Dec 2 / Todd

2021 FCS Playoffs Round of 16: Southeastern Louisiana at JMU

And just like that, the last ride in the FCS playoffs is here for the Dukes. And while we don’t want to admit it, that’s a scary prospect for fans. Obviously we all have hopes of going out a winner in Frisco in a rematch with Sam or Villanova in January. And realistically given this teams limitations in the running game and the difficult path the Dukes will face on this side of the bracket, many fans could probably at least hold their heads high on the way out after a big fight in a semi-final ending in Fargo. But woof, a Withers/Houston-esque Liberty or Colgate pratfall at this early stage with many fans barely aware the playoffs have started would suck. Like really really suck. We’re bullish on JMU’s chances this week, but this opponent does have the tools to make this more than a hail-mary possibility.

Before we get into things, a few quick notes on Southeastern. First, they officially prefer to be called “Southeastern.” When abbreviated, they’re touch about being “SLU” instead of “SELA” but SLU is the St. Louis Billikens for college fans and they’re just wrong. SELA is in Hammond, LA, a small town down in the boot north of New Orleans and east of Baton Rouge.

A cool thing about their home, Strawberry Stadium, is that it was initially built as one of President Roosevelt’s WPA projects back in the 30’s. Another fun fact in this game is that Dukes RB/DB Austin Douglas’ brother Justin is a DB for the Lions so you know there will be some chatter amongst players and a general lack of fear both ways.

SELA ain’t seen a guy like this

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (10-1, 7-1 in that league) vs. Southeastern Louisiana Lions (9-3, 6-2 Southland)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST. Saturday December 4, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: Mostly Sunny, High 59 – by Rocktown standards, a bluebird December day!

Broadcast: ESPN+

FEPO: Opened at JMU-14.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes received the #3 national seed in the FCS playoffs and had a bye last week.

The Lions beat the snot out of a rare SWAC at-large selectee Florida A&M last week 38-14. SLU ran a fake FG for an untouched TD on their first drive and never looked back at home in Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, LA last week to advance.

How SLU Can Win

Get into a shootout and outscore a JMU team that has shown a penchant for clamming up in the red zone. 6’7″ Lions QB Cole Kelly is a former 4-star recruit who transferred from Arkansas and won national player of the year honors in the Spring season. He spreads the ball all over the place to a deep core of pass-cathers (10 guys have at least 200 yards this season) spread out among WR, TE, and RB. Kelly is also the team’s leading rusher but that says more about the absolute lack of care for running the ball as a team than it does about his lumbering runs. SLU leads the nation in most offensive categories with a creative scheme that utilizes the absolute weapon they have at QB.

But defensively the Lions are another story. Every “big” game on their schedule has been an absolute shootout win or lose. 45-42 loss to FBS La. Tech. 58-48 win and a 45-42 loss to Southland rival Nicholls (don’t ask about Southland’s weird schedule after Sam Houston bolted for AQ7 this season). 55-52 loss to playoff team UIW and a 38-35 win over McNeese. While the defense appeared to play well in last week’s playoff opener, we won’t know till Saturday whether that reflected improvement by Southeastern or ineptitude from an overmatched and maybe-not-playoff-quality FAMU squad. Most likely the best the Lions can hope for is shutting down the Dukes predictable running game and finding a turnover somewhere.

How JMU Can Win

Tackle and play smart. Defensively, this is an intriguing game for a JMU team accustomed to truly shutting teams down. If that’s not entirely possible, and the film suggests it’s unlikely, the Dukes need to do the small things they don’t usually have to worry about as much. First, tackle tackle tackle. SELA does a ton of short passing in every direction and five yard completions need to be five yard gains, not 15 or more after missed tackles. Secondly, the Dukes need to be smart in the penalty department. Obviously, there will a focus on, and opportunities for, absolutely getting after the QB but late hits and targetings won’t help. And the Lions have shown a willingness at times, especially when challenged, to run the “all-PI” offense where they chuck it downfield and force DB’s to make plays. This was successful last week and JMU DB’s, particularly corners Greg Ross and Taurus Carroll, need to try everything they can to be aggressive without giving away free first downs.

On offense it’s simple – FINISH! There’s a not-unrealistic argument to be made that if the Dukes ever punt in this game against this defense it’s a failure. There’s an even stronger case that JMU should NEVER be settling for FG’s in this game if they plan to win. That’s it, across the goal line no matter what.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Vanish Ghost Fleet IPA. Time to step it up with libations worthy of playoff games and this dark, cold, and perfect IPA fits the bill. Just love Vanish and their homegrown hops so much.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU puts this one away with a couple big plays from defense and specials after a nervy first three quarters. 45-31 Dukes!


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  1. CJ / Dec 2 2021

    A few factors make me fairly confident (as much as possible with this often unpredictable team) that JMU will win and move on to the next round:

    1. The bye week. It’s a huge factor that might be forgotten about. This 4-round playoff tournament is a meat grinder, especially after an 11-12 game season. It’s why you rarely see a team make it to Frisco without that first round bye. The wear and tear and physical toll of a 4 round tournament is one of the main arguments against doing in the FBS. Granted, SELA had a relatively easy game last week, but the Dukes are still at an advantage having the valuable off-week.

    2. The travel. Not as big a factor as Montana will have next week traveling to Harrisonburg, but it’s still a factor. And its another burden for SELA to take on. I’m not saying our loss last Spring to SHSU was wholly attributed to us making the trip down to Texas, but it sure didn’t help.

    3. Talent. SELA is good, and has talent. JMU just has more. If JMU can sustain a solid effort (especially when that ominous third quarter comes!) SELA just won’t be able to keep up.

    Despite my confidence that we’ll win, I still have my concerns and will be watching closely. Obviously our secondary will be on the hot seat, SELA will be going at them hard. Also, regardless of the score up to that point, the second half will be crucial. William and Mary recently showed how quickly a game can flip within a minute or two after JMU loses focus. Even if we manage to squeak out a sloppy win, there’s no way we’ll be able to do that against Montana the following week.

    Also, before I hear too many crickets chirping, anyone know a good spot in the DC area where I can watch the game? I’m trying to avoid buying an ESPN+ subscription.

  2. Gforce / Dec 2 2021

    Good analysis. Suck it up and buy the ESPN+ subscription it will come in handy next year.

  3. Rob K / Dec 3 2021

    CJ – usually Mister Days in Clarendon will have the game. I’m reasonably confident that our pressure from the o-line will be more than this QB has seen all year. It’s a lot easier to spread the ball around when you are not on the run.

    I’m less excited about the fact that our center just apparently dropped out and entered the transfer portal on the eve of the game. Especially since our starting center was already out for the season.

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