Nov 17 / Todd

App. St. at JMU: Official JMUSB Game #11 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: App. St. Mountaineers (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) at #18 JMU Dukes (10-0, 6-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 54, Mostly Sunny (smoke should clear Saturday morning)

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -9, O/U 55.5

Que Reid makes huge hit on App State wide receiver to end the 2022 game.
Ready for it?!

How We Got Here

With the exception of last week against a broken and soft Georgia St. team, the Mountaineers have played close games all season long. And when we say close games all season, that means regardless of the quality of the opponent. Lost in OT to a Top 20 UNC? Check. Needed a miracle to defeat SBC disaster ULM 41-40? Check. Lost on blocked FG return to a Mountain West team? Sure. Lost a hard-fought game to Coastal on a Tuesday? Also sure. From giving up 28 points to one of the worst teams in FBS in ECU to winning in Atlanta last week in a mirror image of JMU’s game from the previous week, there is no simple explanation for this year’s App team. In late October they were 3-4 and coming off back-to-back losses to Coastal and ODU and most folks up on the mountain were ready to fire HC Sean Clark. But App has won three straight SBC games (objectively not a murderers’ row in SBC terms with USM, Marshall, and Ga. St.) to get to 6-4 and, more importantly, 4-2 in the East that puts them legitimately back in the title race (they would technically be in the East race even if JMU was eligible though they’d need major help from Coastal both weeks). Even 10 games in, which is quite a sample size in college football, this team still is largely an unknown.

The Dukes on the other hand survived their tough 5-game September and then used the bye week at the start of October to start improving every week. Other than the moderate scare against rival ODU at Homecoming, JMU has managed more comfortable outcomes the second half of the season to date.

How App. St. Can Win

Keep Aguilar clean, get pressure on McCloud, and win the turnover battle. Aguilar and McCloud have nearly identical numbers and App has shown they can score when he has time. But when he’s been put under pressure, things have gotten squirrely for the ‘neers. App has to find a way to keep him upright to get their more explosive players downfield. Leaning on their running game with Nate Noel and co., or even one or two huge plays on the ground to soften things up, would go a long way against what is sure to be a creative (and crowd-insane) pass-rush from JMU. Defensively, App shouldn’t respect the run so much from the Dukes that they leave any stone unturned in terms of finding ways to pressure McCloud. The back end of App’s D simply will not hold up against this Dukes attack if they have to cover for more than 3 seconds.

Lastly, have we mentioned App plays every game close and can’t afford crucial turnovers?

How JMU Can Win

Run the ball enough, get pressure on Aguilar, and win the turnover battle. Sound a lot like the keys mentioned in the preceding section? Sure does. In JMU’s case, the only difference is the Dukes would be a hell of a lot better off if they can find even a little bit of consistency and positive yardage in the running game. That will slow App’s rush and give McCloud time. The thing Sean Clark and all the old heads in Boone don’t want to admit is that basically everyone (who doesn’t suck) has been able to score, frequently, on a team that used to be known for hardheaded defense. If the Dukes can maintain a tiny bit of balance, McCloud, Brown, Sarratt, Sproles, Horton, etc. will eventually explode on this team.

Defensively, the Dukes seem more likely to get a little funky with their pressures (think 3 down linemen but two backers coming or back to the End/Tackle stunts we saw run so successfully prior to last week’s vanilla scheme even without Jalen Green). If that works, that could provide the impetus for JMU to win the turnover battle, something equally crucial to both teams if this game is as close as every App game this year, and every game in this series, seems to be.

How This Game Will Really Be Won

We wrote the “how each team can win” sections as objectively as possible from an X’s and O’s standpoint. But now let’s all be honest with ourselves in light of the latest waiver denial for JMU. The only thing that’s going to determine the outcome this week is how the Dukes players respond to this latest bit of bowlshit. If the Dukes hang their heads for more than a heartbeat or let this distract them from the work ahead, App is (probably?) good enough to win. But if the Dukes choose Coach Cignetti’s “biggest chip on the shoulder ever” option? Well, let’s just say we enjoy the thought of the hellfire the Dukes may bring down on a not-exactly-vintage Mountaineers team.

JMUSB Beer of the Week


Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 38, App. St. 17 – The Dukes choose violence.


leave a comment
  1. Tidewater Duke / Nov 17 2023

    In today’s Virginian Pilot, Bob Molinaro, wrote that NCAA’S stupidity about the bowl situation was giving JMU more publicity and brand recognition than ever. I think the Dukeswill rise to the occasion simply to keep rubbing the NCAA’S nose in it. Also in the paper was a story that the AG of Virginia has hired a law firm. Good for him.

    By the way, the NCAA stands for Never Caring About Athletes.

    Hope someone puts that on a sign during g Game Day


  2. CJ / Nov 17 2023

    What a dream season for the Dukes. Regardless of what happens this weekend, it’s been a great ride. Let’s hope we run the table.

    There’s a small elephant in the room that nobody seems to want to talk about. So I will. Coach Cignetti’s stock must be going through the roof. How many other big programs are looking at him? Maybe our athletic director too. We’ll see how big this elephant keeps growing before anyone talks about it.

    Crucial to success on Saturday and next week is McCloud’s health. If McCloud goes down (sorry but I remember the omen of ESPN GameDay against Richmond when we lost Vad Lee) it’s game over. This is an entirely different team if Atkins is QB1. Which is a reminder how much we need to hit the transfer portal jackpot once again for next year’s QB1.

    I don’t know about the rest of you guys but I sleep so much better at night knowing the NCAA is steadfastly protecting us from teams moving up to the next level before they’re ready. Imagine a world where teams moved up to the FBS level and weren’t protected against competing for championships. Those NCAA guys are true heroes. Just ask them.

    Okay let me stop.

    On a serious note, what a great time to be a JMU sports fan. Who could have ever predicted we’d see a time like this.

  3. Mighty Oz / Nov 17 2023

    Quite possibly your best writeup yet (other than the mistaken opponent typo at the top)! “Bowls**t” is perfect. Pass me a shot of the beer of the week!

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