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.

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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

Feb 25 / Rob

Dukes Helping Others Week 2

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who donated to Feeding America – Kentucky’s Heartland in the inaugural running of our Dukes Helping Others campaign. Through your contributions, over 3,000 meals we provided to individuals in need.

In case you need a refresher, we’re trying to harness the power of the JMU football fanbase to make a small difference in the world. Each week, we’ll choose a charity to donate to either in the Valley or nearby that week’s opponent. This week we’ll be raising money for the West Hills Food Pantry. For every dollar donated, five meals will be provided. Any donation is appreciated, but we’re just asking JMU fans to start with 5 bucks. Text “ROOTIN” to ext 707070 or click here to get started. And spread the word!

Feb 24 / jmusport

Guest Post: Proud and True

Randy won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. Here’s his reflection of being around for the start of the JMU football program.

Proud & True. Many of you know that to be the name of the Duke Club fund that supports JMU sports. The naming could not be more appropriate. In my 42 years since graduation, I’ve encountered graduates of all ages. The common denominator among them is the pride they feel for their university and the value they place on their experience as a Duke.

Though I will never be remembered for my exploits on the field, as a football alum, my pride in our football Dukes runs deep. My first year, though not quite ground zero, was the beginning of Madision
College playing a legit Division III, NCAA schedule. That was 1974. We were playing on a brand-new AstroTurf field, the first in Virginia. This was the early turf which was easily 15 degrees hotter than grass and could absorb your skin as easily as it did heat. We completed the season with a winning, 6-4 record.

The following year, we were undefeated with a 9-0-1 record. That season remains as JMU’s only undefeated season…. so far. We all hope that changes this year. That was a special time for JMU football.

Today is a special time as well, for JMU football and for theUniversity. Part of the pride that we all share stems from the sense that our University is always moving forward. We won regularly as an upstart new football program and we continue to win today. Beyond sports, the accolades continue to pile up.

I am sure every group of players to come through JMU in the last 40+ years feel their own unique connection and sense of pride in their university. The presence and support of those early players from the 70’s however, is easy to see at today’s games, at tailgates or at Duke Club events. The pride from
this group of D-III, non-scholarship players, is unmistakable. There is a connection to, or a sense of being part of the greatness that has since followed.

Proud & True! Go Dukes
P.S. Early prediction on May 16 th game: JMU 28, NDSU 17

Feb 24 / Rob

Prediction Contest: JMU vs. Robert Morris

The Dukes took care of business with a shutout victory over Morehead State in week one. Now they welcome Robert Morris to Bridgeforth for their final tune-up before CAA play begins. And we want to know how you think the game will play out.

Leave a comment below indicating who 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. That’s it. So give us your prediction and Go Dukes!

Feb 24 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Spring Football…is Kind of Awesome

The latest episode of the JMU Sports Blog podcast is live for your listening pleasure. It this one, we break down the big 52-0 win over Morehead State, go around the docket for other Spring sports, and ramble on about our usual nonsense. You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your pods.

As always, the JMU Sports Blog Podcast is brought to you by Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. Swing by the shop or visit them online for all of your angling and outdoor needs.

Feb 21 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 52 – Morehead State 0

JMU opened the 2021 (Part 1) season with a convincing 52 point shutout over Morehead State. As the score might indicate, the game was never in doubt. The Dukes scored touchdowns on their first three drives and turned the game into laugher early. JMU’s defense overwhelmed the Morehead attack, limiting it to only 98 yards. The JMU offense on the other hand, moved down the field at will to the tune of 556 yards. None of us expected the game to be anything more than an early season tune-up, and that’s all it was. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

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Feb 18 / Todd

2021 Spring Game #1 Official JMUSB Preview: Morehead St. @ JMU

Cole Johnson, JMU Starting QB
Guess who’s back!?

We did it! We all did it! After 13 months without Dukes football, it’s go time. It’s hard to believe this is happening but we’re choosing to love it and enjoy every second we get of it this winter and spring. We often say that being a college football fan requires being comfortable with a certain level of cognitive dissonance and this weird season may stretch that to its limit, but while it’s here, we’re going to enjoy the warmth JMU will bring to the longest and coldest of winters with everything we have.

We can, and will, do two things at once. First, acknowledge and pray for the fact that even in our small group of fellow JMU fanatics, there are those that have lost siblings and parents this last year. And way way down the list of import, it also may not make any financial, logistical, or rational sense to have an FCS spring season. But we can do a second thing at the same time. We can choose to accept and support that players, coaches, and fans all want throw streamers, even if it’s in our living rooms. And this can be fun and there’s no need to apologize to anyone for being joyous. And if we’re lucky enough, maybe we’ll even get to throw real streamers at a real game sometime in early May!

The Basics

Matchup: Morehead St. Eagles (0-0, Pioneer) @ #4 JMU Dukes (0-0, CAA)

Kickoff: 12 noon ET. Saturday February 20, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Sunny, high of 29

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 -41.5, O/U 54 – Exciting that we can talk about this openly and with more glee this year thanks to the legalization of sports betting in Virginia. But that “location services” thing on your DraftKings/FanDuel app should prevent you from actually wagering on the Dukes if you live in Virginia. More to come on this as the season goes along.

How Morehead St. Can Win

The Eagles probably can’t. Unless JMU is too cold and too nervous and generally overconfident and under-aggressive, it’ll be an incredible victory for MSU to stay within 3 scores. Frankly, if the Eagles can make the trip safely from a ‘rona and icy travel standpoint and escape without major injury, it’d really be successful start to the year.

As a reminder, Morehead St. is a mid-sized public school from Morehead, Kentucky, which deep in the hills about halfway between Lexington, KY and Huntington, WV. MSU serves the eastern part of the state way better than Eastern Kentucky actually does. The Eagles play in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League. San Diego wins that league’s auto-berth to the FCS playoffs almost every year, except on occasion when Dayton has an NFL-Caliber Tight End. The league’s existence is one of the quirkiest and least-explainable things in all of college athletics, and that friends is saying something. It stretches from Cali to Ohio and down to Florida and flies those teams all over hell’s half-acre in order for a bunch of non-schollie schools to play each other at the FCS level. Most of the member schools are reasonably well-respected some reason that has zero to do with football. Read that again and tell me you don’t love this madness. All that said, this league is about to get REALLY interesting next Fall, when two new members join the league. One is a school, South Carolina’s tiny Presbyterian College, who didn’t care enough about football and sort of unofficially got itself thrown out of its conference, the SoCon. The other, the University of St. Thomas, the pride of St. Paul, Minnesota (again, the geography of this league is friggin’ wild!), absolutely and very officially got itself thrown out of its conference, D3’s Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), for caring entirely too much about football and shredding both D3 rulebooks and opponents for too many years. St. Thomas was “involuntarily removed” from the MIAC last year and somehow will find itself in the Pioneer during its four-year transition to full FCS status. Needless to say, both of these proud programs are going to significantly up the interest and competition levels in the PFL soon.

Also, the PFL is elite in terms of team names. Stetson Hatters, San Diego Torreros, Dayton Flyers, St. Thomas Tommies, and now the Presbyterian Blue Hose! The boring Eagles of Morehead lose in the name game and are likely to lose Saturday as well. But Phil Simms and Kenneth Farreid went there!

More Than a Game

We’re trying something new this year to make something better from the collective power of Dukes everywhere. This week in honor of JMU’s opponent, Morehead State, we’ll be donating to Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland. You can click here or text “ROOTIN” to 707070 to get started. Let’s just say our old friend Joe Suhoski and his beloved Bills Mafia may have been on our minds and hearts this year.

How JMU Can Win

Mickey Ball! It could be back baby! Complete with dominant line play serving as a draft showcase for Liam Fornadel, wide blockers, and 58 running backs in the same position group that would start for every other opponent they’ll play this year. We’ll have to get to April or May for the weather to allow Coach Cignetti to truly throw a visor, but with the season kicking off on the absurd date of February 20th – a time of year when the central valley experiences approximately 47 minutes of daylight and this Saturday’s expected high of 29 can be considered balmy – a return to the program’s ground-and-pound roots seems in order. I’m sure we’ll see an effort to begin incorporating all the new faces catching passes, but given the opponent and the weather, we’d expect to see a whole lot of RB’s alternating between trucking dudes and running away from them.

The more interesting thing will be to see how things set up on Defense, where team-leader Mike Greene will be trying to raise the level of play of so many new guys in new roles around him. There’s a ton of talent out there that may not always be in the right spot for a while. That should lead to big plays both for and against the Dukes at times and that’s where the action is. The key to this wild Spring season seems likely to be the health of the top two linebackers – Azanama and Tucker-Dorsey – and the development of the largely unproven cornerback group.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Hopslam. Football is back at JMU and Bell’s is back in Virginia after the Commonwealth spent a couple years acting the fool. It’s not even our favorite bigass IPA, but it’s February 20th during a pandemic ice storm and as Chris Tucker would say, you ain’t got shit to do. Seriously, you aren’t going anywhere. None of us have any plans. And the Dukes are on. I still hate paying for Flo, but this year I’m saving on tickets, transport, accommodations, concessions, etc. so it isn’t even the financial outlay, it’s just the principle. There are principalities involved! So grab a sixer of this 10% monster that really does use a spoonful of honey to help the medicine go down and enjoy the hell out of a Dukes Saturday!

Official JMUSB Prediction

We’re not yet confident the play from JMU will be as consistent and flattering as the final score may indicate, but the Dukes should distance this thing early. Also not sure even Coach Cig’s most conservative, sporting effort in the second half can keep the Dukes’ talented and hungry ballcarriers from continuing to score late. JMU 48 – Morehead St. 7

Feb 18 / Rob

An Idea to Help Some Folks

We’d like to try something a little different this football season. In the decade-plus we’ve been doing the blog, we’ve been amazed by the passion of the JMU fanbase. We thought we’d try to harness that same sort of enthusiasm that folks have for the Dukes, in an attempt to do some good.

So here’s our idea. Every week of football season, we’ll choose a food bank or some sort of charity that provides meals for the needy and ask fans to donate a small amount. We’ll choose the charity and set up the donation form online. We’re not looking for folks to break the bank and the default baseline donation will be set to $5, but anyone is welcome to give more. Our hope is that Dukes fans rally and we end up making a real difference for folks in need. Things might change as the season goes on, but this is the jumping off point.

This week in honor of JMU’s opponent, Morehead State, we’ll be donating to Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland. You can click here or text “ROOTIN” to 707070 to get started.

With the weird home and home format, we think it’s going to give us a chance to cover charities both in the opponents’ regions and in the Valley. We know it’s a tough time for many people and not everyone has extra cash laying around. But if you do, we’d love it if you could pitch in a few bucks. Let’s help out others and let the college football world know how generous JMU fans are.

Go Dukes!