Sep 7 / Todd

JMU at UVA: Official JMUSB Game #2 Preview

Hoping for a few moments like this!

The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) at Virginia Cavaliers (0-1, 0-0 ACC)

Kickoff: Noon EDT. Saturday, September 9, 2023, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA

Weather: Isolated thunderstorms, high 85. Looking promising that storms will hold off till after the game but going to be moist and humid regardless.

Broadcast: ESPNU

Boys in the Desert: JMU -7 (damn right you read that correctly!)

How We Got Here

First, the narrow view:

The Dukes beat FCS Bucknell 38-3 despite a massive struggle offensively through nearly 3 quarters. JMU fans, including us, have said all that needs to be said about the QB issue this week, but after a promising few drives from Jordan McCloud, the hope is he’s ready for a return to the bigger stages he played on at Arizona and USF. JMU received the same single vote in the AP poll this week that it did in the preseason as they begin the toughest stretch of their season (@UVA, @Troy, @Utah St., South Alabama).

Virginia was forced to start off their season in Nashville against Tennessee for an allegedly “neutral site” game. As expected, it did not go well with the Hoos getting boatraced 49-13 but it’s hard to draw conclusions based only on an actual road game against one of the nation’s best teams.

But this game requires a much broader view of how we got here that’s significantly more important than anything on the field from Week 1:

For the Dukes, it’s been four decades of hoping for this game to take place. Funny story, but Gary Clark once returned two kicks for TD’s in a Dukes win in the early 80’s and the Hoos have ducked scheduling this new-blood from just over Afton mountain ever since. Virginia has had no problem playing (and sometimes even losing to) old-south rivals from Williamsburg or Richmond over the years, but heaven forbid they allow these new-money usurpers in purple near the veranda. That said, if you had told us ten years ago this game was taking place, we would’ve been at our absolute worst and most obnoxious headed into this game (think WVU at FedEx). But for two reasons, we’re not even considering that approach this week. First, and least important, the Dukes are favored in the game and we’ve become accustomed to winning football over the last decade while UVA has wandered the wilderness of the bottom-half of a watered down ACC all that time. Although this matchup will certainly bring out more casual fans from both teams than usual, the real ones in both purple and orange know this isn’t your old-school FBS/FCS matchup we would’ve thought not all that long ago.

But most important of all, this is Virginia’s first home game since the murders of three players last November. This weekend, the UVA community will be celebrating the lives of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry. We encourage Dukes fans to read AD Jeff Bourne’s important message from this week. While we’ll be running our mouths with some good-natured trash-talking Friday night and Saturday morning, it certainly won’t have any venom in it like, say, NDSU in Frisco. And we’d venture to guess the trash-talking will be between friends and family members you’re attending with as much as any random strangers in different color shirts. We’ll scream ourselves hoarse during the game for sure, and probably even use a few choice words at times, and should the Dukes prevail, there’s no doubt we’ll celebrate robustly downtown well into the evening. But it will be with a heavy heart and great empathy for those same friends and family members who are a part of the Hoos community.

How Virginia Can Win

Muck It Up. With questions at QB, other important players injured or just returning from injury, and an offensive line that struggled in Week 1, a shootout with the Dukes is likely not the way to a fun afternoon for the “home” team. Starter and Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett injured his non-throwing shoulder and has been listed as day-to-day. If he plays, does he hold up and can the Cavs run their full offense if his running is limited? If not, it’ll be true freshman Tony Colandrea forced into action against a Dukes defense that showed almost nothing on film last week and seems likely to be substantially more versatile this week. A couple TE’s were nicked up last week in Tennessee as well so it’ll be interesting to see how aggressive UVA is willing to be at least as long as this game’s close.

Defensively, UVA held their own a bit better, at least through the first half against the Volunteers. And they could get reinforcements this week in DE Chico Bennett, Jr. and S Antonio Clary who have been practicing this week after being held out of Game 1. But Tennessee also missed some huge opportunities by turning the ball over and outright dropping a sure touchdown after the Cavs were beat deep.

If UVA is to pull the upset, it sure feels like a messy grind of a game (and the weather could help here too if it turns ugly) in the 17-16 or 20-13 range is their best bet. Use the emotion of the day and the fear of an awful September (they have Maryland and NC State next before a soft landing at last with BC) to hang in this game no matter what. Even with JMU’s own concerns at QB, a track meet against the Dukes O-Line and skill players feels like a recipe for disaster.

How JMU Can Win

Make the plays that are available in the passing game. It would also be great to see JMU continue the Special Teams sharpness (especially if there is wet weather) we saw in Week 1 and we’re confident the Defense will come to play even if they give up a couple big plays. But the most important thing for the Dukes is to make the basic plays through the air offensively. If McCloud can take what’s available and keep the UVA defense honest – even if there aren’t flashy plays downfield – than the running game will eventually find its groove with JMU’s talented and veteran groups on the OLine and in the backfield. When McCloud came in the game last week, it was just as important when he made the simple throw to Horton, thus backing a couple defenders out of the box, as it was when he hit the highlight reel to Brown later on. Avoiding huge mistakes and being able to patiently await them from this UVA team that’s still finding its way would be just fine.

Defensively, we saw JMU challenge Bucknell at the line and dare them to throw. To the Bison’s credit, they hit a few plays in the first half against this setup, but at some point that broke down and we don’t expect anything different this week. While it’s obvious the Cavaliers have considerably more talent than Bucknell, the gameplan against a limited QB or a true freshman is likely the same. Throw your firepower at stopping the run (look for bigger impacts this week from James Carpenter and Tyrique Tucker inside and Chukweneke/Reid at the Rover spot) and force passing situations whenever possible. UVA likely won’t avoid Chauncey Logan’s side like last week so we’re excited for a possible huge play at some point from the sophomore corner.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Commonwealth Brewing’s Papi Chulo. Seems fitting to have the one of Virginia’s best breweries be so aptly named for this one and taste so good all in a purple can! You could also scrap the beer and make it a mimosa morning. Certainly fits the vibe “on grounds” and honestly, this matchup is truly worth celebrating!

Official JMUSB Prediction

Dukes 31, Cavaliers 17 – This one is back and forth for a good while, but JMU finds a few more big plays and the Cavs offense can’t keep pace over four quarters.


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  1. CJ / Sep 8 2023

    I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this game. Obviously, we’re all sensing a milestone win against that big elephant in the state who always seems to get the attention. UVa is certainly a struggling team. This is understandable given last year’s tragedy, but they’ve struggled on the field for quite sometime before that as well. Nevertheless, they have talent and I’m sure they see this as a very winnable game for them. UVa, like many of the other teams we face here in FBS, can come out flat against subpar opponents and then show flashes of brilliance against top tier squads.

    I think the key is going to be QB. Last year we were pretty solid in all aspects of the game, but Centeio was a game changer. He made all the difference with his dual threat versatility…and that was just too much for most of our opponents to handle. This year, of course, theres a big question mark at QB. I was hoping McCloud would be Centeio 2.0, but both he and Barnett were underwhelming vs Bucknell. Hopefully that game was an outlier and not an indication of how their seasons will turn out. Luckily for us, UVa isn’t necessarily rockin things at the QB spot either.

    One big edge we have is coaching. Despite lamenting Mike Houston’s departure a few years ago, history has proven me wrong and I’ve become Coach Cignetti’s biggest advocate. After last season, and that historic App State win especially, to keep his squad focused and driven under adversity, to identify and make the adjustments against teams and win, that’s just excellent coaching. Cignetti is a very good QB coach as well, so I trust that he will develop McCloud or Barnett to their full potential.

    I’m not a big prediction guy, but I’m expecting a slow start on both sides, with JMU eventually making the right adjustments, settling down, and finding their rhythm to take control and win in the second half.

  2. Hart Foundatiom / Sep 8 2023

    I would love for the Dukes to get an early lead and play from a position of power grinding the Cavs down with the running game.
    JMU wins this game as long as it doesn’t hand it to UVA on a silver platter with careless turnovers. Protect the ball, win the game.

    JMU 24
    UVA 20

  3. Rob K / Sep 8 2023

    I’ve been looking forward to this game for the past 20 years. Too bad that it had to happen this year when I think we would have crushed UVA if we played between 2016-2022. But I still think we have the better squad, and I’m looking forward to running all over them. I’m in section 109 – row ZZ and I’ll be with two of my three boys. I’m trying to convince them that JMU is far superior than the Whos down in Who-ville.

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