Instant Reaction | JMU vs. Morehead State Season opener

By Jack Fitzpatrick Featured photo via JMU Athletics

Why did that game not feel as dominant as the 68-10 scoreline makes it seem?

Maybe it was and I just am a perfectionist.

Or maybe the secondary was truly feast or famine and was picked apart at times which leaves me with more questions than answers heading into week 2 against CAA foe Maine. 

As a good friend of mine would say, “high standards when playing a team with no scholarship athletes.”

The secondary didn’t have their best game tonight and I am chalking that up to the fact that they were decimated by injuries.

Starting ROVER MJ Hampton was out and so was starting CB Wesley McCormick. Those two pieces not being out on the field was a huge blow since both have been key pieces for awhile now.

photo via JMU Athletics

That’s what makes it so hard to really evaluate and have a good feeling about this defense. We don’t know what they are like when healthy. 

To top it off defensive lineman Mike Greene, arguably the best player in the FCS, was out too. Missing three players week 1 regardless is a big hurdle to overcome, missing three pivotal contributors is even more difficult. 

In the first quarter Morehead State was solid, throwing it 21 times for 89 yards and scoring three points. The Eagles had a gameplan and it was working, they targeted the outside on quick timing routes that would consistently pick up 3-5 yards. They weren’t moving the ball on the ground, heck they weren’t even trying to, they only rushed it three times in the first quarter for six yards. They knew the weakness of this defense and they attacked it and it worked. 

The second quarter was more of the same, 7 completions for 61 yards. Then the third was really when the feast or famine, bend don’t break, mentality came into it. 

JMU allowed 93 yards through the air, the most of any quarter, but they intercepted Morehead State’s starting QB Mark Pappas twice. That proved to be very important, on one of the drives that wasn’t ended prematurely, the Eagles found the endzone. 

With all that being said, JMU still won this game in dominant fashion. Morehead State had just 253 yards through the air and a grand total of negative 57 yards. 

My instant reaction lies more in looking ahead. 

There are big time weaknesses in the defense that I wasn’t fully expecting. Does it have to do with three major contributors being out of the lineup today? Oh yes! This defense won’t look the same next week, or whenever Hampton, McCormick and Greene make their return. However, being able to attack the outside edge with quick passes is worrisome and I’m not entirely sure that McCormick remedies that issue by just being inserted into the lineup. 

At the end of the day, JMU came up big when they needed to. They allowed Morehead State to move the ball to a point but they were opportunistic and forced three interceptions and a fumble. They were in the backfield time in and time out. 

There is just a piece of me that is worried that if Morehead State can move the ball like that, Maine may make the back half of this defense look even worse. 

Who would have thought coming into the season that defense would be the unit that has all the questions. 

The offense looked great. Cole Johnson picked up right where he left off last season, going 19-28 for 299 yards and tossing five touchdowns, tying a program record. The speed of Kris Thornton and Antwane Wells Jr. was a problem for the Eagles all night and they combined for 142 yards and three touchdowns. 

photo via AP

Oh! And even without Percy Agyei-Obese (out with a hamstring injury) the team rushed for 345 yards and three touchdowns with Kaelon Balck leading the way with 100 yards on 12 carries and Latrele Palmer right behind with 98 yards on nine carries. 

This offense was potent, dangerous and efficient. Any of those cliche things to say about an elite offense they are and in the FCS that will go a long way. 

I haven’t pressed the panic button yet, but I have lifted up the cover and my hand is ready. Next week’s game is fun, and being a JMU fan where we question a 58-point win is also fun.

Also worth noting to keep an eye, Liam Fornadel left tonight’s game on crutches.

We will know more as the week goes on but could be a blow to the offensive line.  

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