As most of you know, Richmond shattered the CAA world last week by defeating the previously undefeated JMU Dukes. The Dukes put up a strong fight, even finishing with over 40 points, but it wasn’t enough to match the Spiders’ firepower on Homecoming weekend. However, the Dukes are hungry. They’re out to prove that they are still the best team in the CAA. Will the Tribe be ready to play on Halloween day?
To get a scouting report on this year’s JMU Dukes, we enlisted Rob and Todd of the JMU Sports Blog. It’s safe to say that without the JMU Sports Blog, the William & Mary Sports Blog would not exist, as we basically ripped off the entire idea/model from them! But seriously, their blog is awesome. If you haven’t checked them out before, you should definitely do so. But without further ado, enjoy our Q&A with the JMU Sports Blog!
Last week, much of the country saw JMU for the first time through ESPN College Game Day. It was an incredible atmosphere, as thousands flocked to the Quad to catch a glimpse of the Game Day crew. What was this experience like, and how much does this mean for the football program and JMU as a whole?
We think it means more than we can even assess or imagine at this moment and the aftereffects will be felt for years to come. It’s really difficult to quantify at this point, but one thing we’ve talked about for years is there can’t be an institution in the country with a higher gap between the way their alumni feel about the school (overwhelming, insanely positive) and the rate of giving back to the school (almost unfathomably low for a school of this size). Something like this reminds people what they love, both football fans and non-fans alike and can make a big difference in that gap. The nation (and FBS conferences) aren’t going to remember that JMU lost to Richmond on regional TV, they’re going to remember ESPN Gameday and that scene and turnout. And it’s not just football, the new baseball coach said he had eight recruits on campus Saturday and all he had to do was take them to the Quad, turn them loose, and keep his mouth shut. You think every single one of them doesn’t want to come here after that?
And finally, one of the most difficult things for JMU to change culturally on the football side is the perception outside the Mid-Atlantic that they’re a small school (or like W&M, probably even most folks think it’s a private school). 22,000 students and growing ain’t small in any world and that certainly showed on Saturday, not just nationally, but also to stodgy old alums and faculty who may not have realized the sheer volume of passion for JMU that’s out there and untapped.
Back to Football: We all know that JMU QB Vad Lee has been the best offensive player in all of FCS through the first 8 weeks. However, he left last week’s game against Richmond with an apparent ankle injury. Is there any update on that, and if he’s out, how comfortable are you with his backup?
JMU just announced that he had season ending surgery and is done. Alrighty then.
Aside from Quarterback, who are some other offensive players that the Tribe should look out for this coming Saturday?
All of them. Just kidding, sort of. The fact is that a whole host of players have shined in the Dukes offense this year. We’re about to find out if that were due to Vad Lee elevating the entire unit, or if JMU just has a lot of weapons. Our guess is a little bit of both, but there’s no denying that JMU has some playmakers. Like the Tribe, the Dukes have a couple of capable rushing threats in #25 Cardon Johnson, and #32 Khalid Abdullah. They both rush for over 90 yards a game. #37 Deane Cheatham and #11 Brandon Ravenel have been the most consistent pass catchers, and #13 Ishmael Hyman, #6 Rashard Davis, and #3 Dominique Taylor are all threats to score as well.
On the other side of the ball, who are JMU’s top defensive players this year?
Coming off last week’s debacle of a performance, we’re inclined to just skip the question and keep talking about the offense. the defense was really, really awful against Richmond. But we can’t completely dodge the question. We continue to believe that corner back #14 Taylor Reynolds is a good defender who’s improved by leaps and bounds since coming to JMU. #33 Gage Steele can rack up tackles at linebacker and #93 Andrew Ankrah has emerged as a playmaker on the defensive line. The truth is that everyone on the defensive side of the ball should be playing for pride this weekend and trying to prove to themselves and the fans that they’re way better than they showed last Saturday.