Week 10: Homecoming in H’burg and Big Games Nationwide

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.

Coach Matthews and company celebrate the Hail Mary touchdown that beat Villanova

Coach Matthews and company celebrate the Hail Mary touchdown that beat Villanova

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

Week 9: JMU in Game of the Week and Updated Playoff Predictions

The beauty of college football is that one week can make or break a season.  That especially holds true for I-AA where one bad game could cost you a shot at the national title because of the limited amount of spots available in the playoff.  This means that even a #1 ranked team in the nation is not immune to falling victim if they are not careful.

Griff Yancey helped JMU rout Villanova, 35-7 in Harrisonburg last year.  The going won't be as easy this year.

Griff Yancey helped JMU rout Villanova, 35-7 in Harrisonburg last year. The going won't be as easy this year.

James Madison has so far played the best football since its national championship year in 2004 and they are going to need to be on the top of their game this Saturday as they face a very game Villanova team that should be ranked higher than 7.  The Wildcats have absolutely manhandled every team they have played including Richmond at least according to Coach Matthews who stated that ‘Nova should have beaten them by more than they did.

It should be noted that JMU is about to face its fourth top 10 team this year.  This is incredible and will go down as the one of the toughest schedules in the history of I-AA.  What will be more incredible is if the Dukes get past Villanova because that would make them 4-0 against top 10 teams.  Hopefully JMU will be prepared to go against arguably their toughest test yet.  GO DUKES!

Onto the new playoff predictions!

We first start with notable updates from the Big Eight conferences.  Southern Illinois routed Youngstown State, 33-0 to help keep its inside track in the Mizzou Valley.  In the Ohio Valley, Tennessee State eeked out a win over Austin Peay, 37-34 to stay undefeated and atop the conference.  While we won’t know much about the Patriot league for awhile, we’ll keep Lafayette atop after their convincing win over Liberty last weekend.  There’s no change for now in the Southern conference but crucial games await this weekend when #4 Wofford travels to Elon to take on the 3rd ranked Phoenix while #2 App State hosts 18th ranked Furman.  By the end of Saturday, we will know who the power teams are there.  Finally, the MEAC title may be on the line this weekend as the Hampton Pirates travel to South Carolina State in a battle of the only two undefeated teams.  Hampton stays for now.

Liberty is now gone thanks to their lackluster performance.  We can also eliminate UMass after the Minutemen were routed at home by Richmond.  Those two eliminations open the door for Northern Iowa and New Hampshire to slide in.   Here’s how the new matchups could look:

1 JAMES MADISON v. Hampton

NORTHERN IOWA v. Central Arkansas

VILLANOVA v. Lafayette

4 WOFFORD v. Richmond

3 ELON v. Northern Arizona

MONTANA v. Cal Poly

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS v. New Hampshire

2 APPALACHIAN STATE v. Tennessee State

JMU Preseason #2 in Football

Well with summer in full swing that means only one thing: FOOTBALL!!  And to help accommodate our need for the pigskin, AnyGivenSaturday.com has released the first official FCS poll of the 2008 season and the JMU Dukes have been ranked #2.

The Dukes also received two first place votes and placed second behind only their new nemesis, the Appalachian State Mountaineers. App State deservedly landed in the #1 spot as the three time defending national champs are set to go after another title with a team that is still somewhat the same. Hopefully JMU will put a stop to that on September 20th when they face ASU in Harrisonburg.

Thanks to AnyGivenSaturday.com for the poll and here is the full list:

2008 AnyGivenSaturday Preseason Top 25

(First place votes in parenthesis)

1. Appalachian State (76)

2. James Madison (2)

3. Richmond (1)

4. North Dakota State (2)

5. Northern Iowa

6. Massachusetts

7. Montana

8. McNeese State

9. Eastern Washington

10. Wofford

11. Delaware

12. Southern Illinois

13. Cal Poly (1)

14. Youngstown State

15. Elon

16. Georgia Southern

17. Villanova

18. South Dakota State

19. Eastern Illinois

20. New Hampshire

21. The Citadel

22. Eastern Kentucky

23. Fordham

24. Yale

25. Furman

JMU Basketball names Brady Head Coach

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James Madison University’s basketball program is set to introduce Matt Brady as their new head men’s basketball coach. Brady was the head coach at Marist in the MAAC for four seasons during which he turned them from a single digit winning program to MAAC champs in three seasons highlighted by an NIT victory over Oklahoma State.

Brady also was the assistant to Phil Martelli at St. Joseph’s for 11 seasons including the undefeated regular season team in 2003-04 led by future NBA stars Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.

For more on Brady’s accomplishments and statistics, here is the article from JMUSports.com.

For all you JMU fans out there, you can catch the introduction of Brady live at 1 pm on Wednesday March 26 at JMUSports.com

2008 CAA Tournament Set

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For those of you interested, you will be happy to know that JMU’s men’s basketball team finished the regular season on a high note knocking off Georgia State 70-60. The win means JMU won’t finish last in the conference which is refreshing and means we won’t be playing the 2:00 pm game for the umpteenth consecutive year in Richmond.

Courtesy of CAASports.com, here is the bracket for the 2008 CAA Tourney. As you can see, JMU has drawn Northeastern, a team they knocked off earlier this year so it’s a favorable matchup. MARCH MADNESS IS HERE!!

Mickey Signs 3 Year Extension; Keener Out; Football Tickets On Sale Soon

It’s great to see all the football headlines coming back to all the college websites. With the NFL combine all but behind us, that means college pro days are next then the draft! But first things first JMU fans. Our fearless leader Mickey Matthews has signed a three year contract extension to remain at Madison through the 2012 season. Here is the article from JMUsports.com. I’m glad Matthews is back since we have such a rough schedule next year. Hopefully we won’t see anymore foolish play calling and decision making in the playoffs anymore though.

In basketball news, coach Dean Keener has announced that he will resign his post effective at the end of this season. Here’s an article about the resignation and if it affected the team’s performance last Saturday courtesy of JMU’s newspaper. Keener had a really tough job rebuilding a poor team but a 29-83 record won’t get you far anywhere and I think it was for the best that both sides part ways.

Also, for all you Dukes fans and anyone else who’s a season ticket holder for your respective school, football tickets go on sale March 1st. That is this Saturday believe it or not. I am assuming that ticket sales dates are similar throughout the country so this is a reminder to anyone who happens upon this site. Specifically for JMU though, make sure and decide if you are going to purchase season tickets, individual or the three game pack that is in its second year of existence and was a popular pick last year. I personally will be choosing it again as I cannot make it to every game due to my distance from the school but the rule on it is that you choose two regular games and then either the family weekend or homecoming game. My guess is a popular three pack will be UMass, App State and Delaware (Homecoming). That’s what I’m doing at least. The website for future reference is here.

UPDATE: I actually went with the season ticket package because it’s cheaper than trying to get the 3 team deal with UMass, App and Delaware. 65 bucks is all for the whole season, just crazy!

That Win over VCU Seems like a Decade Ago

Well they at least entertained us for the first half of the season but the dream is now all but gone. The men’s basketball team dropped it’s fourth consecutive game against ODU on Wednesday, 72-52 to fall to 11-15 overall and 4-12 in the conference.

It was fun while it lasted (six weeks) but we’re back to reality now and the only shot we have at a tourney birth is an unlikely run through the CAA tournament. While improbable, it’s not impossible as we’ve seen in the past in other conference tourneys (NC State’s run to the final in last year’s ACC and Syracuse winning it all in the 06 Big East). At least it’s fun to dream.

In their defense, the JMU men have been crippled by injuries over the last month having lost three starters at one point. No team survives that usually. It was nice to see them show signs of life finally though. Keener seems to know what he is doing and I think the pieces are starting to fall into place. If they stay healthy next year, they will definitely compete.

For those interested, JMU is involved in Bracket Buster’s Weekend with a 2 pm home game against Morehead State. Don’t ask me why or how this is part of Bracket Busters but it is so there’s that.

Also I have to put a plug in for my hometown Tar Heels: great win last night with the stomping of NC State, especially with the fact that the overrated Dookies lost to Miami hahah!! I cannot wait for March 8th. Ty Lawson is back and he is going to put a hurtin on the Devils.