Dec 22 / Todd

JMU at Air Force: Official JMUSB Armed Forces Bowl Preview

A Note from Rob and Todd

Well this is a special one. November 2009. That’s when we went to GoDaddy (then with Danica ads!) and paid a few bucks for a domain name and a site. Our memory is a little fuzzy after that but JMU was about to play Towson in the last game of the season. They had just beaten UMass for a third straight win to get back to 5-5 after a dismal start to that year. JMU would blow out the Tigers like usual to clinch nearly a decade of not having a losing record, something that felt like a mere consolation prize given they’d long since been eliminated from 1-AA playoff contention that year. Pressure wasn’t even truly builidng on Mickey yet given the run they’d been on from ’04-’08. At the time, we were questioning whether starting the site at the end of a football season was even a good idea and thinking maybe we should wait till next year. Thankfully we didn’t wait. Except for Justin and Swag and Michael, we didn’t have anyone reading and it gave us eight months or so to learn a bit about what we were doing. Our worries were whether basketball could ever be good again, whether our friend coaching the field hockey team would keep things rolling, what ODU starting football would mean for the CAA, and how much beer content was appropriate for the “blog.”

Here are some things we never even considered for a single second: That JMU sports would turn into a bona fide rocket ship. That podcasts would exist. That we would most do that instead of this someday. That we’d still be doing this nonsense heading into 2024 (we didn’t even consider 2024 as something that would happen ha). And that three days before Christmas in 2023 JMU would be ranked in the AP Poll in both football and basketball and we would be writing a preview for a friggin’ bowl game in Texas against Air Force!

Thanks to all of you for sharing a small bit of your lives with us over these last 14 years! We love you and hope y’all have a wonderful holiday week!

We’re also gonna re-run the incredible guest piece from current JMU student Annalee Hunniford all about Gameday week from the student perspective. If you missed it back during Coastal week, you should read it as she wrote the kind of raw, unfiltered good shit we used to aim for but have slowly mellowed away from without even realizing it. When she reached out we were skeptical for a moment. But then we read it! And holy hell did it make us proud to be Dukes and so reassured about everything we’ve been saying on the pod about how these students are going to be an entirely different breed of JMU fan than anything prior to about 2015. Students now are fans from Day One and they bleed purple without any hesitation about hanging onto whatever shade of orange that may have been hanging in their childhood homes. Hope you love it as much as we did and enormous thanks to Annalee!

The Basics

Matchup: #24 JMU Dukes (11-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) at Air Force Falcons (8-4, 5-3 Mountain West)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EST, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Weather: 62, cloudy

Broadcast: ABC (!)

Boys in the Desert: JMU -2, O/U 40.5 (hoo boy that’s a service academy number)

One more ride?

How We Got Here

Both of these teams spent a few weeks this season as America’s darling. The Falcons started 8-0 and were the highest ranked G5 team headed into what was supposed to be a coronation week when they would trounce Army and lock up the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. Whoops. An injured QB and an avalanche of turnovers in a devastating home loss sent their season into a tailspin from which they never recovered – ending the year with four straight losses. But Air Force appears to have their starting QB, Zac Larrrier, back for this game and seem primed for a better performance.

After Air Force’s loss, the Dukes moved into that “G5 darling” status for a few weeks until their own devastating loss and the subsequent upheaval of a coaching change and tons of players jumping in the portal. But thankfully most of those guys stayed committed to their teammates and completing the first bowl season in JMU history and the two-deep roster for tomorrow looks pretty solid all things considered.

How Air Force Can Win

Do not turn the ball over and get off the field on third down defensively. Air Force’s offense has never been the true triple option like their rivals at the other academies. They’ve always had more big-play potential (essential in the MWC) but they still win with precision execution and by limiting their opponents number of possesssions. But when they turn it over – thus giving extra possessions to offenses – its a killer. It’s always a bit simplistic to say a game will be determined by one or two things but when an academy is involved – it often is this straightforward. We expect a couple trick plays for sure from both teams given the extra prep time for this game, but otherwise this game seems predictable. If each team has only 7 or 8 possessions (think NDSU) and Air Force wins the turnover battle, they’ll be in great shape. If things get rolling offensively, it’ll be a different story.

How JMU Can Win

Get off the field on third down. The Falcons’ system is designed to hit an occassional big play, but it’s best asset is how often it gets them into 3rd and short. Our guess is the vaunted JMU run defense is going see a whole bunch of 3rd and 2 situations and so much of this game is going to come down to making a stop in these situations. The Dukes have struggled to find pass rush a bit since Jalen Green’s injury but that actually may not be as big of a deal in this one. And Kamara opting out doesn’t help. But given all three big boys inside (Carp, Tucker, and Bush) are good to go and the portaled LB’s (Fisher and JWalk) both are playing, there’s no reason to think JMU can’t be a reasonable facsimile of the stout rush defense they played all year. We’d also expect to see a whole lot of Reimenenq, Chukweneke, and Meehan in the box to bolster the run stopping as well.

Offensively the Dukes baseline goal needs to be to avoid three and outs. Air Force will inevitably go on a eight-minute drive at some point and the offense absolutely cannot afford to push the defense right back out there time and again. JMU will want to bust out some big/trick plays at some points, but picking their spots is critical.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Hardywood Kentucky Christmas Morning. It tough to drink these ABV monsters with coffee in them very often. We love ’em but the caffeine is often a non-starter in the evening. But it’s Christmas and let’s be honest, we’re all eating and drinking too much and sleeping odd hours and generally having a marvelous time treating our bodies terribly the next week so if there’s ever a time for an imperial milk stout with all the fixings it’s definitely mid-afternoon on December 23rd.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 24, Air Force 23 – a late touchdown from Taji Hudson for the win!

Special Student Retrospective on All the Incredible Things From Gameday Week by Annalee Hunniford (Class of 2025)

Hello fellow dukes and friends!
My name is Annalee and i am a Junior here at JMU. It’s currently thanksgiving break
and i just got my wisdom teeth out yesterday, so please excuse any run on sentences
and random prose.
a quick intro
last Wednesday during my evening class, my professor was talking about an old
Harrisonburg bar called the “Highlawn Pavilion”. the glory in which he described this bar
peaked my interest because in 2023, the Harrisonburg bar scene is absolutely nothing
to write home about. therefore, i obviously had to google this bar, which landed me here
at Rob & Todd’s blog, on a guest article written about “the best short lived Harrionburg
bars”. i spent the better part of the 2 1/2 hour class reading their blog and imagining the
savory Harrisonburg social scene that i never got to experience. things are quite
different these days it seems; the bar scene is small and strict and the frat parties and
tailgates usually don’t last more than a few hours before getting busted. regardless, i
still have the time of my life every weekend. JMU is the BEST school and i will die on
that hill. BUT I DIGRESS… i come from an SEC family, so little ol’ freshman annalee
was determined to make the most of CAA sports, regardless of the “commie” vibes they
gave off. Fall semester of 2021, i was one of the only lunatic freshman standing at the
front of the basketball arena’s student section screaming and holding a sign depicting
“FUCK THE CAA”. you could catch me at every sporting event in head to toe purple,
carrying some random sign i scribbled in my dorm room. when JMU switched to the
SBC, that’s when things REALLY started to get good. as a then sophomore, i had more
freedom; a car, a job, an apartment with a tv….and the money to buy espn+ so i could
indulge in all the JMU Sports i wanted. thus began the mass frenzy of students and
commentators bugging the N*AA to LET US BOWL!
the calm before the storm
flash forward to November 2023. i don’t think i can put into words the excitement
coursing through the student body’s veins when we heard ESPN College Gameday was
coming to Harrisonburg. when the news broke across social media, my roommates and
i were shrieking in our living room; their enthusiasm stemmed from the impending arrival
of the Jonas Brothers, while mine was fueled by the anticipation of College GameDay
spotlighting our team as we prepared to whoop up on some ‘neers (or so i believed).
the only thing i’d kept from an ex-boyfriend during my freshman year was a 2017
College Gameday shirt from the last time ESPN graced JMU. i whipped that thing out
and strutted around campus while everyone asked me where they could get one. you
see, the excitement level was unparalleled because this recognition doesn’t happen to
us Dukes. until this year, we were overlooked by mainstream sports media. the
university’s stringent administration and local PD leave little room for revelry, and school

spirit suffers when students routinely leave games at halftime. when the news hit that
College Gameday was headed to Harrisonburg, all hell broke loose in the best way
possible. at the Pat McAfee show on Friday, Coach Curt Cignetti ignited a collective fire
within us as he vociferously criticized the NCAA for denying us a bowl game. perched
atop my tall friend’s shoulders, the crowd and i chanted “TALK YO SHIT” at Cignetti, a
slogan which i later made into my gameday sign. Pat in his sleeveless JMU Football
tank top was the most attractive and energetic motivator of school spirit we’ve seen yet.
that dude is something else!
my business fraternity friends and i decided we were going to host a 4am “marty”
(morning party) on Saturday. half of us camped out on the quad Friday night in hopes of
getting a spot in the pit, while the other half opted for an early bedtime, popping
melatonin at 7pm (myself included). the plan was simple; get to the party by 4am, rage
our faces off, then walk to the quad by 6am. my mom thinks i’m crazy, but this is the shit
i live for. after all, when else would it be socially acceptable to indulge in vodka
monsters at 4am?
when my alarm went off at 2:45am, i was UP & AT ‘EM. win or lose, the student
body was dedicated on that fine saturday morning. i was astounded at the marty’s
turnout. every Duke in town, past and current, was up and ready to fucking rumble.
even those unfamiliar with or uninterested in college football found themselves in town,
swept up in the infectious excitement ahh, there was an unmistakable energy
permeating the air this weekend.
picture this: it’s 4am and our downtown house is packed full of dukes, hokies,
hoos, and anyone who made the trip down 81 (because, at JMU, hospitality is our forte).
if there’s one thing i’ve learned from our less-than-ideal streak of 12pm kickoff regular
season games, it’s that in order to get people to show up before 9am, someone has got
to take one for the team and pick everyone up. so there i was, cruising down devon lane
in my soccer-mom Honda CRV at 3:45am, picking up anyone who was ready. one of
my friends hopped in the car sporting bloodshot eyes courtesy of yakking from a 3am
empty stomach tequila shot (i never claimed we were the brightest bunch). to my
satisfaction, the box of pancakes i had meticulously prepared the night before was
devoured within 30 minutes of my arrival. those pancakes were my feeble attempt to
ward off the fraternity’s inevitable 4am puking-from-drinking-on-an-empty-stomach.
there ain’t nothin’ more degenerate than blasting house music and being able to
stomach vodka and pancakes at 4am!
by 6am, the “marty” crowd had stumbled down to the quad. my white heeled
cowboy boots were stuffed with airplane bottles of pinnacle vodka, and we ripped one

last shot before bounding out the door. the dimly lit streets were aglow with people
adorned in all kinds of purple and gold. the quad transformed into an organized
madhouse of 26,000 people; a sight so beautiful and American that i shed a tear. having
attended nearly every sporting event at JMU over the past two years, i can attest that
nothing compared to the school spirit and infectious excitement that must’ve been
blowing through ESPN’s quad speakers. i pondered how the morning would go—would
the school and local PD let us revel in our fun, or would they clamp down as they often
do, in fear of the early 2000’s springfest riots surfacing again? as the sun started to rise,
it became evident that this crowd of dukes was going to stay planted on the quad until
tailgate time. i was both delighted yet surprised by how well everyone behaved, even
with hours of liquor in our systems.
my group and i secured a spot on the famed “kissing rock”, with an eye-level
view of the quad in all its morning glory. the rock lived up to its name when, at 7am, i
glanced over and saw my roommate unsteadily macking on some dude (isn’t that a bad
omen, to kiss on the kissing rocks? someone verify or deny in the comments please).
embracing my inner wannabe celebrity, i vlogged the whole morning and time stamped
each update. by 9am, the crowd was ROARING, prompting ESPN officials to declare it
the most spirited Gameday crowd they’d seen in years. when JMU wants to show out,
we show OUT! College Gameday encourages crowds to make and bring signs to hold
up in the background of the show. at JMU, the signs being held up depicted a wild array
of opinions, colors, and choice-words for the NCAA. to an outsider uneducated on
college football, witnessing the crowd might have suggested that JMU was playing a
team named “NCAA,” given the way the signs shit them. some of the best signs i saw, i
can’t even repeat here. the Jonas Brothers and Bailey Zimmerman took the stage
around 9am, performing just one song—a bit of a letdown, but i don’t think anyone was
there solely for their performance. personally, i would’ve been content with a local DJ
spinning hits all morning; the music wasn’t the primary motivation for this spirited crowd.
as game time drew near, the chants got louder. App State was going to hear
from us dukes, win or lose! on that beautiful Saturday morning, 26,000 diverse
individuals shared one commonality: we all bled purple. i’ve never seen JMU exude
such spirit, and while i’d like to believe it will happen again, we did break the Gameday
attendance record, so probably not. it was the most fun i’ve had in college thus far and
these memories will stay with me for life. i now understand the way my dad raves about
his alma mater’s football games and why i grew up in those colors. my future kids will
likely emerge from the womb wearing purple and gold. i’m not a writing major so i don’t
really know how to wrap this amateur article up, but i’ll leave you with a saying: ALL WE

UNTIL I FUCKING DIE, BABY. my face hurts now from the wisdom being extracted out
of my teeth, and with that, goodnight.

One Comment

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  1. CJ / Dec 22 2023

    Great season by the Dukes. If Cignetti was here, I’d feel fairly confident about our chances tomorrow. Obviously, losing him (and the corresponding discombobulation that it causes for the program) significantly changes the equation tomorrow. On the other hand, Air Force will have a tougher time preparing because they’re not sure how the JMU coaching staff will run things. Air Force reminds me a lot of an NDSU matchup. Like NDSU, Air Force can’t match our talent man-for-man. But what they do have is a solid, well coached, well disciplined, physical team. That’s what gave NDSU the edge over us (one of the few times I’ve seen Cignetti outcoached was vs the Bison in that championship game!)

    Speaking of Cignetti, a few parting thoughts on him. I call him the GOAT of JMU football coaches and I wish he’d stuck around for one more season. I wish him the best, but I think the decision to go to Indiana (minus the financial factor) was a poor choice. I don’t know if he got an offer from Duke (I would assume he didn’t) but that would have been a better option. Cignetti is a great coach, but he’s not a miracle worker. He benefited greatly from taking over a JMU program that was championship caliber right from the start. Much different situation than he’s walking into at Indiana. Indiana has a lot drawbacks and I just don’t see him (or almost anyone) turning that program around. I’m sure Cig knows all this, and it probably came down to him accepting that he’ll do a few seasons at IU and then retire a multi-millionaire. And even if he does work a miracle at IU, you can come back and reference my statement that he was truly the GOAT of JMU football coaches.

    And speaking of coaching, it makes all the difference. Which is what we’re seeing with our basketball program right now. I really liked how you guys mentioned during the podcast about the possibliity of losing Byington if we have a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond (unlike your reluctance to get in front of the Cignetti loss when the signs we building this season). My opinion is that we’re probably safe with Byington after this season and next. Unless he makes a Final Four run (which would be great) I don’t think he’s quite yet shown that’s he’s a superstar on the level of Larrinega or Smart…at least enough for a big program to pay him enough to leave. But this isn’t to minimize what he’s done…he was a great choice and he’s exactly what this program needs. The program spent so much time stagnating (I’d even say regressing) under Lou Rowe that it’s really great to see some competent coaching and the results that brings. Can’t wait for March.

    I’ll see you guys tomorrow at one of the watch parties.

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