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.


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  1. Rob K / Apr 26 2021

    Well said. Also, if Johnson doesn’t throw the interception on the fade route, and they just run the ball into the endzone instead, then the entire narrative of the game is very different even though the result is the same.

    During the regular season, I was very nervous about having Johnson as QB1. Going into this game, I was very nervous about having Johnson as QB1. But going forward, I want Johnson as our QB. It’s not because of anything he did in this game. But the nature of his play and his risk taking means that he can win any game against any opponent. He can also lose any game against any opponent. The lose part is a bigger downside against weaker opponents during the regular season. But we’re only playing top teams from here out, and I want his upside even with the risk that he may throw us out of the playoffs because he can also throw us into the championship. Let’s do this!

  2. CJ / Apr 26 2021

    I get it. Survive and advance. VMI showed a lot of grit and heart. A win is a win.

    However, here’s the elephant in the room that can’t be ignored too much longer: North Dakota is on a whole new level than VMI… or Elon, or RMU. North Dakota is LEGIT. These guys have everything VMI brought, plus a ton more talent, size, depth, and capabilities. And they are battle tested against some of the FCS’s best.

    On paper, JMU can match anything North Dakota can bring. The question is, can they put everything together and play up to their capabilities? Thats a big unknown. Our best opponent this year has been Richmond. We’ve had some solid wins, but we haven’t yet seen any lights out performances that are characteristic of a championship team. And several inferior teams have provided far too many blueprints for success against us.

    Nevertheless, this matchup with North Dakota is what fans love. I hope JMU shows us something we’ve haven’t seen yet. No more inferior opponents, it’s all heavyweights from here on out. Let’s hope they rise to the occasion and play up to the level of their competition. If so, it will probably be something similar to the Weber State game in 2017.

    On a similar note, Delaware struggled against Sacred Heart. Blue Hen fans should have the same concerns…if a team like Sacred Heart can give your first team lineups all it they handle, it’s usually not a sign that you’ll go too far in the playoffs.

  3. CentennialDuke / Apr 26 2021

    The name of the game is survive and advance. Even the Blue Hens need to forget about last week because it doesn’t matter any more. I don’t think VMI has/is getting enough credit for the season they put together. VMI will be the SoCon champs again in the Fall. JMU could have easily lost this game but forget about it like a shooting guard does when he bricks the previous shot. All that matters is beating North Dakota.
    I have been so proud of Cole, what character to essentially have your job taken away and then play your best game because your replacement is in COVID protocol and win your job back. Gage has amazing character also and we are lucky to have both guys. I can’t wait to see Gage be the “MAN” but right now Cole is our guy. I like seeing Gage come in for runs, trick plays, etc. (hopefully they do it more) With the two guys we have at QB it seems they always stay focused.
    You don’t have to be the best team in the history of your program to win a championship, you just have to beat the team on the other side of scrimmage. Coach C will have the team ready to compete, Go Dukes!

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