Oct 7 / Todd

JMU @ Arkansas St.: Official JMUSB Game #5 Preview


The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (4-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) at Arkansas St. Red Wolves (2-3, 1-1 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, October 8, 2022, Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, Arkansas

Weather: Clear, low 60s. Pretty perfect conditions at kickoff but keep in mind this is a 6:00 kickoff locally so sun/shadows could be an issue in the first quarter or so.

Broadcast: NFL Network

Boys in the Desert: JMU -11.5, O/U 55.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes are 4-0 and very much in the national conversation at this point with one of the nation’s toughest defenses and dominant performances outside of the big win in Boone. The weather and the scoreboard excuse what may have actually been a “meh” performance offensively last week but JMU has objectively been one of the crisper teams anywhere this year.

Arkansas St. has had an odd schedule but it seems fair to say they’re developing into a consistently capable team offensively that is starting to put things together. The Red Wolves started the season with an FCS blowout win and a loss to Ohio St. where it should be noted they hung reasonably tough for a half. Then they made mistakes in a tough 44-32 loss to rival Memphis, lost a tight one in Norfolk to ODU 29-26 at the end, and finally put things mostly together in a fairly strong 45-28 home win over ULM last week.

How Arkansas St. Can Win

Make more big plays and avoid mistakes. QB James Blackmon and a deep group of receivers have clearly shown they can consistently score points and they’ll likely need more of the same tomorrow. And RB/KR Johnnie Lang can absolutely go. It doesn’t feel like the Red Wolves can win a grinder against the Dukes but there’s no doubt that if the Dukes make more mistakes and Arkansas St. can open the game up with their speed and big plays, they can pull this off in what Coach Butch Jones would almost certainly call a building block for this re-developing program.

How JMU Can Win

Rattle the Wolves’ O-Line and be accurate in the passing game. Lost in the easy-going win last week was some icky interceptions and pre-read plays in the running game by the Dukes offense. JMU cannot afford to give those extra chances away this week to such more capable offense. JMU’s offense needs to get back to the efficient passing game we saw the first two weeks and the second half at App and balance that with continued steadiness in the running game.

Broken record here but defensively the Dukes need their pressure to get home, both to rattle a large but shaky O-Line and to force early throws from Blackmon. JMU’s secondary has vastly exceeded our expectations thus far but they can’t be asked to cover for extended plays against this group of skill players.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Flyway Brewing’s Free Range Brown Ale. When in Arkansas (never trust anyone from a state with an ass on the end), Little Rock’s Flyway is widely available and always solid. And it finally feels like a very Oktoberfesty type weekend. Many people celebrate falls with beers chocked full of a certain gourd. Many people are wrong. Find yourself a tasty Brown Ale to curl up in that hoodie with and stop listening to the propaganda from big pumpkin.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU’s pass rush is goes wild and ultimately forces penalties and turnovers that turn this game after halftime. On the other side, if JMU can avoid turning the ball over, we expect big days from KT and Ravenel in particular out of the slot. Big plays will be there to be made and we’re looking forward to watching those guys run!

JMU 38, Arkansas St. 20

Sep 30 / Todd

Texas State @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #4 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: Texas State Bobcats (2-2, 0-0 Sun Belt) at JMU Dukes (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. EST. Saturday, October 1, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Wet. Also an odd combination of humid and cold with high only around 53. Take note there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices.

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -21.5, O/U 51.5 (note the line has moved towards the Dukes from lower opening numbers most places)

How We Got Here

The Dukes now fully have the attention of the in-the-know portion of the college football fanbase, and are close to making inroads with national fans, after coming back from the most dangerous score in football, 28-3, to take down the vaunted App. St. Mountaineers last week in what could turn out to be a signature moment for the program. Combined with now 3-1 MTSU’s blowout of Miami way down south, suddenly JMU looks fully for real to their new Sun Belt brethren.

On the other side, Texas St. is still a bit of an unknown. They have wins over two horrendous teams, FIU and FCS Houston Baptist (who is almost certainly better than FIU). They have an expected-but-not-altogether-terrible loss to Baylor, and a shockingly bad blowout loss to a bad Nevada team in Week 1. But as we’ve seen with MTSU, Week 1 is not always indicative of a team’s true level.

Oh yeah, while these teams have never met, the Withers Bowl factor and an O’Kelly punting for the Bobcats add a little extra flavor to this matchup.

How Texas St. Can Win

Protect the QB and win the turnover battle. On offense, the Bobcats have to find some way to run the ball at least enough to keep the Dukes honest. JMU’s defense has allowed less than 100 yards rushing in three games. Total. If the Bobcats want to hang in this week, they’ve got to find a way to do better than that. When App got in a position where they were forced to throw and everyone knew it in the second half last week, the Dukes starting destroying Chase Bryce to a point of shookness that caused the game-turning INT.

But defensively in bad weather there may be opportunities against a JMU offense that was a bit loose with the football last week after an easy first couple weeks. The Bobcats almost certainly need to take advantage of any mistakes the Dukes make.

How JMU Can Win

Take this as seriously as any FBS game played by JMU to date. Texas St. was picked fairly unanimously as one of preseason picks to be at the bottom of the Sun Belt, and they’ve done little so far to change that perception. However, while the App-type “big” games are what draws the eye to JMU’s awesome new world, it’s games like this that are going to really show the enormous step up in competition from FCS to FBS. Texas St. has 85 schollies and plenty of talent. In other words, this ain’t Rhode Island and the Dukes can NOT afford to treat the Bobcats like the bad teams from the old conference. JMU’s biggest advantage – particularly on a sketchy weather day – is it’s dominant D-Line taking on a suspect O-Line from TSU. JMU needs to continue shutting down the run and pressuring the offense.

On what is likely to be a chilly, wet, windy day in the Valley, hanging onto the ball offensively (especially after multiple fumbles last week) is probably as crucial as anything schematically. That said, finding ways to get the ball back to KT will surely be a priority this week.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Shiner Bock makes its annual appearance for the only Texas-related game this season. Plus it’s an early tailgate with weather issues that screams “keep it simple” on menu choices for both food and bev. Nothing simpler that still tastes outstanding than Shiners in a coozie held by rain gloves.

Official JMUSB Prediction

As we said last week in this space, this year’s Dukes are 100% for real. Guessing we aren’t as much of an outlier in this regard anymore, but we still think this team is so locked in – and seemingly just playing in the moment – that there’s no letdown this week.

JMU 38, Texas St. 13

Sep 23 / Todd

JMU @ App State: Official JMUSB Game #3 Preview

Father of the Constitution, Mother of All Gameday Crowds
Still true, just saying.

Matchup: JMU Dukes (2-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) at Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EST. Saturday, September 24, 2022, Kidd-Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC

Weather: Partly Cloudy, high 65 (it’s almost really Fall y’all!)

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: App -7, O/U 57.5 (note the line has moved towards the Dukes from higher opening numbers most places)

How We Got Here

The Dukes have caused a few folks to take note in the FBS world and raised our partisans’ hopes with nearly flawless performances during a 44-7 thrashing of (possibly) mid-tier G5 team MTSU to start and an expected beatdown of Norfolk St. a couple weeks ago. JMU’s odd “transition” situation led to two bye weeks, including this past week’s early hiatus. Not too much to read from JMU’s dominance over bad teams, but it’s at least encouraging to know that MTSU has gone on to win handily in their two weeks since being shredded by the Dukes.

While JMU’s start has been rather straightforward (even if the blowout in Week 1 was more than we expected), App. St. has been the nation’s best college football rollercoaster through three weeks. In their opener, they finally got the hated Tarheels to come up the mountain. This caused the Mountaineers to add temporary seating to meet ticket demand and to forget what they were doing for the better part of three quarters. Then they caught fire and scored an insane 40(!) fourth-quarter points to nearly cap what would’ve been a miraculous comeback before falling 63-61 when they failed on a two-point attempt to tie the game. And that doesn’t really come close to covering the madness of that game. Then we all know they went to Texas A&M and dominated the Aggies despite messing around and nearly blowing it in a 17-14 win that got the whole college football world to pay attention and got them awarded ESPN’s College Gameday (sweetly over the vanquished A&M cult by the way) for last week’s game. Then they did their best JMU Gameday part 1 impression (still too soon) by nearly blowing their big day against Troy only to steal their Sun Belt opener with a true Hail Mary on the game’s final play. Whoo, that’s not the way most folks get to 2-1 but here we are.

How App St. Can Win

Find another reserve of emotional energy and don’t overlook this opponent for a minute. There are a few schematic things to hit on here of course, but the Mountaineers staying locked in after the crazy highs and lows of the first three weeks seems as important as anything X’s and O’s in this one, particularly against a rested and relatively healthy group of Dukes.

On offense, App needs QB Chase Brice to be accurate when the 2 or 3 chances to go deep inevitably surface against this evolving JMU defense. Hit those and App will be a great spot even if this turns into a track meet. But miss those – even with as good and creative as the Mountaineers run game can be – and it could turn into a disaster if JMU gets ahead and gets to tee off while tolerating the risk on the back end. RB Camerun Peoples has been exceptional even against the strong competition App has played so far and he’ll have to keep that up against a Dukes D that will likely be focusing on him.

Defensively, its cliché but App needs to force JMU to play behind the chains. JMU’s success in the running game sets up so much of their devastating play-action when the playbook is open on 2nd and 3rd and short situations.

How JMU Can Win

Be ready for the speed of the game out of the bye from the opening kickoff and take advantage of opportunities. The most important thing for JMU early is to be ready to go after the layoff. Against Peoples and a “maybe” strong D (TAMU looks pathetic on offense so the jury is still out), the Dukes really need to avoid falling behind too much too early.

Offensively, with App likely to key on the run and KT, the Dukes will need continued improvement from the secondary playmakers like Green, Ravenel, and Black. But the chances seem likely to be there and when they are, JMU has to take full advantage of the opportunities with TD’s rather than FG’s.

As far as being opportunistic on D, the most important thing for the Dukes is to get off the field on 3rd and 4th downs. The Mountaineers are aggressive about 4th down calls (in a way we applaud!) and seem unlikely to do anything different against JMU. The Dukes need to finish possessions defensively. One of JMU’s biggest problems against other hardnosed teams the last few years (see NDSU) wasn’t necessarily giving up huge plays but rather allowing a team to grind out yards and clock time, thus stripping JMU’s high-powered offense of the chances it often gets to showcase the speed and playmaking that has become a Dukes staple.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Skipping Rock Beer Co’s Belgian Dubbel – Staunton’s Skipping Rock has been quietly flying under the radar for a while now despite doing most things well and few things wrong. But during a summer of obsessing over bike racing and beer that always seemed to end up with all things Belgian (Wout Van Aert at le Tour was incredible!), we finally bridged fully back to the Continental aisles at the big beer store and starting loving these huge Belgian beers again. And who knew that right here in the Valley there’s a tremendous offering in this category. Plus the high octane 7.8% seems appropriate for renewing old hostilities!

Official JMUSB Prediction

This one will finally allow our fans to stop being so cautious about this team’s potential. It won’t be a surprise in the locker room or here at JMUSB HQ. We think this year’s Dukes are for real and maybe a few others outside the Valley will pick up on that come 7 p.m. or so Saturday night!

JMU 38, App 24

Sep 9 / Todd

Norfolk St. @ JMU: Official 2022 JMUSB Game #2 Preview


Matchup: JMU Dukes (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs. Norfolk State Spartans (0-1, 0-0 CUSA)

Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, September 10, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 77, humid

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU by a LOT

How We Got Here

The Dukes turned quite a few heads in the FBS college football world (and none moreso than among our own fans) with an exquisite performance during a 44-7 thrashing of (possibly) mid-tier G5 team MTSU last week. Norfolk St. on the other took their expected beating 55-3 at the hands of fellow new Sun Belt member Marshall in Huntington.

How Norfolk St. Can Win

Have COVID decimate JMU’s roster between now and kickoff. That’s really about it.

How JMU Can Win

Don’t act like they won a trophy last week. JMU’s only danger this week is themselves and feeling way too pleased and proud. Based on what we saw last week from these two teams (and based on what we’ve seen from this matchup a couple times in recent years), the Dukes should be embarrassed if this is close at the half. But that SBC logo on the field, and the hype of the last week off the field, don’t actually win games and the boys need to get back in the lab. Unlike past seasons, this is the only true cupcake on the schedule (well, we’ll see about Texas St.) and this game should be treated as maybe the only serious opportunity to get real work for lots of backups and young guys who will likely be sorely needed later in the first FBS slog. It’s also a chance to clean up some of the unnecessary penalties from last week and get the timing right in the placekicking game.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Santa Fe Brewing’s New Mexico Standard. New Mexico is arguably the nation’s most underrated state. And almost inarguably the nation’s most underrated beer state. Unfortunately, Santa Fe Brewing is largely the only brewery with (sort of) widely available products east of the Mississippi and it’s lineup is not the best representative of The Beers of Enchantment. With exceptional producers like La Cumbre, Marble, and Bosque cranking out the amazingly weird products that come from a beer-culture with no limitations but little distribution, it’s disappointing for this place and its beer that we love. But this lager, an aptly named Standard, is absolutely what it claims: a clean, crisp standard lager with a low ABV (in a gorgeous can worthy of the state with the best lineup of license plates) perfect for long tailgates and humid September days.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Lots of Billy Atkins to Maxwell James and hopefully even an Alonza Barnett cameo.

JMU 48, Norfolk St. 13

Sep 2 / Todd

MTSU @ JMU – Official JMUSB Game #1 Preview

It’s Just So Beautiful!

Matchup: JMU Dukes (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (0-0, 0-0 CUSA)

Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, September 3, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 83 at kickoff, humid, dropping into low 70s

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -5.5, O/U 58

How We Got Here

To paraphrase Clark W. Griswold, “Hallelujah, holy shit!” Needless to say, this one has been in the works for a little while. 18-24 months. Monitoring the situation. Hell, there was a plane hired with a banner at one of the Gamedays (we have no comment on funding for said plane). In the end, when it looked like JMU might be allowed to be the first team ever to move up in one year, and play a full FBS schedule right away, the Dukes needed to find one more home Out-of-Conference game to make that a reality. MTSU had an open date after a bigger fish bought out a previously scheduled game and JMU dug up the cash to make this a reality. On one hand, having the first game of the Sun Belt era against a legit team is a tad scary. But really IT’S FREAKING AMAZING! Let’s ‘effin go!

How Middle Can Win

This section has been an afterthought for years for most regular season games. Well afterthought no more. The Raiders, like every team except Norfolk St. on the schedule this year, can absolutely beat the Dukes if the boys don’t play well. Middle’s defense led the nation in turnovers forced last year and a nervy, over-hyped first-FBS game from JMU could be a recipe for that to continue. Especially because Defensive End Jordan Ferguson (#9) is a serious problem. If he spends too much time in the backfield and/or in Centeio’s grill, that will cause major issues. On offense, the Raiders need to be steady. They have a solid line led by Center Jordan Palmer (#62). They need to avoid turnovers themselves as this isn’t a flashy group despite vague recollections of early Stockstill teams being more innovative (he’s in his 17th year as HC!) but if their defense is slowing JMU down, they won’t need to light it up. That said, it seems obvious everyone will try to test the Dukes young/inexperienced Corners at every turn and with the return from injury of veteran QB Chase Cunningham that’s a sure bet here too.

How JMU Can Win

Survive the hype and nerves of the first half, don’t squander scoring chances, and get to the QB. This game is going to be an adventure early with what will surely be a revved up (and well-oiled given the late kick) crowd. JMU needs to avoid trying to do too much early and simply avoid mistakes through the first few drives. In what seems like it may be the recipe all season, the Dukes offense has to find a way to grind things out in the running game. Avoiding down and distance challenges and setting up manageable third downs will do wonders to slow down the Raiders pass rush and stay away from risky throws against an opportunistic group. Really looking forward to seeing Percy and Kaelon back from injury to join Latrele! And more than anything, JMU has got to take advantage of scoring chances better than last season. Trips inside the 10 have got to be TDs and kicks inside 45 need to split the uprights. The margins are just going to be so much tighter this year that the Dukes can’t afford to squander chances.

On defense, it would be easy to focus on stopping the run given the camp churn at the NG/DT spots, but really the Dukes have to find ways to pressure the QB to help out the back end of the defense by not forcing guys to cover all that long.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

NoDa Brewing’s Hop, Dop & Roll. Fortunate to have a few of these glorious bastards coming to the tailgate with an old friend from Charlotte. Big, but clean, crisp IPA with great hops but none of that dreadful haze/food that makes a 6 p.m. taste too chunky.

Official JMUSB Prediction

It may just be the fluttering excitement in our guts, but our best guess is the Dukes, with their champion’s DNA intact, are just flat-out better than a CUSA mid-packer from last year. Thornton, Latrele, Kidwell, Ukwu, Chuk. These guys can compete anywhere and with the reinforcements from the portal on-board, the Dukes will weather the first half and then get rollin’!

JMU 31, MTSU 23

Aug 30 / Rob

Dukes Mafia – FBS Edition

Howdy Dukes fans. It’s been a minute, but we managed to figure out how to log back into this site and figured it’s time to get back on the blogging horse. We admit it. We made the transition to lazy podcasters, but we’re trying to motivate to give you more of the meaningless nonsense we’re known for. Before we get to that however, let’s do something a bit more genuine.

Last year we blatantly ripped off the Bills Mafia and encouraged JMU fans to donate to specific charities in honor of various big games and events. The JMU community stepped up big time and provided tens of thousands of meals to those in need. It was awesome. But with JMU making the move to the FBS, we’d like to go bigger. And we’re starting this week by asking folks to donate to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, a terrific organization fighting food insecurity right in JMU’s backyard. Follow this link or text “Dukes” to 707070 to get started. Each dollar donated provides meals for four people, so every bit really does help. Thanks and Go Dukes!

Dec 17 / Todd

2021 FCS Semi-Final Preview: JMU at NDSU

Wouldn’t want this any other way! The old nemesis one more time. We sports-hate ’em for lots of reasons. A fanbase largely consisting of sixty-year old, entirely white upper midwesterners with Canadian accents condescending to us about the football and claiming that Harrisonburg, in Rockingham County and the Valley of all places, is somehow full of coastal elites. Breastaurant-worshipping troglodytes who are tighter with tips than the bikinis on the bartenders gaslighting all of us that somehow we’re the fanbase with issues. But the hard truth of the matter is this: we hate ’em cause we’ve lost three painful times in the playoffs, including twice in Frisco, and for all the pride we have in our Dukes, we can’t really puff our chests out and be the worst versions of ourselves either when taking on the Bison.

The Basics

Matchup: #3 JMU Dukes (12-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) at #2 North Dakota St. Bison (12-1, 7-1 MVFC)

Kickoff: 9:15 p.m. EST. FRIDAY December 17, 2021, Fargodome, Fargo, ND

Weather: N/A

Broadcast: ESPN2


How We Got Here

The Dukes received the #3 national seed in the FCS playoffs and beat the snot out of Southeastern Louisiana and Montana the last two weeks.

The Bison received the #2 seed and then took advantage of their traditional soft-assed path to the semis with wins over Southern Illinois and an overmatched East Tennessee State team.

How NDSU Can Win

Win big in time of possession and really pressure Cole. Defensively, the formula is simple for NDSU. They have to pressure Cole Johnson enough to change the game. Cole has shown a mature ability to not force things and sometimes that means taking a sack. That’s ok two or three times and hasn’t stopped him and the offense from coming back for big plays later. But the only way to stop the Dukes from eventually breaking a few big ones is to keep that pressure up consistently for 60 minutes. This group of JMU receivers in a dome is not something even the venerated Bison can hold down on the back end alone without such pressure so this will really be the whole game on that side of the ball.

Offensively, the Bison need to grind clock in their traditional way and do just enough. NDSU’s offense, particularly if their one true speedster WR Christian Watson cannot play or is limited by a bum hamstring, does not have a Trey Lance type threat this year. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try to do what they do. And holding onto the ball to limit JMU’s offensive opportunities might be as important as actually trying to light up the scoreboard. NDSU’s most underrated strength through their entire decade-long run has been the way their grinding, clock-killing style takes away even the chance for another high-flying team’s offense to get in rhythm.

How JMU Can Win

Don’t get out-gimmicked and make more big plays. On defense, there are two keys this week. The obvious one is holding up on the line for 60 minutes. JMU has been incredibly tough to run on consistently this year thanks to Mike Greene and company wrecking things. But NDSU’s run game, and commitment to that run game, are the strongest the Dukes have seen all year and JMU will have to prove they can hold the line for all four quarters. If they do, it will be interesting to see what the Bison really have in the passing game. QB Cam Miller is solid, but he’s just not on the level of his Jensen/Wentz/Stick/Lance predecessors yet. Another element of this, like last week, is trying to force NDSU into 3rd and 4 or more. If the Bison grind to a bunch of 3rd and 1’s, things get a whole lot tougher in this regard.

But just as important, JMU has consistently been out-gimmicked/out-schemed by NDSU the last two matchups. The fake FG in ’19, the wide-open throwback in ’17, being ready for JMU’s fourth down goal line call in ’19. JMU needs to be ready all game. And this includes the almost certain pass coming from wildcat QB2 Quincy Patterson (VT transfer/bum).

On offense, JMU just has to stay focused no matter what happens and trust – as they did last week – that the time will come for big plays. Not one team has truly kept the Dukes from moving the ball and hitting a few this year and there’s no reason to think this will be any different if the offense can just hang in there and continue to avoid the big mistakes. Eventually, Cole will have time and JMU’s athletes will be flying around open in the dome. Finally, while we’d love to see at least one true trick from JMU at some point (thinking that Thornton jet sweep is primed), we don’t want to see anything too gimmicky the way the Dukes ended up for stretches of the ’19 game with the Gage package and the final play.

And specials need to be special of course! #LetHarryRun

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Who are we kidding? It’s a 9:15 kickoff and we’re all drinking bourbon, preferably Angel’s Envy. Hopefully followed by a celebratory scotch after midnight, preferably Ardbeg of course!

Official JMUSB Prediction

This is the second of five games against NDSU where we feel confident saying the Dukes are narrowly better and if both teams play their best, JMU wins. In ’17 we felt that way and turned out to be painfully wrong for a lot of reasons. In ’16 we didn’t feel that way, but turned out wrong in the best of ways! So really we don’t know anything in a series where every game has been tight (even the forgotten ’11 trip up there where an overmatched Justin Thorpe-led Dukes squad hung in gamely for a long time). But this matchup is also long overdue for a boat-race by the more talented team. Dukes roll! JMU 31, NDSU 16.

Dec 10 / Todd

2021 FCS Quarterfinal Preview: Montana at JMU

Res Ipsa Loquitur – the thing speaks for itself. Favorite maxim of law students and Sorkin nerds everywhere. But rarely does it hit this hard. Montana vs. JMU. What else do you need? Nothing, you need nothing else. For two schools separated by 2300 miles that are playing for only the third time, it really is stunning how much just that phrase – Montana vs. JMU – means to fans of both programs. But given that each of those matchups have occurred in December, you know what that means in terms of the stakes for FCS teams. A title won, a heartbreaking semifinal loss for the most mythical Dukes team ever, and now tonight!

The Basics

Matchup: #6 Montana Grizzlies (10-2, 6-2 Big Sky) at #3 JMU Dukes (11-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. EST. FRIDAY December 10, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Cloudy, High 46

Broadcast: ESPN2

FEPO: Opened at JMU-6.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes received the #3 national seed in the FCS playoffs and beat the snot out of Southeastern Louisiana last week.

The sixth-seeded Griz avenged a regular season loss to Big Sky rival Eastern Washington at home last week in front of a raucous crowd. After falling behind early, Montana used some huge plays on special teams and an avalanche of Eagles errors to turn a thriller into a semi-blowout and won going away 57-41.

How Montana Can Win

Avoid mistakes and get to the QB. Offensively, Montana needs to play soundly. 17 or so points and no turnovers from their offense would be fine. They cannot afford to give the Dukes defense big plays and opportunities the way SLU did last week. And really, they probably don’t want this to turn into a typical Big Fluffy shootout like their game against EWU did either.

But Montana’s strengths are on defense and specials and that’s where they’ll be looking to win this thing. What they need to do most is pressure Cole Johnson. Given the matchup, it seems unlikely JMU’s running game will go nuts, but if Cole has time, Montana showed last week they can be beaten on the back end, and that was before they saw Wells, Thornton, Ravenel, and Brown. The Griz simply have to get to Cole.

And of course they have great teams. A track-speed kick returner, a strong punter, and a solid kicker. They’ll need to be special in this phase too.

How JMU Can Win

Make less mistakes and more big plays. It sounds too simple, but this one is just so closely matched that it really does come down to those two things. Cole won’t have clean pockets all day like last week, but if the Dukes can hit 2 or 3 big ones on offense again this week, that’s where the Griz are vulnerable and could be enough. Defensively, the Dukes need to play clean and get off the field on third down when they can. Every extra chance they can give the offense, the better the chances the big plays will hit.

And just like Montana, Ratke, Wise, Sroba, Thornton/VanHorse, and especially ALL of the coverage teams need to play their best games of the season. Most importanly, mistakes must be extremely limited when the margins are this close.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Brothers Resolute – Friday night lights means it’s that time. Dark, cold, perfect.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Last home playoff game ever (in all likelihood we know). Montana. Rodney Landers narrating the hype video. Montana is really good. Good enough to win. Definitely good enough to make this a heart-wrenching, nervous-as-hell, insane Friday night game. But the Dukes ain’t done yet and they’ll find a way. Dukes 27, Montana 24.

Dec 2 / Todd

2021 FCS Playoffs Round of 16: Southeastern Louisiana at JMU

And just like that, the last ride in the FCS playoffs is here for the Dukes. And while we don’t want to admit it, that’s a scary prospect for fans. Obviously we all have hopes of going out a winner in Frisco in a rematch with Sam or Villanova in January. And realistically given this teams limitations in the running game and the difficult path the Dukes will face on this side of the bracket, many fans could probably at least hold their heads high on the way out after a big fight in a semi-final ending in Fargo. But woof, a Withers/Houston-esque Liberty or Colgate pratfall at this early stage with many fans barely aware the playoffs have started would suck. Like really really suck. We’re bullish on JMU’s chances this week, but this opponent does have the tools to make this more than a hail-mary possibility.

Before we get into things, a few quick notes on Southeastern. First, they officially prefer to be called “Southeastern.” When abbreviated, they’re touch about being “SLU” instead of “SELA” but SLU is the St. Louis Billikens for college fans and they’re just wrong. SELA is in Hammond, LA, a small town down in the boot north of New Orleans and east of Baton Rouge.

A cool thing about their home, Strawberry Stadium, is that it was initially built as one of President Roosevelt’s WPA projects back in the 30’s. Another fun fact in this game is that Dukes RB/DB Austin Douglas’ brother Justin is a DB for the Lions so you know there will be some chatter amongst players and a general lack of fear both ways.

SELA ain’t seen a guy like this

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (10-1, 7-1 in that league) vs. Southeastern Louisiana Lions (9-3, 6-2 Southland)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST. Saturday December 4, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: Mostly Sunny, High 59 – by Rocktown standards, a bluebird December day!

Broadcast: ESPN+

FEPO: Opened at JMU-14.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes received the #3 national seed in the FCS playoffs and had a bye last week.

The Lions beat the snot out of a rare SWAC at-large selectee Florida A&M last week 38-14. SLU ran a fake FG for an untouched TD on their first drive and never looked back at home in Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, LA last week to advance.

How SLU Can Win

Get into a shootout and outscore a JMU team that has shown a penchant for clamming up in the red zone. 6’7″ Lions QB Cole Kelly is a former 4-star recruit who transferred from Arkansas and won national player of the year honors in the Spring season. He spreads the ball all over the place to a deep core of pass-cathers (10 guys have at least 200 yards this season) spread out among WR, TE, and RB. Kelly is also the team’s leading rusher but that says more about the absolute lack of care for running the ball as a team than it does about his lumbering runs. SLU leads the nation in most offensive categories with a creative scheme that utilizes the absolute weapon they have at QB.

But defensively the Lions are another story. Every “big” game on their schedule has been an absolute shootout win or lose. 45-42 loss to FBS La. Tech. 58-48 win and a 45-42 loss to Southland rival Nicholls (don’t ask about Southland’s weird schedule after Sam Houston bolted for AQ7 this season). 55-52 loss to playoff team UIW and a 38-35 win over McNeese. While the defense appeared to play well in last week’s playoff opener, we won’t know till Saturday whether that reflected improvement by Southeastern or ineptitude from an overmatched and maybe-not-playoff-quality FAMU squad. Most likely the best the Lions can hope for is shutting down the Dukes predictable running game and finding a turnover somewhere.

How JMU Can Win

Tackle and play smart. Defensively, this is an intriguing game for a JMU team accustomed to truly shutting teams down. If that’s not entirely possible, and the film suggests it’s unlikely, the Dukes need to do the small things they don’t usually have to worry about as much. First, tackle tackle tackle. SELA does a ton of short passing in every direction and five yard completions need to be five yard gains, not 15 or more after missed tackles. Secondly, the Dukes need to be smart in the penalty department. Obviously, there will a focus on, and opportunities for, absolutely getting after the QB but late hits and targetings won’t help. And the Lions have shown a willingness at times, especially when challenged, to run the “all-PI” offense where they chuck it downfield and force DB’s to make plays. This was successful last week and JMU DB’s, particularly corners Greg Ross and Taurus Carroll, need to try everything they can to be aggressive without giving away free first downs.

On offense it’s simple – FINISH! There’s a not-unrealistic argument to be made that if the Dukes ever punt in this game against this defense it’s a failure. There’s an even stronger case that JMU should NEVER be settling for FG’s in this game if they plan to win. That’s it, across the goal line no matter what.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Vanish Ghost Fleet IPA. Time to step it up with libations worthy of playoff games and this dark, cold, and perfect IPA fits the bill. Just love Vanish and their homegrown hops so much.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU puts this one away with a couple big plays from defense and specials after a nervy first three quarters. 45-31 Dukes!

Nov 19 / Rob

2021 JMUSB Game Preview #11: JMU vs. Towson

Well, this is how it ends. JMU’s final CAA Football Conference game takes place on Saturday against our old pals, the Towson (State) Tigers. It occurred to me that despite JMU sharing a league with Towson for two decades, I don’t know a single thing about the school. After some extensive research (Wikipedia) however, Saturday’s match-up is apparently a matchup of former normal schools. Like JMU, Towson began as its states flagship school for educating teachers and has grown to a large institution with over 20,000 students today. However, after learning about that little journey, the article immediately jumped to an account of Barry Freundel’s voyeurism, so perhaps it best we end our overview of the school. In any case, Towson has very little fan support and seems perfectly content to ignore its sleeping giant potential in favor of abject mediocrity. We think that makes the Tigers the perfect final CAA opponent for the Dukes. Let’s go.

The Basics

Matchup: #2 JMU Dukes (9-1, 6-1 in that league) vs. Towson Tigers (4-6, 3-4 CAA)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST. Saturday November 20, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, high 48

Broadcast: NBC Sports Washington or you can Go with the Flo

How We Got Here

If you weren’t paying attention to Towson football last spring (and be honest, you weren’t), you might have missed that they took the season off. Any thoughts that the extra rest would give the Tigers a competitive advantage this Fall were quickly dismissed when everyone remembered that it was Towson. The Tigers have had their typical up and down season, during which they’ve managed to sneak in a good win over Rhody, a pair of wins over lesser CAA schools, and a number of relatively impotent performances to fill out the rest of the schedule. They’re currently coming off a two game skid with losses to RU and Elon. In last weekend’s 37-14 defeat to Elon, the Tigers trotted out a 3 QB attack to open the game. It didn’t work. Despite the disappointing result, Jerry Howard Jr. ran for 126 yards on only 17 carries. That’s legit. So is he.

JMU on the other hand is riding a 5 game winning streak and fresh off a 32-22 win over William & Mary. Against the Tribe, JMU’s offense struggled in the red zone, but move the ball pretty well all day. Defensively, the Dukes managed to keep the William & Mary offense in check for all but a few plays. Of course those few plays that they let up resulted in scores. The fact remains that despite its red zone struggles, JMU won handily. Again.

How Towson Can Win

The Tigers will go as far as Jerry Howard Jr. can take them. The Georgia Tech transfer has been a real bright spot for Towson. He’s exceeded 100 yards rushing in 3 of his last 5 games. He’s a big back and should be the focus on the Tiger attack on Saturday. They’re best hope is to pound the ball with him and keep the Dukes offense on the sidelines. If they do that, and JMU fails to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, they’ll have a chance.

How JMU Can Win

JMU has shown that they can win games even when the offense stalls near the end zone, but they really need to punch it in for a few touchdowns. This is the last game of the regular season and a great chance to build momentum for the playoffs. The offensive line has stepped up in the passing game lately. They need to find a way to have the same sort of success with the ground game. The Dukes have proven that they can win with “B” games from the offense and a stellar performance from Ethan Ratke. They need to get back to their more successful ways of running the ball effectively while spreading the ball around in the air. JMU has shown us brief peaks of championship level play this season. This regular season finale would be a great time for them to put together a full 60 minutes hitting on all cylinders.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Lazersnake by 3 Floyds Brewing. This brewery out of Indiana has been well know by beer fans for ages. It’s only been relatively recently that we could find its beers where we live in Virginia. Not much more to say about it other than their stellar reputation is deserved. Lazersnake is a good, no nonsense IPA. Drink it and root for Dukes.

Official JMUSB Prediction

The Dukes put the clamps on the Tigers run game, Latrelle Palmer goes off, and Cole slings it around all day. JMU is going to go out of the CAA with a bang. The Dukes should win and win big. We’re thinking 35-10 good guys. Enjoy the game everyone.