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.


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  1. Mighty Oz / Sep 23 2023

    Insightful and wry, as per usual. Kudos for “…final score put some lipstick on that pig.” Hope the Aggie kid ain’t as good as the Wahoo young gun. One quibble: Don’t think USU is in the Pac12. Might be by next year, though! Thanks for keeping the written word alive!

  2. Gene / Sep 23 2023

    Chef’s kiss to the sly “Pac-12” and “survivalist friends from Pocatello” shade. The #CAA4Lyfe-type nuggets on easy targets like Flo Sports will always have a special place in my heart, but now that we ride in FBS it’s good that the snark has leveled up too. Well done.

    Regarding the actual game, in addition to a dub I’ll be thrilled with any outcome that doesn’t involve the opposing QB having his Heisman moment against our pass defense. I watched maybe 30 minutes of the UVA game last night and during about 27 of them the announcers referenced Colandrea’s exploits against us (other than being baited into the pick that threw us a lifeline and taking those bad sacks in the 4Q). Let’s keep USU’s new QB savant a prep school legend for another week, OK? Thanks.

  3. Rob K / Sep 23 2023

    Great summary as usual. Looking for a great game by the Dukes. Despite the injuries, I think our D-Line is the real deal.

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