W&M vs. JMU Preview: Q&A with the JMU Sports Blog

W&M Homecoming 2017 — the time is finally here. Dust off your long sleeve shirts: the leaves are turning, Starbucks is selling pumpkin spice lattes, and Tribe alumni around the world are descending upon Williamsburg, the REAL ‘Burg. That last bit was for you, JMU fans. Come on, try to argue that point, we dare you. Yeah? Okay, you asked for it. Because what’s an in-state rivalry worth without some smack talk. A quick history lesson for you less fortunate Dukes: Williamsburg, VA was established in 1632. Harrisonburg, 1779. Need us to do the math for you too? Williamsburg had already been around 147 years before Harrisonburg was even a thought. And don’t make us remind you of the schools’ founding dates. Really…you want to go there? Okay, we will. William & Mary (founded 1693) – JMU (founded 1908). Difference: 215 years.

Okay, we’ve had our fun. On Saturday, W&M will host an FBS team for the first time in Zable Stadium since 1981, the last season W&M was officially deemed an FBS team. Wait… JMU isn’t an FBS team? Oh, that’s right. They only blew out the FBS’ East Carolina on the road 34-14, and hold the longest active win streak in all of Division I football (18 games, spanning back to last season). No biggie. All jokes aside, the Dukes are an absolute powerhouse. A well-oiled machine. The best you’ll see at the FCS level. We truly could not hype them any more; you have to respect talent when its due.

To get us up to speed on this year’s Dukes, the defending FCS National Champions, we recruited our friends at the JMU Sports Blog! If you haven’t checked them out before, we suggest you do. And last but not least, DON’T FORGET that this Saturday is a GREEN OUT. We’ll see you all in Williamsburg on Saturday. Roll Damn Tribe.

 This Year

JMU’s 2nd-year Head Coach Mike Houston is coming off a National Championship season. What has he brought to this team that was missing with former Head Coach Everett Withers? 

“A mentality that is entirely focused on football. Houston is a former high school coach and it shows in everything he does. The famous pregame speeches aren’t platitudes, they’re really what he believes in, which seems to amount to football and family above all else. He has infused a level of accountability into all aspects of the program that makes a huge difference day to day. Also, he brought defense.”

Senior QB Jonathan Alger, I mean — Bryan Schor (apologies, the resemblance between Schor and JMU’s school president are truly remarkable), led the team to the promised land last season. What have you seen from him this year, and has he been better/worse/the same as he was last year at this point in the season?  

“The fact that both Schor and Alger seem to have embraced this crazy coincidence only makes it better. It’s lent President Alger, who would probably not mind one bit knowing his reputation was “milquetoast,” a bit of humor and personality when they’ve done social media bits and appearances together. And it’s likely been a cool opportunity for Schor, who is a top-notch student, to interact with real players more often than he might ever have otherwise. As for Schor’s play, it really is kind of crazy that we as fans are almost disappointed with some aspects of his game. He’s still a badass QB and clearly one of the team’s leaders, but he’s just constantly compared against his otherworldly play last year. We’d say he needs to just cut it loose more, but he may be a teensy bit gunshy after some early-season INTs. But more than anything, he still has a chance to be even better, he just needs a few weeks with a fully healthy receiving corps. All of JMU’s top targets (WR’s Terrence Alls, John Miller, Ish Hyman plus TE Jonathan Kloosterman) have missed big parts of the season so far and Schor just needs a few games with everyone on the field to find that rhythm again.”

Aside from quarterback, who are the Offensive players W&M should watch out for this coming week?  

“LT Aaron Stinnie is as good a lineman as you’ll see in FCS and he makes watching line play a joy. Freshman TE Clayton Cheatham, the younger brother of former JMU stud TE Deane Cheatham, is starting to contribute more too and is a name to watch. Finally, both RB’s are fun to watch. RB Marcus Marshall is a Georgia Tech transfer and the son of JMU’s all-time leading rusher Warren Marshall, and he is just finding his footing in the new offense. But RB Trai Sharp, whose father passed away earlier this season, has become the heart and soul of this squad. Oh yeah, you should probably keep an eye on UVA transfer David Eldridge on the outside too. Basically, the Dukes are absolutely loaded with weapons since we haven’t even mentioned WRs John Miller or Riley Stapleton in this answer.”

In the same vein, who are some Defensive players that W&M will need to keep an eye on this week?

“The entire defensive unit is really worth watching this year. Nobody is going to mistake the D for an Everett Withers defense. These guys play assignment football and have really been pretty dominant thus far. CB Jimmy “F*cking” Moreland has long been a JMUSB favorite and he’s playing the type of football we always hoped he would, after fighting his way back onto the team. DL Raven Greene is a ball hawk. LB Brandon Hereford is back and reminding JMU fans what a game changer he was down the stretch last year. And DL Andrew Ankrah can be an absolute force on the line of scrimmage. And CB Simeyon Robinson is just flat out tenacious and picking up a lot of momentum the past few games. The guy who’s really stood out this season is DL Kyre Hawkins though. He’s already picked up two CAA Defensive Player of the Week awards and has been a sideline to sideline tackling machine.”

What do you see as the Dukes’ biggest weakness this season?

“JMU is a more complete team through 6 games in 2017, than it was through 6 games in 2016. However, it’s a completely different sort of team, that is led by its defense. Bryan Schor is an uber-talented QB, with some very talented weapons in the passing game. Those weapons have yet to all see the field on the same day, but the attack has still been effective even at partial strength. The running game hasn’t been anywhere near where most fans expect it to be however. We’ve seen flashes of true greatness, like against ECU. But the unit is still trying to find consistency since RB Cardon Johnson went down. There’s plenty of talent to carry the ball, and JMU is coming off 3-straight games against solid rushing defenses, but the results haven’t been where most fans think they should be.”
JMU’s senior QB Bryan Schor leads a JMU offense replete with weapons. [photo via jmusports.com]
How do you predict JMU will do this year? Any bold statements or win-loss predictions? Another Natty?
“You don’t win 18 straight on accident. This is a very good team, but it’s so different than recent JMU teams; we’re still trying to process things. We still think the run game will improve and once Schor has his full compliment of receivers, watch out. But it’s a defensive team and this D appears to be good. Really good. If the team plays up to its potential, we really don’t see any CAA team challenging it. If it slips up in any way though, each of the remaining teams on the schedule could pull off the upset. Right now, we’re not convinced the Dukes will repeat, but it’s  a real possibility. Honestly though, it will take some improvement down the stretch and guys elevating their play in the postseason. Sooner or later the streak has to end. We know that. But we really don’t see JMU losing more than 1 regular season game, barring injuries or something a little crazy happening. Again though, each team left on the schedule could beat them with a few breaks. And as far as the playoffs go? Let’s wait and see how healthy the Dukes are and what the landscape looks like in a few weeks, before even venturing a guess.”


Time: 3:30 PM

Location: Zable Stadium (Williamsburg, VA)

Watch: Tribe TV (Find the link here!)


2 thoughts on “W&M vs. JMU Preview: Q&A with the JMU Sports Blog

  1. OK, ok, ok, I got this: Population of the ‘Burg is 52,538 (as of 2015). Population of the other ‘burg is 15,052. That’s why H’burg is the real burg. (I knew if I looked long enough I’d find something). 🙂

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