more degenerate than blasting house music and being able to
stomach vodka and pancakes at 4am!
by 6am, the “marty” crowd had stumbled down to the quad. my white heeled
cowboy boots were stuffed with airplane bottles of pinnacle vodka, and we ripped one

last shot before bounding out the door. the dimly lit streets were aglow with people
adorned in all kinds of purple and gold. the quad transformed into an organized
madhouse of 26,000 people; a sight so beautiful and American that i shed a tear. having
attended nearly every sporting event at JMU over the past two years, i can attest that
nothing compared to the school spirit and infectious excitement that must’ve been
blowing through ESPN’s quad speakers. i pondered how the morning would go—would
the school and local PD let us revel in our fun, or would they clamp down as they often
do, in fear of the early 2000’s springfest riots surfacing again? as the sun started to rise,
it became evident that this crowd of dukes was going to stay planted on the quad until
tailgate time. i was both delighted yet surprised by how well everyone behaved, even
with hours of liquor in our systems.
my group and i secured a spot on the famed “kissing rock”, with an eye-level
view of the quad in all its morning glory. the rock lived up to its name when, at 7am, i
glanced over and saw my roommate unsteadily macking on some dude (isn’t that a bad
omen, to kiss on the kissing rocks? someone verify or deny in the comments please).
embracing my inner wannabe celebrity, i vlogged the whole morning and time stamped
each update. by 9am, the crowd was ROARING, prompting ESPN officials to declare it
the most spirited Gameday crowd they’d seen in years. when JMU wants to show out,
we show OUT! College Gameday encourages crowds to make and bring signs to hold
up in the background of the show. at JMU, the signs being held up depicted a wild array
of opinions, colors, and choice-words for the NCAA. to an outsider uneducated on
college football, witnessing the crowd might have suggested that JMU was playing a
team named “NCAA,” given the way the signs shit them. some of the best signs i saw, i
can’t even repeat here. the Jonas Brothers and Bailey Zimmerman took the stage
around 9am, performing just one song—a bit of a letdown, but i don’t think anyone was
there solely for their performance. personally, i would’ve been content with a local DJ
spinning hits all morning; the music wasn’t the primary motivation for this spirited crowd.
as game time drew near, the chants got louder. App State was going to hear
from us dukes, win or lose! on that beautiful Saturday morning, 26,000 diverse
individuals shared one commonality: we all bled purple. i’ve never seen JMU exude
such spirit, and while i’d like to believe it will happen again, we did break the Gameday
attendance record, so probably not. it was the most fun i’ve had in college thus far and
these memories will stay with me for life. i now understand the way my dad raves about
his alma mater’s football games and why i grew up in those colors. my future kids will
likely emerge from the womb wearing purple and gold. i’m not a writing major so i don’t
really know how to wrap this amateur article up, but i’ll leave you with a saying: ALL WE

UNTIL I FUCKING DIE, BABY. my face hurts now from the wisdom being extracted out
of my teeth, and with that, goodnight.

Nov 17 / Todd

App. St. at JMU: Official JMUSB Game #11 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: App. St. Mountaineers (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) at #18 JMU Dukes (10-0, 6-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 54, Mostly Sunny (smoke should clear Saturday morning)

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -9, O/U 55.5

Que Reid makes huge hit on App State wide receiver to end the 2022 game.
Ready for it?!

How We Got Here

With the exception of last week against a broken and soft Georgia St. team, the Mountaineers have played close games all season long. And when we say close games all season, that means regardless of the quality of the opponent. Lost in OT to a Top 20 UNC? Check. Needed a miracle to defeat SBC disaster ULM 41-40? Check. Lost on blocked FG return to a Mountain West team? Sure. Lost a hard-fought game to Coastal on a Tuesday? Also sure. From giving up 28 points to one of the worst teams in FBS in ECU to winning in Atlanta last week in a mirror image of JMU’s game from the previous week, there is no simple explanation for this year’s App team. In late October they were 3-4 and coming off back-to-back losses to Coastal and ODU and most folks up on the mountain were ready to fire HC Sean Clark. But App has won three straight SBC games (objectively not a murderers’ row in SBC terms with USM, Marshall, and Ga. St.) to get to 6-4 and, more importantly, 4-2 in the East that puts them legitimately back in the title race (they would technically be in the East race even if JMU was eligible though they’d need major help from Coastal both weeks). Even 10 games in, which is quite a sample size in college football, this team still is largely an unknown.

The Dukes on the other hand survived their tough 5-game September and then used the bye week at the start of October to start improving every week. Other than the moderate scare against rival ODU at Homecoming, JMU has managed more comfortable outcomes the second half of the season to date.

How App. St. Can Win

Keep Aguilar clean, get pressure on McCloud, and win the turnover battle. Aguilar and McCloud have nearly identical numbers and App has shown they can score when he has time. But when he’s been put under pressure, things have gotten squirrely for the ‘neers. App has to find a way to keep him upright to get their more explosive players downfield. Leaning on their running game with Nate Noel and co., or even one or two huge plays on the ground to soften things up, would go a long way against what is sure to be a creative (and crowd-insane) pass-rush from JMU. Defensively, App shouldn’t respect the run so much from the Dukes that they leave any stone unturned in terms of finding ways to pressure McCloud. The back end of App’s D simply will not hold up against this Dukes attack if they have to cover for more than 3 seconds.

Lastly, have we mentioned App plays every game close and can’t afford crucial turnovers?

How JMU Can Win

Run the ball enough, get pressure on Aguilar, and win the turnover battle. Sound a lot like the keys mentioned in the preceding section? Sure does. In JMU’s case, the only difference is the Dukes would be a hell of a lot better off if they can find even a little bit of consistency and positive yardage in the running game. That will slow App’s rush and give McCloud time. The thing Sean Clark and all the old heads in Boone don’t want to admit is that basically everyone (who doesn’t suck) has been able to score, frequently, on a team that used to be known for hardheaded defense. If the Dukes can maintain a tiny bit of balance, McCloud, Brown, Sarratt, Sproles, Horton, etc. will eventually explode on this team.

Defensively, the Dukes seem more likely to get a little funky with their pressures (think 3 down linemen but two backers coming or back to the End/Tackle stunts we saw run so successfully prior to last week’s vanilla scheme even without Jalen Green). If that works, that could provide the impetus for JMU to win the turnover battle, something equally crucial to both teams if this game is as close as every App game this year, and every game in this series, seems to be.

How This Game Will Really Be Won

We wrote the “how each team can win” sections as objectively as possible from an X’s and O’s standpoint. But now let’s all be honest with ourselves in light of the latest waiver denial for JMU. The only thing that’s going to determine the outcome this week is how the Dukes players respond to this latest bit of bowlshit. If the Dukes hang their heads for more than a heartbeat or let this distract them from the work ahead, App is (probably?) good enough to win. But if the Dukes choose Coach Cignetti’s “biggest chip on the shoulder ever” option? Well, let’s just say we enjoy the thought of the hellfire the Dukes may bring down on a not-exactly-vintage Mountaineers team.

JMUSB Beer of the Week


Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 38, App. St. 17 – The Dukes choose violence.

Nov 10 / Todd

UConn @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #10 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: UConn Huskies (1-8, Independent) at #21 JMU Dukes (9-0, 6-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 47, Sunny

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -24.5, O/U 48.5

How We Got Here

UConn got blown out at Tennessee. It was not unexpected but the final was a bit deceiving as the Vols scored three defensive/specials TD’s in the third quarter to really make it look silly. That’s really a microcosm of the Huskies’ season overall, which has them reeling at 1-8 for a team that has played very well at times. UConn hung very tough with NC State early on and choked away a win in a one-point loss to the same Utah St. team that JMU struggled to put away.

After an uneven first half, the Dukes absolutely rolled in Atlanta last weekend over a Georgia State team that crumbled after getting punched in the mouth. The win was great and continued to show that JMU keeps improving as it heads down the stretch. Unfortunately, the win was a bit tainted by the loss of Jalen Green.

In an odd scheduling quirk, this will be the second time this year the Dukes have played a team that just got blown out by Tennessee. UVA played a hell of a lot better against JMU in Week 2 than they had in their opener and it’s certainly possible UConn does the same.

Finally, in the big picture this is a fun matchup for old heads that remember these teams sharing a conference back in the Yankee/A-10 days of yesteryear.

How UConn Can Win

Stop beating themselves and hang in till the pressure builds on JMU. UConn rushing attack, led by Victor Rosa, has been solid and capable of breaking big runs in the outside zone scheme all year. JMU will be reshuffling the line after losing Green (and we assume moving Kromah outside full time while inserting Tucker/Bush in the middle alongside Carp) and the Huskies will be looking to take advantage of any potential confusion. But what UConn really has to do is stop beating themselves. Turnovers on offense and enormous plays given up in the passing game defensively have doomed many of their efforts this season. But if they can play a clean game and hang around into the second half, the pressure will build on a JMU team with so much on the line. We hate even typing this, but UConn is probably not even close 24 points worse than the Dukes as the line suggests, but the real question is can they be focused enough on the road in an odd place (for them) at this point in a long season?

How JMU Can Win

Put this team away when you have the chance. After sputtering a bit early, JMU didn’t hesitate to put its foot on Georgia State’s neck when the chance presented itself just after halftime last week and they’ll need to do the same this week. If the Dukes have a chance to put two scores between them and the Huskies, they need to take advantage this week. This will be UConn’s last shot to make noise nationally with only their FCS game and UMass remaining on the schedule and the Dukes cannot allow them to build belief as this game moves along.

There really aren’t huge scheme issues here. If the Dukes OLine continues giving McCloud time, the big plays over the top will come. Defensively, they need to be better against the run (including QB Roberson who is a capable runner) than they were last week but if they can force UConn into passing situations, the rush should feast even in Green’s absence this week. One of the most interested things to watch will be how the DLine adjusts this week. They’ll undoubtedly miss Green’s pure speed around the edge, but playing Kromah and Kamara outside with Carpenter and Tucker inside will actually make them “bigger” than they’ve been. With hopefully the continuously improving health of Taurus Jones and Jailin Walker at LB alongside Aiden Fisher, it’s possible the defense doesn’t “drop off” so much as simply change it’s approach and appearance the next three (or four?) games.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Commonwealth Brewing Company’s Superluminal West Coast IPA – We’ve been huge fans of Virginia Beach’s finest for years, but they’d gone so heavy on uber-hazy stuff (following Veil’s lead??) that we’ve been a bit more luke-warm on some new offerings. Not anymore! With the opening of their kick-ass new taproom in Fairfax City, we’ve gotten to dive a lot deeper on their full lineup without committing to expensive four-packs. And finding Superluminal was a true reminder of how excited we got when Papi Chulo and Marvolo were new. Go drink this.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 38, UConn 10 – We’ve been hesitant to pick blowouts, but while this may be close for a while, our expectation is the Dukes defense rallies after losing Green and is simply better than most of what the Huskies have seen this year.

Nov 3 / Todd

JMU at Georgia State: Official JMUSB Game #9 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: #23 JMU Dukes (8-0, 5-0 Sun Belt) at Georgia St. Panthers (6-2, 3-2 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EDT, Center Parc Stadium (Turner Field), Atlanta, Georgia

Weather: 64, Sunny

Broadcast: ESPN2

Boys in the Desert: JMU -5.5, O/U 54.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes survived an outstanding performance from rival ODU to maintain their perfect record. Even with all the noise around postseason issues, the Dukes themselves seem locked on just going 1-0.

Georgia State is another weird, somewhat inconsistent team. They were 6-1 and heading to their “semi” rival Georgia Southern (despite the Panthers success lately in the matchup, they’re unquestionably not Southern’s biggest rival so it’s a weird thing) for a big Thursday showcase matchup last week. They laid an egg in the first half, trailing 34-7 at one point. The Panthers made it a game after the half before throwing a hideus pick-six to erase their shot at a comeback. Georgia State’s other loss this year was a beatdown at home by Troy at the tail end of September. But they’ve beaten the Cajuns in a game they almost choked away, really ran it up on Marshall, won at Coastal back before the Chants’ turnaround, and won forgettable games early against Charlotte, UConn, and Rhode Island. Notably, they hung on in that first game against our old friends from Rhode-I thanks to one of the worst officiating blunders of the college season.

How Georgia St. Can Win

Replicate what ODU did spreading the Dukes out on D and make no mistakes. Last year Georgia St. jumped all over the Dukes in the first half but that was almost entirely JMU’s fault (two fumble return TD’s and another fumble on a kickoff that handed them 17 points) rather than something special from the Panthers. They can’t count on that to happen again this week, but the Panther’s still have studs at the skill positions and will almost certainly attempt to follow ODU’s gameplan from last week to find space for QB Darren Grainger and company.

Defensively, the Panthers HAVE to find a way to take advantage of JMU’s changes along the line and get pressure on McCloud. He had all day to throw last week and ODU’s secondary is way more consistent than Georgia State’s. Despite his fumble-six, Centeio threw it all over the yard last year running up 42 points. The Panthers need to speed Jordan up this year while maintaining their usually strong performance against the the run.

How JMU Can Win

Close faster on short passes defensively and whip asses up front offensively. ODU QB Grant Wilson was a bit of a surprise with how well he threw the ball last week, particularly to the sidelines on the short throws. Grainger is a much different proposition. On one hand, he’s absolutely more dangerous running (along with pretty outstaning back Marcus Carroll) if they can spread JMU into just a 6 or 7 man box. But after all this time as one of the SBC’s best players, he’s still inconsistent throwing the ball. The arm talent is there but you don’t have to look further than last year’s second half against the Dukes or last week’s game at Southern to know he still misses things at times. He also relies more on clear WR1 Ronald Lewis at times instead of taking what the defense really gives him. In a weird way, ODU’s lack of top-end skill position talent made this easier for them. This week the Dukes need to limit that short passing game to 3 yard catches rather than 7 or 8 like last week and wait for the opportunities on occassional bad throws.

On offense it’s a little tougher to figure out. Georgia St. is reasonably solid against the run and JMU prefers to throw anyways, but with a reshuffled OLine (again) and a Georgia St. team that will screw up eventually if you allow them to, we have to think the Dukes will simplify things a bit and try to grind on the ground. Our guess is we even see Latrele return to the fold this week.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Terrapin Beer Company Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout – At least for those of us watching from the Commonwealth, it’s finally gotten cold enough for stouts! Big game requires a big beer so what’s better than one of the true OG’s of the Southern craft scene, plus it’ll wake you up during nearly infinite ESPN2 game experience.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 35, Georgia St. 17 – The Dukes aren’t quite as high-flying as last year, but they aren’t going to implode in this matchup like they almost did last year and Jalen Green and the boys are going to be all over Grainger.

Oct 27 / Todd

ODU @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #8 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: Old Dominion Monarchs (4-3, 3-1 Sun Belt) at #25 JMU Dukes (7-0, 4-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. EDT, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 58, cloudy

Broadcast: ESPNU

Boys in the Desert: JMU -20.5, O/U 49

How We Got Here

ODU is so weird. And maybe…..good? You tell me what to make of this schedule:

36-17 loss at Virginia Tech, 38-31 home win over Louisiana, 27-24 home loss to Wake Forest, 10-9 homecoming win over something called Commerce, 41-35 loss at Marshall, 17-13 win at Southern Miss, 28-21 home win over App St.

Seriously, what the hell is that? If you can find a pattern you’re smarter than we are. The losses to Tech and Wake were better than they looked. The wins over Commerce and USM were so much worse than they looked. The offensive explosion at a Marshall team that JMU struggled to score against. And now a win over another inconsistent but dangerous (or not?) App team. Like, if they win the Wake game but lose the Commerce game (when TAMU-Commerce went for two and the win in the last minute) does it change our perception? Probably not. Just a strange, strange team who probably had their biggest win last week.

The Dukes dominated Marshall defensively in a weird Thursday night field position game to run their record to 7-0. That’s even more impressive considering JMU has clearly been playing it’s best ball the last three games and seems to be getting better as the season moves along.

How ODU Can Win

Normally we’d say find their running game on offense and make JMU one-dimensional on the other side. But really maybe the answer is “keep hitting big plays.” ODU has made plenty of big plays when they’ve been at their best this year and JMU was, at least prior to the last two games, often susceptible to giving up some headscratchers. No matter who is QB1 for the Monarchs when they have the ball, they simply cannot leave themselves in obvious passing situations. Nobody has really run on JMU, but so often a combination of field position and game situation has also led teams to abandon the effort too early. ODU, which has the most sacks allowed by any team in the country vs. the Dukes defense is a recipe for disaster (and covering a big number :)). But if ODU can find just enough in the running game (not even massive plays necessarily) to stay ahead of the chains and keep the DLine from simply teeing off on their statutesque QB’s, they might be able to pull JMU out of position with some of their creativity on offense (think misdirection, shovel passes, play-action, and even single-wing concepts at times).

Similarly, on defense ODU needs to focus on stopping the run and force JMU to be one-dimensional. The one aspect of the 2023 vintage for JMU that hasn’t fully joined the “complete team” concept that has grown through seven games has surprisingly been the Dukes rushing attack. Whether teams are simply keying on that or they’ve caught up scheme-wise to JMU’s quick-hitting running game, it’s been a mild disappointment given the talent and experience on the OLine and in the RB room. But JMU has never truly been forced to abandon the run – particularly given its fast starts and early leads – and that’s left room for explosiveness in the passing game. The Monarchs have to force JMU to throw – something they could be capable of with the SBC’s leading tackler Jason Henderson at LB – and hope they can make opportunistic plays.

How JMU Can Win

Do the job. That’s it. But this is Homecoming. It’s JMU Halloween. The Dukes are ranked again. The game’s on national tv again. Football commentators and attention-seeking politicians alike are using JMU to take shots at the easy target that is the NCAA. There’s concern about the postseason, next season, NIL, and playoff access. But those are all jobs for people who don’t wear helmets to worry about this week. It’s the jobs of student orgs and the Alumni Association to worry about Homecoming. Students’ (and the HPD) have the job of worrying about Halloween. The Media can worry about rankings. SID’s and the production team can worry about tv. Adminstrators can deal with the NCAA. And the Duke Club and Montpelier Collective can worry about NIL and next season.

The ONLY JOB for Homecoming for the fellas with JMU on the helmet is to WIN the football game. Last year the hype and distractions and fans showing their backsides yelling about postseason led directly to a three-game losing streak that started with a disappointing upset loss to Georgia Southern. This year’s team just needs to do it’s job. On paper this matchup heavily favors the Dukes in almost every meaningful way. The pass rush could be legendary (think playoffs against Soft Houston ’16 or SELA ’21) against the sieve that is ODU’s line. After losing star wideout Ali Jennings to VT’s NIL this year, the Monarchs don’t have a receiver with even 350 yards to date and it’s unclear if they can challenge JMU’s one “developing” area on defense. But for Dukes fans old enough to know better, the only other time ODU came to Bridgeforth, Taylor Heinicke lit JMU up in the second half and handed us one of the more painful losses of the past 25 years. If the team simply maintains its focus on the game and saves worries about all the other stuff for afterwards, there’s no reason to think the Dukes can’t dominate the way they did last year in Norfolk.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Founder’s All Day IPA. The obvious choice for a tailgate day this lengthy. It’s not cold enough yet for stouts and, despite our preferences, we aren’t choosing a Commonwealth Brewing offering against a 757 team. So make the easy, safe choice and go with the best combo of taste and low ABV found anywhere.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 38, ODU 17 – We’re nervous about the classic “trap game” here and the Monarchs “may” be making progress (is App good?), but the matchup seems too favorable to pick much different from last year’s game.

Oct 18 / Todd

JMU @ Marshall: Official JMUSB Game #7 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (6-0, 3-0 Sun Belt) at Marshall Thundering Herd (4-2, 1-1 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. EDT, Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, West Virginia

Weather: Low 50’s, cloudy

Broadcast: ESPN (the main one!)

Boys in the Desert: JMU -3, O/U 52

How We Got Here

Marshall was humbled this past Saturday night in Atlanta by an underrated Georgia St. team 41-24. Looking at the stats, you wouldn’t have guessed the Herd lost by 17. And looking at Marshall’s season, it’s a mystery as well. They survived an FCS scare against Albany in Week One. Then whipped ECU in Greenville in Week 2 in a game that looked good at the time but looks bad now (ECU is really bad). Then they hosted and beat VT in a game that seemed underwhelming but looks better now (VT has improved). They hung on against another Jekyll-and-Hyde team in ODU in Week 4 to get to 4-0 and all things seemed rosy. A 48-41 home losst to NC State still seemed respectable (though it’s unclear if NC State’s offense exists outside of this game) but last week’s debacle at Turner Field now has them 4-2 and has a “passionate” fan base yelling at clouds and unsure how to feel headed into what looked a couple weeks ago like a marquee Sun Belt matchup.

JMU played it’s most complete game of the season. Coming off the bye, the Dukes put a good old-fashioned ass-whoopin’ on Georgia Southern in the ‘burg last week. JMU has undoubtedly played it’s best two games the last two times out, but we’re hesitant to say they’re fully “trending up” until we watch on Thursday.

How Marshall Can Win

Get JMU out of position and play more disciplined football than they have all year. Marshall has athletes all over the place capable of giving the Dukes fits, none more so than all-world RB Rasheen Ali. After missing most of last year, he’s back to his usual jaw-dropping ways and is such a focal point that defenses have broken down keying on him and let others loose at times this year. Ali has 4 100-yard games including a whopping 174-yard effort against the Hokies. Even the “big” defenses like NC State that the Herd have played have been susceptible to big plays when over-keying on Ali though and QB Cam Fancher (a very good athlete himself) has found ways to make big plays when teams get out of position. They’ll need to do the same against a young JMU secondary this week.

Defensively though there’s just no way to sugar-coat the fact the Herd have been “inconsistent,” some might even say downright undisciplined and at times you wonder if they’ve been coached at all. Harsh? Probably. But they’ve got to be better against this JMU team. FBS opponents have scored 31, 24, 41, 48, and 41 points against them so far. And those first two were absolutely hideous offensive teams in ECU and VT. The last three games, ODU, NC State (neither of whom would say offense is their calling card), and Georgia State have undressed the Herd with big plays and missed assignments. Again, on film play-to-play it doesn’t look Marshall is overmatched, but when they mess up, they go big. They simply have to play more consistently against a Dukes offense that’s finding it’s stride.

How JMU Can Win

Stay on script, run the ball, and stay disciplined on D. As mentioned above, the Herd have the athletes and playmakers to go toe-to-toe with anyone and JMU needs to avoid letting this turn into a herky-jerky shootout. Offensively, the Dukes need to build on last week’s promising performance in the run game as Marshall has been pushed around a bit to the tune of nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. If JMU can do that, they’ll control the clock and limit the chances for things to go haywire. And they’ll set up play-action where the Herd’s biggest weakness – falling asleep and being undisciplined – will show up and give up home runs.

On the other side, the Dukes need to do what they do and play sound. Marshall runs a ton of traditional RPO/misdirection stuff so individual defenders have to stay home and do their job both on the edge and in the backend. With a player like Ali drawing so much attention, it’s easy to be fooled and the Herd have hit big plays against everyone they’ve played when defenders get suckered. JMU needs to keep up the massive progress we’ve seen the last couple games in just doing their job. If they can do that, eventually Jamree, Carp, and the boys will get in the backfield and wreck shit.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

The Peddlar’s Silt Sucker IPA – if you’re making the trip to the Jewel City like we are you don’t want to miss The Peddlar – some of the best beers in the Mountain State just down the road from the Stadium in the commercial heart of Huntington. We’re usually suspicious of “hazy” and “fruity” from the real small-distribution spots cause sometimes that’s covering up the junk that leads to a headache but that’s not the case with these fellas. Wonder if the Huntington bars stay open later than usual for a weeknight when there’s a game in town?

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 31, Marshall 20 – Cool. Dark. Perfect.

Oct 13 / Todd

Georgia Southern @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #6 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: Georgia Southern Eagles (4-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) @ JMU Dukes (5-0, 2-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: Noon EDT. Saturday, October 14, 2023, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 65, chance of showers all day though looks better for the second half. It’s gonna be fine and it’s always sunny in D-Lot so get your butts out there and go hard.

Broadcast: ESPN2

Boys in the Desert: JMU -6, O/U 59.5 (opened at Dukes by 3.5)

Mutliple Dukes sacking Richmond QB Aaron Corps in 2011
Jumping into the way-back machine for the type of QB pressure we hope to see this week!

How We Got Here

Both teams are coming off their bye weeks and should be fresh after outstanding starts to the season. The Eagles only loss was at Wisconsin in a game where they arguable played better than the 35-14 final indicates. Their lone SBC game was two weeks ago with a 38-28 win at home over Coastal.

How Georgia Southern Can Win

Carbon copy of last year’s game in Statesboro. A big play or turnover or three from defense and specials and just throw and throw and throw all over JMU’s to-date questionable back end. Essentially just outscore the Dukes in a shootout. No doubt that JMU’s commitment to stopping the run (a commitment that works btw) has also led to lots of doom and gloom from Dukes fans about the secondary. And no team is better prepared to take advantage of that from a matchup standpoint than this Southern team that averages 475 yards of offense by air-raiding it out with a solid QB and a bevy of receiving targets.

Defensively however, the Eagles will likely need to outperform the 140 yards/game they’ve been giving up on the ground if they want to maximize their offense’s opportunities. Especially on a potentially soggy day in the Valley they can’t just have to stop JMU from grinding drives and killing clock (not something the Dukes have done a lot of this year yet but still worth noting).

How JMU Can Win

Finish them. Get home to Brin. Be more consistent on offense.

First things first. Last year JMU jumped all over the Eagles early and had multiple chances to put them away before mistakes by the Dukes allowed the game to turn and then Georgia Southern got rolling offensively in the second half. If that sounds familiar, that’s because that’s exactly what JMU did against Utah St., Virginia, and to a lesser extent South Alabama, before the bye. If the Dukes start fast as they often have this year, they need to be ruthless in finishing the Eagles off.

Defensively we know the drill at this point. Eagles QB Davis Brin looks a whole lot like last year’s QB Kyle Van Trease. Given time he’ll kill you with his accuracy, his weapons, and the play design Georgia Southern is so clever about. But pressure changed everything we they went to Wisconsin, he got drilled a bunch, and ultimately threw a whole slew of picks. Kromah, Kamara, Carpenter, Green, and Tucker after a week of rest have to be looking forward to this one!

On offense JMU just needs to show more consistency. Yes it could be a shootout and they might need to be great. But even if it’s not quite as crazy as last year, the Dukes can’t afford a three- or four-possession stretch of 3 and outs. JMU has shown it can be explosive the last couple games; now the Dukes need to show they won’t disappear for an entire quarter or two and not abandon their running game.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Hardywood Great Return IPA – pains us to credit the folks with a themed beer for another state school, but this one just tastes good. And the fish motif seems apropos for a swimmingly good tailgate.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 37, Georgia Southern 17 – Lock. The. Damned. Gates!

Sep 29 / Todd

South Alabama at JMU: Official JMUSB Game #5 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: South Alabama Jaguars (2-2, 0-0 Sun Belt) JMU Dukes (4-0, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: Noon EDT. Saturday, September 30, 2023, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 65, morning showers then cloudy

Broadcast: ESPNU

Boys in the Desert: JMU -3, O/U 51.5

How We Got Here

South Alabama has had a roller-coaster start to the season. Got blown out by Tulane in the most anticipated G5 matchup of Week 1. Turned around a couple weeks later and looked dominant in a beatdown of Oklahoma St. in Stillwater. Then went home last week, fell asleep, and got upset by Central Michigan. In other words, hard to know what to make of this edition of the Jags just yet.

Dukes also fell asleep but prevented South Al’s full capitualtion out at Utah St. last week to escape this three-game road trip to start the season relatively unscathed.

How South Al Can Win

Feed their star WR Caullin Lacy over and over and over. And do enough in the run game with La’Damian Webb to keep the Dukes honest while feeding Lacy all those times. The Dukes haven’t shown the ability to even cope with a true star WR1 yet this season, particularly when they’re moved around and hunting matchups with DB’s not named Logan or Coles. This week is no different and as much as Head Coach Kane Womack loves to be all old-school “establish the run” guy, this week he probably needs to chuck it to Lacy and challenge the Dukes to stop it.

How JMU Can Win

Keep developing the offense’s explosiveness but not turn the ball over. Last week we saw an offense starting to click. We all worried about whether the offense could approach what we’ve seen in recent years early on this season. But after seeing 500 plus yards and huge plays all over last week, maybe we all forgot a bit that McCloud was starting for the first time in a couple years and essentially the entire receiving core was brand new. With a few game under their belt together, we saw all the potential for this group last week even though it was overshadowed in the moment by the turnovers. What could this offense do now with say, one turnover instead of four?!

Defensively, just cover Lacy and otherwise keep doing what you do up front.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Solace Thunder Buddy. Another IPA in a purple can? Why yes thank you.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 27, South Alabama 23 – Should be a dandy!

Sep 22 / Todd

JMU at Utah St.: Official JMUSB Game #4 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) at Utah St. Aggies (1-2, 0-1 Pac12 ;))

Kickoff: 8 p.m. EDT. Saturday, September 23, 2023, Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium, Logan, Utah

Weather: 55 and dropping. Logan is in northern Utah, nearly to Wyoming and Idaho, and late September is deep fall. 6 p.m. local kickoff looks like perfect football weather.

Broadcast: Mountain West Network (free stream from what we can tell availalbe directly through the link on JMU’s schedule page; also there’s an app on Roku and AppleTV (which is unhelpful for LG Tv’s but you should be able to cast it from your iPhone)

Boys in the Desert: JMU -6.5, O/U 52.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes survived an absolute battle down in the deep south, hanging on for an important 16-14 dub at Troy last week. The Dukes have managed to get out of the first two legs of this rare and difficult three-game road trip.

The Aggies have had an odd schedule that is very hard to take much away from, destroying a bad FCS team – their neighbors just up the road Idaho St. – in Week 2, bookended by losses to two stronger teams. USU hung tough with Iowa in week 1 but sort of self-destructed with FIVE personal fouls and a few turnovers in an otherwise respectable 24-14 loss. Last week they got run out of Colorado Springs on a rail by an underrated Air Force squad who buried them 32-7 by halftime even if the final score put some lipstick on that pig.

How Utah St. Can Win

Ride the passing-game hope generated by true freshman QB (and alleged Aggie savior) McCae Hillstead to outscore a potentially tired Dukes team on a long trip at altitude. Like Virginia’s Colandrea, Hillstead is a true freshman that has generated all kinds of hype after entering last week’s game at Air Force and throwing three touchdowns, albeit in a mostly meaningless second half after trailing huge early. Unlike Colandrea, who was relatively unheralded, Hillstead has been the great hope for hardcore Aggie fans since the day he commmitted after becoming something of a Utah high school legend at Skyridge HS. (Speaking of Utah high school ball, wonder if the in-house streaming broadcast will talk as much about prep ball as the Weber St. team did a couple years ago – “Copper Canyon!” iykyk) But much of the passing game flows through Senior WR Terrell Vaughan, and JMU has to find a way to slow him down after struggling to contain top targets the last two weeks.

Otherwise it’s hard to know much about what Utah St. really wants to do offensively as they’ve been forced to throw in two games when trailing big and racked up a gazillion rushing yards against their survivalist friends from Pocatello. Good luck to them if they want to run on the Dukes this week though.

Defensively, they need to avoid allowing JMU a fast start and hope the Dukes stay conservative like they did last week.

How JMU Can Win

Focus. Utah St. is good, not great. Playing a Mountain West school is both fun and unusual. But with two emotional wins in the rearview and a huge matchup finally back at Bridgeforth next week against South Alabama, the number one item on JMU’s board this week has to be focusing on what’s required to win this game in the moment. A faster start offensively would go a long way to making that possible. JMU doesn’t need to go crazy or anything, but if the Dukes can distance themselves by two scores at any point, thus allowing them to run the ball on offense and turn the monstrous DLine loose on the freshman…..that’s likely a tasty recipe. Focus also extends to taking care of the football and avoiding hideous penalties, both of which JMU did a solid job of last week at Troy.

Defensively, JMU needs to keep steadily improving. Last week was better than UVA. On the surface Troy still racked up passing yards. But looking closer it’s hard not to notice a considerable amount of those yards were on perfectly timed back-shoulder throws and the like between a veteran QB and a couple solid receivers. Put simply, if JMU is going to be the best rushing defense in the country, that particular brand of passing play is going to be availalbe to those teams capable of hitting it. But that ain’t most teams and it remains to be seen whether another new young QB can do it this week.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Avery Brewing’s The Reverend Belgian Quad – As with most middle-aged (it’s eerie how quickly I’m wondering about when I won’t even be able use that descriptor anymoe!) beer geeks, we’ve finally found our way to all things Belgium. And while we appreciate the efforts of American brewers to replicate the classics, most of them aren’t even on the same figurative continent as, say, a St. Bernardus 12. But Avery, aptly located in the new capital of college football (Boulder), has one of the best versions we’ve found. And an 8 p.m. kickoff on a rainy fall evening in the Commonwealth where we hope another random streaming network holds up for all four quarters is the perfect time to break out this monster.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 30, Utah St. 20 – Offense makes progress even if this is closer than we’d prefer.