Keys to JMU Football’s Game vs. Georgia Southern

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Like 2022, JMU football’s perfect 5-0 record gets put to the test against Georgia Southern. The Dukes hope this year’s matchup goes their way, after a heartbreaking 45-38 loss to the Eagles in Statesboro last fall. 

It’ll be a battle against this season, as Georgia Southern is arguably a step ahead of its 2022 squad. The Eagles are 4-1 and defeated Coastal Carolina 38-28 in their most recent contest. Both Georgia Southern and JMU had a bye week to prepare for Saturday’s game.

Here are three keys to JMU picking up win No. 6 in a home matchup with Georgia Southern. 

Win one-on-one defensive battles

Georgia Southern throws the ball more than any other team in the Sun Belt, and the Eagles complete 70% of their passes. Quarterback Davis Brin can burn a secondary deep, and if the Dukes leave receivers open down the field, the Eagles will score in bunches. 

UVA did well to test JMU’s secondary in one-on-one situations, with the Dukes often missing tackles or assignments that would’ve turned huge chunk plays into just an above-average play. JMU needs a good tackling performance from its linebackers and in the secondary, and it also needs to stay close in coverage when the Eagles attempt to hit deep balls. 

That’s easier said than done against Georgia Southern, which can successfully pass the ball via short, intermediate, and long passes.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

Look to drop 40+

I’m not sure JMU needs 40 points to beat Georgia Southern, but the Dukes fell to the Eagles 45-38 last fall. Georgia Southern has scored at least 34 points in every game this season against teams other than Wisconsin. Even in a 14-point showing against Wisconsin, Georgia Southern tallied 450 yards of offense but failed to convert on scoring opportunities. 

Field goals beat Troy. Field goals won’t beat Georgia Southern. 

The Eagles have a dynamic offense, but they also have an average defense that has taken advantage of a couple weak opponents in 2023. The Dukes should move the ball against Georgia Southern, which allowed Coastal Carolina, Wisconsin, and UAB to all score at least 28 points. 

The Dukes need to avoid the costly turnovers and mistakes that doomed the team in last year’s loss to the Eagles. Coastal Carolina lost the turnover battle 4-0 in its recent loss to Georgia Southern, a key reason why the Eagles prevailed by 10. 

Scoring 30+ seems like a must if JMU wants to win, and I think the Dukes should be aiming to score 40-50 points. JMU has scored at least 30 points in four of its five games this season, and the team’s season-high in scoring is a 45-point showing at Utah State. Quarterback Jordan McCloud seems to be gaining confidence in the offense, even with a few poor decisions in the second half of games.

This game feels like it’s up to the offense to win.

Force Davis Brin into mistakes

Brin is going to post otherworldly stats this season for Georgia Southern, given how often the Eagles throw. He’s also going to throw his share of interceptions.

At Tulsa, Brin threw 24 interceptions across the 2021 and 2022 seasons. He’s thrown seven this season, including five against Wisconsin. 

If the Dukes can pressure Brin and force him into risky throws, he’s likely to make a mistake or two and hand the ball away. JMU will yield some points and yards Saturday – every team does against the Eagles – but if the Dukes can create some takeaways and lean on the offense – there’s a realistic path to a victory.

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