Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin and Jack Fitzpatrick
It’s Georgia State week!
JMU football ended its three-game skid with a 37-3 win over Old Dominion, dominating the line of scrimmage and leaning on quarterback Todd Centeio to beat up on an in-state rival. The win is JMU’s first over ODU.
We’ll be in Harrisonburg this week to watch the Dukes, and we are thrilled to see JMU compete at home. We were also in attendance at ODU last weekend, so hopefully we bring the Dukes good luck this weekend.
We’re guaranteed to visit Three Notch’d this weekend, but before that, we took the time to chat about last week’s win and the matchup with Georgia State.
JMU is back in the win column! What was your biggest takeaway from JMU’s 37-3 win over Old Dominion?
Bennett: JMU’s talent on defense, especially among players expected to return next season. James Carpenter at defensive tackle, Jailin Walker and Taurus Jones at linebacker, and Chauncey Logan at cornerback are among the expected returns who really impressed me. Logan was beat a couple times, but his potential as just a freshman is through the roof. The other three are such impressive tacklers, and Walker’s interception returned for a touchdown was fantastic.
JMU’s defense is in great hands next season and beyond, and other youngsters like freshman linebacker Aiden Fisher stood out throughout Saturday’s game. The defense has special talent across multiple positions.
Jack: The difference between 66 percent to 80 percent is a lot more than I ever expected. Curt Cignetti said that Todd Centeio was running at 66 percent during the Louisville game, where he went 4 of 15 for 52 yards. Then against ODU, when he was 80 percent, Centeio tossed over 300 yards and went 18 of 21 and rushed for a TD.
JMU, offensively and defensively, runs through Todd Centeio. His play is the catalyst for this team winning and this ODU game was the biggest example to this point.
JMU had some young players shine against ODU. Which freshman or sophomore player on the Dukes are you most excited to watch in future seasons?
Bennett: This is a bad answer because he didn’t play against ODU, but Mikail Kamara. The redshirt freshman defensive end has played in five games this season, and he’s recorded four sacks in those games. He’s a beast when he’s healthy, and he’s going to be a force in the Sun Belt in future seasons.
Jack: Aiden Fisher, without a doubt. The true freshman played in seven games leading up to the ODU game, but primarily was a special teams dude. Then against ODU he steps out and gets meaningful defensive snaps and was third on the team in tackles, with five. Behind only Jailin Walker and Taurus Jones. I am just pumped to watch the evolution of this linebacker room and see how they all develop, because if they remain on this extreme upward trajectory I truly believe they can be suiting up on Sundays.
What’s the key to beating Georgia State this weekend?
Bennett: Stopping the run, baby! The Panthers lead the Sun Belt with 242.7 rushing yards per game. If the Dukes can stop Georgia State from running, it puts the Panthers in a tough spot. They aren’t elite throwing the ball or defensively, so without the run, they lack a little punch. If JMU’s rushing defense performs well, which it has all season, the Dukes have a great chance of moving to 7-3.
Jack: Bennett hit the nail on the head and left me with nothing to talk about. Georgia State’s offensive strength is JMU’s defensive strength and honestly, the edge goes to JMU as they are a top 5 unit in rush defense efficiency where Georgia State is top 65 in rush offense efficiency.
The other key is making sure Darren Grainger, the Panthers QB, doesn’t tear up the Dukes. Grainger leads Georgia State in rushing and is 7th in the Sun Belt. He is a lethal weapon on the ground and the Dukes have struggled in recent memory against QBs that can run. So, overall the Dukes have to stop the run but on a micro level they have to stop Darren Grainger. If not, he can be a menace.
We’re going to the game. When’s the last time you were at Bridgeforth Stadium, and what are you most looking forward to about this Harrisonburg trip?
Bennett: JMU defeated Weber State 30-14 on Dec. 21, 2019. That’s my last visit to Bridgeforth. I’m amped for the game, and I’m excited to watch the Dukes play in person because of the time of year. It feels like late November now with the weather getting colder, and I love bundling up and watching JMU play meaningful football games late in the season.
While the Dukes can’t play in the postseason, a win over Georgia State keeps JMU in the hunt to finish atop the Sun Belt East. This game matters, and I love late-season college football as much as anything.
Jack: The last game I went to was Homecoming against No. 16 Towson in 2019. That was late October so it has been over three years since I was in Harrisonburg for a game. I am really looking forward to the game-day experience from top to bottom, the tailgating, the arriving a little early and watching some warmups, being surrounded by JMU fans watching a game that is bound to be fun. I have rarely been able to attend JMU games in Bridgeforth as a fan so this a new experience and I am excited to be part of it all.
What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game?
Bennett: I’ll take JMU winning 28-20.
Jack: JMU wins, 37-10
Editor’s note: You can listen to this week’s podcast here.