Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
JMU lost to Georgia Southern, and I wasn’t the happiest following the team’s first loss as an FBS team. I had a range of emotions following this loss, arguably going through the five stages of grief during the hour immediately after the clock hit :00.
Let’s break it down, especially since I’m now gladly in the “acceptance” stage, and I’m rather excited for JMU-Marshall.
This stage didn’t last very long, but it existed.
There’s no way JMU lost this game.
Surely, the Sun Belt will go back and review Kris Thornton’s important fourth-quarter catch that would’ve kept an important drive alive. He clearly caught the ball, but unfortunately, the game was rigged and the pass was ruled incomplete. The league office will overturn the result of the game Sunday or Monday, once they realize how preposterous the call was.
This stage ended quickly, as I realized the Sun Belt office didn’t even take action when JMU took advantage of a controversial 29-point kick-catch interference call against App State. Fans of the Mountaineers made it clear, if the SBC offices were willing to ignore that heinous crime against humanity, just about anything would be allowed this season.
Not sure if there were any kick-catch controversies when App State played Texas State, but I’m sure the Mountaineers were somehow wronged. Those pesky Sun Belt refs!
What the actual hell?
JMU just lost to Georgia Southern?! The Dukes are so much better than the Eagles. They ran the ball at will (5+ yards per carry), yet decided to chuck deep balls on manageable third and fourth downs. Why?
The Dukes only lost because they beat themselves. They allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown. They turned it over four times, including an interception at the goal line. And they still almost won!
They led 38-37 with a few minutes left after the go-ahead scoring drive when trailing 37-31. I told them they scored too fast on that drive, though. I knew it was a mistake to score so easily. The Dukes should’ve ran the ball and scored in the final 15-30 seconds, icing the game. Never mind that Georgia Southern held all of its timeouts, making that plan a lot easier in theory. They should’ve just done it.
Even after that, the Dukes blitzed from the middle on a fourth-and-10, allowing an easy completion for a first down. A stop would’ve led to a victory. Where was the fourth-down pass completed? You guessed it, the middle of the field. GAH!
Oh, and what’s with these broadcasters? Is this dude really saying “JMU messed around and found out” because it lost? What? The Eagles allowed nearly 700 yards of total offense and needed a bunch of turnovers to barely win at home. They’re 1-2 in the Sun Belt. I guess they’ve also messed around this fall.
If I had tweeted nice things about Georgia Southern’s passing attack during the week, could this game have ended differently? Did I provide bulletin board material to the Eagles by predicting JMU to win?
The pass defense struggled because of my tweets, didn’t it? They’re actually still the best defense in college football, but they weren’t focused because of media and blog coverage. That’s it.
Perhaps if I only hype up opponents the rest of the season, JMU will win out.
The season doesn’t even matter. JMU can’t play in the Sun Belt title, and the Dukes can’t make a bowl game.
Also, I’m barely a college football fan. JMU is a softball/soccer/volleyball/field hockey/lacrosse/women’s basketball school.
Okay, deep breath.
JMU is 5-1 with its only loss a seven-point defeat on the road against a team that beat Nebraska earlier this year. The Eagles are led by USC’s former head coach. Clay Helton won a damn Rose Bowl at USC.
Guess what? The Sun Belt East is hard, and Georgia Southern is a competent team. You can’t spot them a bunch of turnovers and a huge special teams blunder and expect to win on the road. Yet, JMU still nearly won. Clean up the colossal mistakes, and JMU can win 3+ games the rest of the way.
The Dukes face a Marshall team next week that might play two quarterbacks (oh, how the mighty have fallen after beating Notre Dame) and struggles to score. That’s a perfect remedy for the Dukes. JMU at home against a run-first team that relies heavily on its defense? JMU thrived in those matchups in recent seasons.
JMU controls its own destiny in the Sun Belt East with games against Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion left on the schedule. Three of JMU’s four remaining Sun Belt games are at home, and they have a bye week before facing Louisville.
JMU hasn’t had an undefeated season since 1975. Why did I think this year would be the time for an 11-0 record? It’s JMU’s first season in a transition year. The Dukes were bound to stumble.
If you told me in August that JMU would be 5-1 heading into homecoming, I would’ve taken it. If you told me they’d have a road win at App State and have broken into the AP Top 25, I would’ve been over the moon.
Saturday’s loss stunk, but I wanted JMU to play competitive conference games. That means there are going to be emotionally draining losses as a fan. I’ll take that over disinterest any day.
Gone are blowout wins over Elon. Welcome competitive games against one of the best divisions in the Group of 5.
This isn’t an FCS playoff loss. We don’t have to wait nine months for JMU’s next game. Enjoy the homecoming game against Marshall, which is more interesting than any conference game the Dukes have played in the last few years.
Good times lie ahead, and this team deserves major credit for its stellar 5-1 start. This group still has an opportunity to be remembered as one of the better teams in program history, even with Saturday’s setback.