Two months down, one to go. That means there is no room for error from here on out and it’s also time for JMU to stop giving me heart attacks every week. I don’t need to say anything, in fact, here’s the video proof:
What a rush. Combine that with Scotty McGee’s punt return for a touchdown against Richmond two weeks prior to that and I feel like I’ve aged 20 years. Needless to say, it has been a magical season so far. I won’t go into “Team of Destiny” like a lot of others have because it has become somewhat cliche. I’d rather talk about the fact that we are a really good football team that has been able to overcome adversity and injuries to sit atop the toughest conference in I-AA with three games left to play and sit atop the rankings as well.
JMU did a lot of things right in the game to start off. They did not seem phased at all by the weather and quickly got up 14-0 on two, yes TWO Rodney Landers touchdown passes including one to Rockheed McCarter in which it didn’t appear Villanova knew he was on the field.
Then it seemed like the Dukes got too conservative on both sides and allowed the Cats to get back in the game. A major liability was our run defense that constantly allowed their QB Chris Whitney to scramble up the middle for big yardage and continue drives. It seemed like the complete opposite of the Appalachian State game where JMU came out strong but finished flat and needed the miracle at the end to win. But a good team is able to get the job done when it needs to and JMU had one last drive left in them.
It actually has gotten to the point that when Villanova had to punt the ball away with just over a minute remaining, I was pretty confident we were going to at least get a field goal. I also join the clamours on the message boards saying Scotty McGee should have won the special teams player of the week even though he never touched the ball. He really has become the Devin Hester of I-AA in that teams are sacrificing field position just so he can’t get a return. We need to cherish these next two years that he is on our team because it has been special (no pun intended) to watch.
In more news, ESPN2 is televising the titanic matchup in Boone this evening between App State and Wofford. This game will most likely decide the Southern conference champion and who has the inside track to at least the #2 seed in the playoffs. Both teams come in undefeated in conference play and off convincing wins last week versus rival foes. Wofford obliterated then #3 Elon in Burlington, 55-20 which means it will probably still get a playoff spot if it loses tonight. The Terriers aren’t thinking that way though after they knocked off the Mountaineers in Spartanburg last year which, a lot of people forget, paved the way to their conference championship.
App State meanwhile is fresh off a 26-14 victory over the always tough Furman Paladins. State has had a similar season to the Dukes in that there have been one or two convincing wins and then a Great Escape which for them was Georgia Southern two weeks ago. The Eagles, down one, were driving in App State territory when they fumbled the ball away (sound familiar JMU fans?). Nevertheless, App is one of the toughest teams in the country especially at home where they’ve only lost once in the last 37 games. It should be a fantastic game so tune in.
As far as the playoff situation goes, once again some changes are in the air. Northern Arizona’s playoff hopes are all but gone after losing to Weber State 42-14. The Wildcats meanwhile will be in if they win out. Southern Illinois almost went out until they pulled a JMU and beat Missouri State with a 51 yard hail mary on the final play of the game. McNeese State was almost in the playoffs until last Saturday’s clunker at home to Nicholls State, losing 38-25 which puts the Cowboys out.
Hampton is also now looking in with the rest of them after getting spanked at South Carolina State, 35-13. The Bulldogs are now the only undefeated MEAC team and can be placed in the bracket.
The OVC has been shaken up too with Tennessee State being upset and Tennessee Martin knocking off previously #21 Jacksonville State. The Skyhawks now have a half game lead in the conference and will be placed in the mix while TSU is gone for now.
In the CAA, we can still keep JMU, Villanova, Richmond and New Hampshire but keep an eye out for William and Mary who have skyrocketed to #16 in the nation and are making a case for a bid. We’ll have to see how it pans out before they get a place though.
For the Southern Conference, App and Wofford are secure and nothing may change if the game is close tonight. Elon however has issues. While the Phoenix will keep a spot for now, their drubbing at home by Wofford will have the committee wondering if they’re for real. They still have to play Furman and App so things are not looking to good. They stay in the bracket but are right on the bubble.
Potential Bracket as of this week:
1 JAMES MADISON v. Elon
RICHMOND v. Central Arkansas
NORTHERN IOWA v. New Hampshire
4 CAL POLY v. Weber State
3 WOFFORD v. South Carolina State
MONTANA v. Southern Illinois
VILLANOVA v. Lafayette
2 APPALACHIAN STATE v. Tennessee-Martin