Sep 19 / Rob

Dukes Pick Up Impressive Road Win at Weber State

The JMU Dukes took their longest road trip ever, flying all the way out to Ogden, Utah. And boy was the trip worth it. JMU took down a very strong Weber State team defeating the Wildcats 37-24. It was a hard fought contest between two very tough teams. Weber put together a couple of scores in garbage time, but the truth was that JMU pretty much dominated in the second half. Cole Johnson continued his hot play, completing 20 of 28 for 177 yards and 2 TDs. He wasn’t flashy, but he was efficient. Antwane Wells Jr. got banged up a little bit, but still managed to haul in 8 catches and score 2 touchdowns. The Dukes got contributions from all over in the running game behind some spectacular offensive line play. On defense, it was a physical effort that reminded a lot of fans of some of the “bend, but don’t break” Dukes D of the recent past. Overall though, the defense was pretty good and put the clamps on Weber before a couple of late touchdowns made the game look closer than it really was. Here are a few quick thoughts on the win.

O-Line Stepped Up

The offensive-line was the one position group that JMU fans were concerned about heading into this season. Of course, most people didn’t think the line would play poorly. It was more a concern about the depth and reliance on several younger players. Against Weber State, in a game that tested JMU’s depth at multiple positions, the offensive line had a fairly impressive performance. The guys opened up huge holes for the JMU running backs to push through and thoroughly dominated in the third quarter when JMU put the game away. When Liam Fornadel went down for the season, it created an opportunity not just for Tyler Stephens, but for the entire line to elevate its play. Through three games they have. And yesterday on the road against a top 10 team, they anchored the big second half push to secure the win.

Tough Opponents Mean Tough Games

The majority of the fanbase has complained for years about the Dukes’ lopsided affairs in out of conference play. The cries for more competitive games against top teams from other conferences have been pretty loud for a wile. Everyone says they want the Dukes to player fewer FCS minnows and more FCS powers. Well it turns out that playing tough teams make for tough games.

We realize that sounds pretty obvious, but based on the general anxiety of JMU twitter during the first half, it had to be said. The bar has been set very high for JMU football. Weber State is a top 10 team. This was arguably JMU’s best FCS regular season opponent since playing App State in 2008. Fans say they want competitive games, but it sure seems like what they really want is blowouts against more competitive teams. JMU was far from dominant in the first half, but the Dukes took advantage of some key Weber mistakes and held a comfortable 14 point lead at the break. A significant portion of JMU fans seemed underwhelmed though. And it wasn’t even particularly close. JMU turned it into a laugher after the break.

It’s great to have high standards. Football games are 60 minutes and there are no style points in the standings. And the Dukes did exactly what top teams do. They took everything a top opponent threw at them, persevered, and eventually pounced on opportunities to march to an easy victory. They’re not all going to be wire to wire blowouts.

The Bye Week Seems Pretty Clutch

JMU having it’s bye in September didn’t seem ideal when the schedule was published. It seems pretty ideal now. The Dukes took some serious lumps yesterday. Antwane Wells Jr. was hobbled and it looks like Kaelon Black could be done for a while. And the Dukes were missing several key players heading into the game. JMU has an old school CAA gauntlet on tap, with games against New Hampshire, Villanova, Richmond, and Delaware coming up. All four to those teams look good enough to make the playoffs, if not make a run. JMU needs to get healthy and stay focused in order to emerge from that upcoming four week stretch unscathed. The bye week is early, but it seems pretty perfect right about now.


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  1. Shrowder / Sep 20 2021

    Good write up. One thing I’ll disagree with: there actually *are* style points in the standings (i.e. playoff rankings). I hope the playoff committee is smart enough to realize that this was a dominant win, but I don’t have a ton of faith based on previous experience.

    It looks like SHSU will run the table, meaning we’re really fighting for the #2 seed. Does an undefeated record including a dominant win over Weber get us the #2 seed over a one-loss Montana/SDSU/NDSU? I don’t know. I think it will all depend on how the committee views this win in November.

    Go Dukes!

  2. CJ / Sep 20 2021

    I don’t have ESPN+ so I had to settle for listening to the game on WSVA live. Still, I thought it was a solid win and was a much more decisive victory than the score reflected. As I’ve said many times, the Dukes tend to rise to level of their opponent. It’s the games against Elon and such that push us to our limit.

    I know it’s early and there’s a lot of football left to be played, but this team is looking really good so far.

    Hope we can take advantage of the bye week before we start the CAA meat grinder schedule.

    What’s up with Percy?

  3. Rob K / Sep 20 2021

    CJ – I believe Percy has a hamstring injury, but defer to others who have more information.

    Overall – great win. Certainly the one play with the Weber QB tripping over his lineman and fumbling and the Dukes running it back for a TD flipped the game. I think we still pull away in the second half, but a tie game at that point certainly makes things a lot closer affair.

    Gutsy performance by Wells. He looked in pain and limping, but then when the ball was snapped, he was able to get the adrenaline going and still made great plays, just not the long runs down the field.

    While most of our RBs are banged up or suspended for a poor choice, I’ll say our healthiest option – Palmer – is someone that most teams would kill to have starting for their team. We’ll be in good shape as long as he’s healthy.

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