JMU-Albany Recap; JMU-SMU Preview
Apologies, guys. School and work, and some combination of the two, had my hands tied for most of the week. Many of you were anxiously awaiting a JMU-Albany recap that never came. Here’s a short one followed by a preview for the JMU-SMU game later today.
JMU rolled up 625 yard of total offense — it’s third time over 600 in as many games. However, unlike the first two games of the season, it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. Vad Lee played like Lavaedeay Lee (and yes, I’m aware they’re the same person). The redshirt-senior quarterback threw five interceptions (four in the first half) and lost a fumble in probably his worst start wearing the purple and gold. Sure, one interception bounced off the umpire and into the arms of an Albany defender on a pass intended for Brandon Ravenel. And yes, Lee thought he had a free play (on an offsides that wasn’t called) when he lobbed a ball into double coverage that resulted in another pick. But the other three interceptions were egregious decisions — the type of bad decisions that will lose you games in November.
No one is perfect. We all have bad days. And Vad gets a pass.
Besides, his teammates picked him up. The defense was put in several compromising situations, but managed to minimize the damage. Miraculously, after five JMU first-half turnovers, the score was 14–14 at halftime — a testament to Steve Sisa’s unit.
Backfield mates Cardon Johnson and Khalid Abdullah combined for 277 yards and two touchdowns as the Dukes rolled up 350 yards on the ground.
JMU scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half to open up a 42–21 lead after three quarters, and the Dukes put it on auto-pilot the rest of the way.
It was the first sign of adversity this season for JMU, and the Dukes passed the test — albeit against an Albany squad that probably won’t contend for the CAA title.
It’s too much to ask for any team to win every game against obviously lesser competition in blowout fashion (No. 1 Ohio State squeaked by Northern Illinois 20–13 at home at the same time JMU was struggling with Albany). We’ll just take the win and move on.
This week, JMU heads south for an FBS-date with the SMU Mustangs, led by first year head coach Chad Morris, who served as Clemson’s offensive coordinator (the same Clemson offense that hung 576 yards total and 378 yards passing in the 2014 Orange Bowl on an Ohio St. defense led by then OSU co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers).
SMU is 1–2. They own a 31–13 win over North Texas. Their two losses have been against top-five opponents Baylor (56–21) and TCU (56–37). They didn’t exactly get shut out. Balance is key in the SMU offense as they average 222 passing yards and 218 rushing yards per game. The Mustangs have a physically imposing wide receiver in 6-foot-4 Courtland Sutton. Taylor Reynolds and the rest of the Dukes secondary will have their hands full. JMU’s defensive line — with the absence of Simeyon Robinson — cannot afford to be dominated. They have to man up, eat blockers in the run game and provide some semblance of a pass rush. The biggest thing is they can’t get pushed back into the linebackers. Gage Steele, Kyre Hawkins and the rest of the linebackers are the Dukes’ best playmakers on defense, and their job is made harder if they have to contend with a defensive line that is getting bullied at the point of attack.
Defensively for SMU, the Mustangs rank 124th out of 127 FBS teams in total defense. That rank may be a little skewed as SMU has faced uptempo spread offenses that light up the stat sheet in the form of Baylor and TCU.
The two biggest differences between FBS and FCS opponents is the play in the trenches and the overall depth of a team.
JMU has done well in recent years to increase its size up front and build quality depth through top-notch FCS recruiting. JMU has the talent at skill positions to get in shootout with SMU. Can the less heralded players — especially on both lines — man up physically against their toughest test to date? That is the question.
After opening as five-point favorites, SMU is now a 14.5-point favorite.
The game can be seen on ESPN3.com. Oh, you don’t have ESPN3 on your television? Go to espn3.com, click on the SMU-JMU link and enter your cable provider and account info. Simple stuff.
JMU 42 SMU 35. → Die-Hard fan Peter Byrd. SMU only had a week to prepare for this Week 4 FBS-FCS matchup, which normally would take place the first Saturday of the college football season. JMU has its confidence up as the offense is already in mid-season form. The defense rises to the challenge, and while giving up yards in chunks, makes THE play when it matters most. The Dukes stay “focused” for four quarters, force a few turnovers while not giving the ball away themselves and leave Dallas with a resumè-building win.
SMU 49 JMU 37. → More rational Peter Byrd.
JMU, after three early-season cupcakes, meets its match. The Mustangs prove to be too good up front and control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The heat (90+ degrees at kickoffs) wears on the Dukes and the lack of depth (SMU=85 scholarships; JMU=63 scholarships) proves to be too much as SMU wears down the Dukes in the second half.
Rational Peter Byrd = Cable
Die-Hard fan Peter Byrd= DirecTV
JMU 42. SMU 35. Go Dukes!