JMU Football Three Notch’d Game Preview: Bucknell Visits Bridgeforth

By Bennett Conlin

The last time JMU football took the field for a game, the Dukes demolished Coastal Carolina 47-7 in a game head coach Curt Cignetti called a “national statement.”

Don’t expect any national statements Saturday when JMU kicks off its 2023 season against Bucknell. The Bison are expected to be among the worst teams in the Patriot League, making JMU a likely blowout winner.

Still, it’s football, and Bucknell has some nice players.

There are plenty of questions — as well as optimism — surrounding this JMU program. We may learn some things about the Dukes on Saturday, including how Alonza Barnett looks as the team’s starting quarterback.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.   

Saturday’s Weather

It looks like a perfect Saturday in Harrisonburg, with sunny skies and a forecasted high temperature of 85. It’ll likely be a few degrees cooler at kickoff with temperatures peaking around 4 p.m. and the sun expected to set at 7:44 p.m. ET .

It should be ideal weather for JMU’s season opener, which is great news for the freshmen visiting Bridgeforth Stadium for the first time. For those older than the freshmen, Saturday seems like a perfect day to drink a Minute Man IPA.

How to Watch

JMU’s matchup with Bucknell will be streamed on ESPN+. The game isn’t on a traditional TV channel, but ESPN+ is an affordable streaming package that houses a whole bunch of college sporting events. It’s a relief the FloSports days are over!

If you want to listen to the radio broadcast and are in Harrisonburg tune in to WSVA 550 AM or 92.1 FM. You can stream the radio broadcast online at WSVAOnline.com and on your phone with the The Varsity Network app.

Getting to know Bucknell

2022 record: 3-8, 2-4 Patriot League

Bucknell head coach: Dave Cecchini enters his fifth season as Bucknell’s head coach. Cecchini is 26-66 as a head coach, with a 9-28 record at Bucknell. He previously was the head coach at Valparaiso.

Expected contributors: Bucknell had a four-man quarterback competition (the Bison are just like JMU!) this offseason, so we may see multiple options. Nick Semptimphelter figures to play, as he’s the most experienced of the quarterbacks.

Defensively, Bucknell’s defensive line is arguably the best of its position groups. Tyler Alston is a nice player off the edge, and he’s one of the better pass rushers in the Patriot League. Alston recorded 42 tackles and six sacks last fall.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d for their advertising support this season. If you’re in Harrisonburg, be sure to check out Three Notch’d for the best beer in town!

What to expect 

JMU has a significant talent advantage over Bucknell, and the Dukes should win the game with ease. Bucknell lost to Central Michigan 41-0 a season ago, and that was the team’s lone matchup with an FBS program.

Given the Dukes’ physical advantage, they should be able to play dozens of players on each side of the ball. Look for JMU to turn to backups at multiple positions throughout the game.

Saturday should provide JMU’s starters a chance to adjust to live game reps, including new starting quarterback Alonza Barnett. The game also gives younger players a chance to develop in a game setting against an actual opponent.

Playing Bucknell offers valuable experience for the team, even if the game isn’t expected to be competitive. For JMU fans, Saturday might be the only stress-free Saturday of the fall.

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