Oct 18 / Todd

JMU @ Marshall: Official JMUSB Game #7 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (6-0, 3-0 Sun Belt) at Marshall Thundering Herd (4-2, 1-1 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. EDT, Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, West Virginia

Weather: Low 50’s, cloudy

Broadcast: ESPN (the main one!)

Boys in the Desert: JMU -3, O/U 52

How We Got Here

Marshall was humbled this past Saturday night in Atlanta by an underrated Georgia St. team 41-24. Looking at the stats, you wouldn’t have guessed the Herd lost by 17. And looking at Marshall’s season, it’s a mystery as well. They survived an FCS scare against Albany in Week One. Then whipped ECU in Greenville in Week 2 in a game that looked good at the time but looks bad now (ECU is really bad). Then they hosted and beat VT in a game that seemed underwhelming but looks better now (VT has improved). They hung on against another Jekyll-and-Hyde team in ODU in Week 4 to get to 4-0 and all things seemed rosy. A 48-41 home losst to NC State still seemed respectable (though it’s unclear if NC State’s offense exists outside of this game) but last week’s debacle at Turner Field now has them 4-2 and has a “passionate” fan base yelling at clouds and unsure how to feel headed into what looked a couple weeks ago like a marquee Sun Belt matchup.

JMU played it’s most complete game of the season. Coming off the bye, the Dukes put a good old-fashioned ass-whoopin’ on Georgia Southern in the ‘burg last week. JMU has undoubtedly played it’s best two games the last two times out, but we’re hesitant to say they’re fully “trending up” until we watch on Thursday.

How Marshall Can Win

Get JMU out of position and play more disciplined football than they have all year. Marshall has athletes all over the place capable of giving the Dukes fits, none more so than all-world RB Rasheen Ali. After missing most of last year, he’s back to his usual jaw-dropping ways and is such a focal point that defenses have broken down keying on him and let others loose at times this year. Ali has 4 100-yard games including a whopping 174-yard effort against the Hokies. Even the “big” defenses like NC State that the Herd have played have been susceptible to big plays when over-keying on Ali though and QB Cam Fancher (a very good athlete himself) has found ways to make big plays when teams get out of position. They’ll need to do the same against a young JMU secondary this week.

Defensively though there’s just no way to sugar-coat the fact the Herd have been “inconsistent,” some might even say downright undisciplined and at times you wonder if they’ve been coached at all. Harsh? Probably. But they’ve got to be better against this JMU team. FBS opponents have scored 31, 24, 41, 48, and 41 points against them so far. And those first two were absolutely hideous offensive teams in ECU and VT. The last three games, ODU, NC State (neither of whom would say offense is their calling card), and Georgia State have undressed the Herd with big plays and missed assignments. Again, on film play-to-play it doesn’t look Marshall is overmatched, but when they mess up, they go big. They simply have to play more consistently against a Dukes offense that’s finding it’s stride.

How JMU Can Win

Stay on script, run the ball, and stay disciplined on D. As mentioned above, the Herd have the athletes and playmakers to go toe-to-toe with anyone and JMU needs to avoid letting this turn into a herky-jerky shootout. Offensively, the Dukes need to build on last week’s promising performance in the run game as Marshall has been pushed around a bit to the tune of nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. If JMU can do that, they’ll control the clock and limit the chances for things to go haywire. And they’ll set up play-action where the Herd’s biggest weakness – falling asleep and being undisciplined – will show up and give up home runs.

On the other side, the Dukes need to do what they do and play sound. Marshall runs a ton of traditional RPO/misdirection stuff so individual defenders have to stay home and do their job both on the edge and in the backend. With a player like Ali drawing so much attention, it’s easy to be fooled and the Herd have hit big plays against everyone they’ve played when defenders get suckered. JMU needs to keep up the massive progress we’ve seen the last couple games in just doing their job. If they can do that, eventually Jamree, Carp, and the boys will get in the backfield and wreck shit.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

The Peddlar’s Silt Sucker IPA – if you’re making the trip to the Jewel City like we are you don’t want to miss The Peddlar – some of the best beers in the Mountain State just down the road from the Stadium in the commercial heart of Huntington. We’re usually suspicious of “hazy” and “fruity” from the real small-distribution spots cause sometimes that’s covering up the junk that leads to a headache but that’s not the case with these fellas. Wonder if the Huntington bars stay open later than usual for a weeknight when there’s a game in town?

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 31, Marshall 20 – Cool. Dark. Perfect.

One Comment

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  1. CJ / Oct 18 2023

    Looking forward to this game and feeling (cautiously) optimistic. Biggest factor in our favor is that we did NOT crack the Top 25. I believe that Top 25 ranking is more of a curse than a blessing…it’s a psychological distraction for us that’s hard to resist and it’s a motivator for our opponent. However, if we beat Marshall I think we’ll finally be ranked and that’s when I think our first loss will come.

    Also, not to underestimate Marshall, but JMU seems to be improving as the season goes on (which is the mark of a solid and well-coached team). Marshall also had more of a meat grinder of a game last Saturday, compared to a fairly easy one for JMU, which should weigh in our favor with both teams coming off a short week.

    The Thursday night game also clears my Saturday to do more productive things than spending 4 hours in front of the TV watching football.

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