Apr 16 / Todd

JMUSB Spring Game #5 Official Preview: Richmond at JMU

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Richmond at JMU. Doesn’t matter the season, doesn’t matter the year, doesn’t matter the stakes. It’s Spatter-Stomping Time. It’s Tick Week. It’s Richmond at JMU.

The Basics

Matchup: #10 Richmond Spiders (3-0, 3-0 CAA) at #1 JMU Dukes (4-0, 2-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EDT. Saturday April 17, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown, VA

Weather: Cloudy, high 62.

Broadcast: NBCSports Washington Plus or Flo (last one!)

Boys in the Desert: JMU -12, O/U 50

How Richmond Can Win

Slow down JMU in the run game so they can apply pressure in obvious passing situations. If Richmond can get solid play from its run defense and superstrong LB’s including 2019 CAA DROY Tristan Wheeler, we all know the chance to beat JMU is to really turn the screws and force decisions from the QB – whether that’s Johnson or Maloney. On offense, Richmond QB Joe Mancuso is a veteran who leads a diverse attack with no exact focal point. He’s a capable runner and the way the Ticks spread the ball, JMU will need to stay on assignment.

How JMU Can Win

Play with the same level of gameplanning, execution, and ruthlessness they did at William & Mary last month. Only do it with a full roster this time. On offense, the Dukes line needs to play well this week and find a way to get blockers – even TEs and WRs – onto the second level to slow down the strength of the Spiders, their linebacking corps. If they can do that, it will set Cole up for more of the solid time and play we saw back then. If not, it could be a scramble drill all day. On defense, JMU just needs to play it’s dominant second halves for all 60 minutes. Pressuring the QB with just four has been a weakness “all year” for the Dukes and put simply, they need some guys to step up in that regard. MJ Hampton, Wayne Davis, and Que Reid have all been sent and bailed them out later in games but if they have designs on a postseason run, they need to generate at least some pressure from just the line.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Union Craft Brewing’s Divine Pale Ale. A smooth drinking pale that has something refreshingly different up front. These guys from Baltimore do a solid job on almost everything and this is a great introduction.

Dukes Helping Others Week 5

As a reminder, each week we’re choosing a charity to donate to in honor of that week’s football game. And we’re asking other Dukes fans to join us as we continue to build #DukesMafia. We’ve been overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity thus far and hope the momentum continues. For the last regular season game of the year, we’re doing something with an organization that has been incredibly inspiring to us over the last few years and has its base right here in the DMV, the World Central Kitchen. We set the base donation at 5 bucks, but feel free to give more if you can (big shoutout to the RedRooster and Mr. Brown here!). Text “ROOTIN” to 707070 or click here to donate.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Both teams are absolute playoff locks with a win, with or without the automatic bid that could conceivably still go to an undefeated Delaware. JMU stands a decent chance of making the field on ranking and reputation even with a loss while Richmond likely has a lot more on the line this weekend. Hypothetically, they have more to play for. But our guess is JMU, for the first time all year, can see the rewards on offer this spring, and will be ready to rock this weekend. A monster Percy performance and continued growth from Wells is our guess.

JMU 31, RU 17

Apr 14 / Rob

Prediction Contest: Dukes vs. Ticks

First off, we know we’ve been slack. We literally just reached out to the winner of the last prediction contest 3 weeks ago. And we haven’t had much motivation to do much of anything here on the blog with all of the pauses and cancellations. But, it’s Tick Week. So let’s get it on.

Leave a comment below letting us know who you think will win on Saturday and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post. That’s it. So give us your prediction and Go Dukes!

Mar 25 / Rob

2021 Spring Football Game #4 Official JMUSB Preview: JMU at W&M

In normal times, we have “spring football.” You know what we’re talking about. A few weeks of practice for the coaches to run everyone out there and maybe light a few fires of around some key position battles, before everyone suiting up for a pseudo-competitive exhibition with indeterminate scoring to wet the fans’ appetites. The entire experience is towing the line between being worthwhile preparation and a complete farce. Most fans get very excited about the notion of “spring football” in the weeks leading up to it. But then it comes and goes without the majority of the fanbase even realizing it. It’s a tradition that matters very much in the mind of college football coaches, but ultimately offers very little in terms of entertainment value for fans. 

Now in 2021, we have Spring Football. Unlike with “spring football,” this new version has full schedules and games that count. And much like with “spring football” it’s something that excited most fans in the weeks leading up to it. But without fans in stadiums, the assurance that each scheduled game will actually be played, or any consistency regarding how conferences have chosen to operate, this Spring Football has felt much more like “spring football” than anything real. 

However, that’s likely to change this weekend. JMU is all set to play William & Mary. With its full complement of players and superior depth, JMU struggled mightily against Robert Morris and Elon. Now thanks to Covid issues, JMU has had limited practice time the past two weeks. And multiple players, reportedly including key ones, are expected to be out due to Covid protocols. To top it all off, William & Mary comes into the game full of confidence after dominating an Elon team that gave JMU fits. Whether it’s Spring Football or “spring football,” things are about to get a bit more real.

read more…
Mar 24 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. William & Mary (maybe)

AS of right now when I’m writing this, JMU’s contest against William & Mary has not been postponed. We still haven’t gotten confirmation that it’s happening, but no news is good news I guess. Spring Football, Pandemic Edition, is so weird. Let’s hope for the best and proceed with the prediction contest.

Leave a comment below letting us know which team you think will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. It’s that easy. So give us your prediction below and Go Dukes!

Mar 7 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 20 Elon 17

Whoo boy. Another week, another come from behind victory for the JMU Dukes. This one was pretty dicey. JMU followed up a poor first half effort against Robert Morris, with an even worse one against Elon. The offense was stuck in quicksand and the defense wasn’t too hot either. JMU found itself in a 17-3 hole, before rallying to escape with the win. Cole Johnson struggled and was replaced by Gage Maloney, who rallied the offense for two touchdowns. A win is a win, but this was far from convincing. Here are three thoughts on the game.

It was time for Gage.

Cignetti inserted Gage Moloney at QB in the second half and it was a move that absolutely had to be made. Cole Johnson just wasn’t getting it done. He threw another pick and looked indecisive and unsure of himself. It’s never fun to see a guy get pulled, especially one who’s waited so long for his chance to start. The offense was completely ineffective with Cole however. Cignetti made the move hoping to spark the offense and that’s exactly what it did. Gage only threw the ball 6 times, but he looked assertive and confident. With him behind center, things opened up a bit and the running game found another gear. There’s no way to know, but I really don’t think JMU would have won without making the QB switch.

Just tell the defense every half is the second half.

That’s two weeks in a row, where the JMU defense looked absolutely dominant after the break. They looked a little out of sorts in the first two quarters and the secondary got exposed a few times. But dang did they come to play in the second half. They were in the backfield practically every play and blowing things up. Elon’s offense had a grand total of 36 yards in the half and was limited to convert just 2 of 8 third downs.

It was incredibly to see JMU’s defense play so well down the stretch. It was also pretty frustrating to see them make dumb mistakes and commit penalties to extend drives coming out of the gates. This team is lacking some of its biggest playmakers, but still was facing a third string freshman QB making his first start. They ultimately wore him down and rendered him ineffective, but the kid made some plays early. The D has shown that it can make the adjustments needed to take over. We’d like to see them come into a game with a plan that doesn’t require such massive adjustments one of these weeks though.

Ignore the rankings.

JMU landed in the top spot of the latest FCS polls. Let’s go ahead and ignore that. Look, we’re not saying JMU is terrible or that the program is in peril. But objectively speaking, this squad does not look like the best team in the country. And that’s ok. Polls, especially in the FCS, really don’t matter. What matters is teams winning and improving throughout the season. As JMU fans we’ve become accustomed to a sort of binary approach to each season. If JMU wins the title, it’s a success. If the Dukes fall short, it is not.

Many of us view each game as if it’s a referendum on title worthiness. Well, maybe we need to adjust our expectations. JMU might win a title in May or it might not. We have no idea. But we do know that they had no chance of winning a championship on Saturday. They were able to win a game and get to 1-0 in the CAA though. And that’s really what matters. Championships aren’t won in week three. Nor do rankings in week three matter. Objectively speaking, JMU does not look like the best team in FCS. But the Dukes are 3-0 and they’ve got 5 more games on the schedule. Rankings don’t matter. Getting better and peaking in May matter.

Mar 6 / jmusport

Guest Post: James Madison > Robert Morris

Hart won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here’s his take on JMU sports, history, and beer (we like this guy).

Somehow I lucked out and won the football prediction contest last week, but I wasn’t really that close and the game went nothing like I thought it would go (or anyone else for that matter).  But that’s the allure of sports!  We never know how it is going to go and the outcome is not predetermined.  On any given day players can step up their game or falter under pressure.  Coaches can look like masterful gurus one week and then make head scratching decisions the next week.

read more…
Mar 5 / Todd

2021 Spring Football Game #3 Official JMUSB Preview: #1 JMU (2-0, 0-0 CAA) at Elon (1-1, 0-0 CAA)

Running Back Jawon Hamilton
Don’t sleep on Hamilton!

The Basics

Matchup: #1 JMU Dukes (2-0, 0-0 CAA) @ Elon Phoenix (1-1, 0-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. EST. Saturday March 6, 2021, Stadium, Rhodes Stadium, Elon, NC

Weather: Perfect. Mostly sunny, light winds. High 53

Broadcast: Flo

Boys in the Desert: JMU -21.5

How Elon Can Win

Join the season. Seriously, after losing QB Davis Cheek in the preseason, Elon has appeared to have no real desire to play this spring season through two struggling weeks. They’ve played an almost identical schedule to JMU. They had to come back to salvage a game against Pioneer (non-schollie think Morehead) foe Davidson in Week 1 and they got mauled by the Big South’s (think RMU) Gardner-Webb last week. And now here comes the nation’s #1 team.

Elon still has talent. We’ve watched the program grow from afterthought to contender since joining the CAA and there’s no real reason to think they’re back to basement just yet. And last week they were up 17-0 with Joey Baugham at QB before a leg injury led to true freshman JR Martin finishing the game and the Phoenix being outscored 42-3 from then on by a Gardner-Webb team picked to finish tied with Robert Morris in the Big South.

If Martin is in at QB again Elon absolutely has to find a way to run the ball and control the clock. As much to keep JMU off the field and shorten the game as anything else.

How JMU Can Win

Be ready for 60 minutes and crush hope early. JMU has nagging injuries, including some likely ones we the fans don’t know about, and it’s been a long 13 months since everyone played. Last week it was pretty obvious that for whatever reason the Dukes were not ready to play, at least offensively, in the first half. JMU lost two All-Americans to Covid transfers, and two expected stars to injury in the preseason. And the Dukes STILL have more depth than almost any program in the FCS so there’s no real excuse. It’s definitely tough getting your body reacclimated to college football’s weekly grind, but hopefully this week the players are starting to find their groove again.

But JMU’s most obvious path to victory this weekend is to crush Elon’s spirit early. As noted above, the Phoenix, having lost their star QB Davis Cheek in the preseason, have looked rather disinterested in spring football through the first two weeks. But with Coach Cignetti returning to town, you have to think they’ll at least be more motivated this weekend. If the Dukes can show them early that this isn’t competitive, Elon may very well disappear wherever they did when they got manhandled by Gardner-Webb in the second half last week.

Most importantly to that end offensively is to not turn the ball over again. And part of that is finding the running game and sticking with it. It will be tempting – in Spurrier-esque fashion – to be headed down south to warm weather, blue skies, and a sweet grass field and to suddenly want to throw it around the yard. Don’t. Run it and run it and run it some more. Make Mickey proud.

On defense, the Dukes need to do exactly what they did last week – their jobs. JMU has been very strong in terms of playing assignment football so far and just needs to keep developing the new group up front. Elon is a mess at QB, so if JMU can shut down the run game and force them into obvious passing situations, big plays from the D and mistakes from the Phoenix will come.

More Than a Game

We’re trying something new this year inspired by the work of the Bills Mafia to make something better from the collective power of Dukes everywhere. This week in honor of JMU’s opponent, Elon, we’ll be donating to the Greensboro Urban Ministry and you can click that link to go straigth to the donor site or text “Rootin” to 707070 to get started. Love y’all!

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Aslin Master of Karate NE IPA – I love IPAs, especially crisp traditional “west coast” styles. I generally hate New England IPAs which all seem to be trying to outdo each other to be filled with nasty, hazy sediment and make you feel like you just ate fettuccini alfredo like Michael Scott carbo-loading. But this NEIPA offering from Herndon’s Aslin is the absolutely delicious exception to that rule.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU got its wakeup call last week and this week they show they understand it takes the entire roster being ready to play. This one gets away from Elon in a hurry.

JMU 41 – Elon 10

Mar 3 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Elon

The Dukes get the CAA portion of the Spring season started this Saturday with a road game versus Elon. The Phoenix struggled in week one and had things fall apart in week two with a brutal loss to Gardner Webb. We’re looking forward to a strong JMU performance, but we want to know how you think the game will play out. Leave a comment below with your prediction including who you think you will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score), will get to write a guest post. That’s it. Now give us your prediction and Go Dukes!

Feb 28 / Rob

Quick Thoughts on JMU 36 Robert Morris 16

Wow. That was a bit more than any of bargained for, huh? JMU faced a serious test from Robert Morris in week two, but rallied after halftime to win by 20. It was a hard fought game that not a lot of us saw coming. The Dukes played poorly, very poorly, in the opening half and went into the break knotted at 16. The Dukes offense struggled and Cole Johnson threw three first half picks. However, a late second quarter TD drive appeared to spark the team and right the ship. JMU rode a 27-0 surge to close things out and secure the win. Here are a few quick thoughts on the victory.

read more…
Feb 26 / Todd

2021 Spring Game #2 Official JMUSB Preview: Robert Morris @ JMU

Running Back Jawon Hamilton
Don’t sleep on Hamilton!

The Basics

Matchup: Robert Morris Colonials (0-0, Big South) @ #3 JMU Dukes (1-0, 0-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 12 noon ET. Saturday February 27, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Light rain early, then mostly cloudy. High 59

Broadcast: NBC Sports Washington Plus (this is the “other” channel you use when Wiz and Caps play at the same time. It’s available on Dish, DTV, and Fios). Also streaming on FloFootball.

Boys in the Desert: JMU -38.5, O/U 53.5

How Robert Morris Can Win

Turnovers and a perfect game. Unlike last week against completely outmanned Morehead St., if this game was played a hundred times, RMU could win a game or three. RMU is making the transition from the weak Northeast Conference to the Big South, home to stronger programs like Monmouth, Kennesaw St., and Charleston Southern. Head Coach Bernard Clark, Jr. has been recruiting on this for a couple years and is clearly building towards larger aspirations for the program as they grew from the 2-9 team that JMU blew out in 2018 into a solid 7-5 team in 2019.

This group brings back 14 starters from that 2019 team including four returnees on the offensive line in front of lightning quick running back Alijah Jackson (if we remember correctly, he had a long run called back by penalty last time against the Dukes). The Colonials are equally veteran-laden on defense led by tackling machine LB Aniello Buzzacco. He set RMU’s school record for tackles in a season last year and is one of seven returning starters. With so many vets, many of these kids have played in Bridgeforth before and developed since then. We don’t expect this group to be intimidated this time around. RMU is still a heavy underdog in this one, particularly against a JMU team that hopefully got the rust off last week, but this is a proud group of older players ready to keep building this program and there is likely a world in which a perfect game and a bunch of mistakes on JMU’s part give them a real chance.

Interestingly, RMU will turn around the “we’ve got a game under our belt” thing next week when take on host preseason conference favorite Monmouth in what will be the Hawks first game. If RMU shows well this week, we’ll be curious to look in on that matchup next week.

How JMU Can Win

Play clean. This could be a bit of rockfight early, with a fresh, proud, hungry group in RMU excited to hit a different-colored jersey for the first time in forever and plenty of relevant film to study all this time. If the Dukes can simply avoid the huge mistakes (e.g. turnovers, penalties, long plays given up, poor specials) in the first 20 minutes or so, we’d expect them to grind down RMU the same way they should most every opponent this year. Eventually the running game will crush all that early-game excitement and as long as they’re not trailing at the half and have a decent level of game control, the Dukes will eventually rack up the ground yards and hit a big play or two to open this up.

On defense, the Dukes need to do exactly what they did last week – their jobs. JMU was surprisingly strong in terms of playing assignment football in their first game with a turned over group of players last week and if they can do that – and thus prevent RMU speedster Jackson from getting off a long one – they should be in great position to eventually force the big mistakes and big plays they want to make. In particular, the LB/Rover group of DTD, Azanama, Jackson, Davis, and Hampton need to be in the right place as they were last week!

More Than a Game

We’re trying something new this year inspired by the work of the Bills Mafia to make something better from the collective power of Dukes everywhere. This week in honor of JMU’s opponent, Robert Morris, we’ll be donating to the West Hills Food Pantry. The group near RMU outside Pittsburgh does great work in their community. Last week, our small but might community of Dukes (that’s you!) was able to supply more than 3000 meals (that’s incredible!!!) to Feeding America – Kentucky Heartland and we’re hoping we might even top that this week. Love y’all!

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Shiner Bock. Honestly, the pandemic year got us back to some of the basics for lots of reasons. Saving money, keeping more low ABV beer on hand, and as much as anything, more beer-buying from the regular grocer instead of so many additional trips to the fancy beer store. Shiner was one of my first beer loves twenty plus years ago and of those early forays, it’s one of the only ones that holds up (and Sierra of course). And of course the Texas staple has been on tap everywhere on the three Frisco trips the last few years. So this year it’s my “hope we get back to Texas” gameday certainty as well.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Our guess is the value in having played last week outweighs the risk of overconfidence off a win over a cupcake for the Dukes. RMU is not a true cupcake, and seems vastly improved from the squad JMU blew out a few years back. But the Dukes are going to enjoy the relatively warmer weather, regardless of any light precip, and the experience they gained to iron out the kinks on offense last week and start to show some of the firepower we think this group is capable of.

JMU 41 – Robert Morris 17