JMU Football Overwhelms Georgia Southern, Gets Revenge in 41-13 Victory

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

The Dukes were seeking revenge after suffering a 45-38 loss in Statesboro last year, and JMU football responded emphatically.

JMU (6-0, 3-0 SBC) destroyed Georgia Southern (4-2, 1-1 SBC)) by a final of 41-13. Harrisonburg was rocking with a little extra energy inside Bridgeforth Stadium. Let’s inspect how the Dukes dismantled the Eagles and why they should be ranked inside the AP Top 25 shortly. 

Offense overcomes

Firstly, the James Madison offense was cooking all afternoon. Jordan McCloud threw for 259 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions with a 65% completion percentage. JMU’s QB1 was not afraid to stand in the pocket. He was patient and poised while making some of his best decisions of the season. He was converting on third downs better than in previous weeks, too. 

“It was Jordan’s best game for sure,” Head coach Curt Cignetti said.

Cignetti also pointed out that McCloud is improving game by game. McCloud has tossed 10 touchdown passes across JMU’s last three games after throwing for just four in the first three games of the season.

“He’s building off his successes,” Cignetti said. 

The connection between McCloud and Elijah Sarratt was special Saturday. Sarratt caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He was JMU’s leading receiver and looked the part of a Wide Receiver 1. 

“When the bright lights are on, he’s one of those guys who really steps it up,” Cignetti said.

Running back Kaelon Black had a career day as well. His three total touchdowns came on the ground and through the air. Black ran for 45 yards and his first rushing touchdown of the season in today’s blowout affair. He also caught a pair of 15-yard touchdown passes and continues to prove his versatility out of the backfield. 

The offense wowed the JMU faithful with an explosive third quarter and better consistency than in previous weeks. The consistency from the offense translated to the entire team this week. The defense shined for all four quarters.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support this season.

DBs duking it out

“I was 100% confident in our defense coming into this game,” Cignetti said.

His confidence was well warranted.

The Dukes’ defense dazzled on Zane Showker Field. The JMU secondary impressed massively compared to their lackluster showings throughout the year. The defensive backs and safeties combined for 52 of JMU’s 87 tackles, and they became the first defense to hold Georgia Southern without a passing touchdown this season.

Chauncey Logan had his best game of the season with 11 tackles, one interception, and a pass breakup. This was against Khaleb Hood and Derwin Burgess. The Eagles’ quarterback, Davis Brin, has been connecting with two of the elite SBC East wide receivers all season. 

“It was good on good,” Logan said. “We are going to bet on ourselves.”

The defensive line helped out with the pass defense as well. James Carpenter was a beast up front, stuffing the stat sheet with three tackles, one sack, one interception, one pass breakup, and one tackle for loss. Jalen Green had a great game on the outside of Carpenter, adding 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and a total of three quarterback hurries.

The defensive line did, in fact, GATA. 

“As a defensive line that’s kind of what we ask for,” Carpenter said. “Put it on our shoulders and we can handle it.”

Rank the Dukes

The Eagles took the Dukes’ top-25 ranking away last year. They may have just given that same ranking back to JMU a year later. This game was a dominant display of what JMU can do with a consistent four quarters of football against a top SBC East team. 

Cignetti’s halftime message addressed JMU’s previous third-quarter struggles, challenging his players to put together a better start to the second half.

“Georgia Southern right now is saying, ‘We got them right where we want them,’” Cignetti said. “‘They choke in the third quarter. They choke.’ I said that’s what they’re saying, ‘You guys choke. You choke. You choke in the third quarter.’ They kind of responded to that.”

You don’t say, Curt.

The Dukes responded emphatically to their coach’s call to correct their bout with “the 3s” of football. The third downs (4-10), the third quarter (21-0 in JMU’s favor), and even the field goals (Camden Wise remained perfect on the season) were all strengths for the Dukes.

JMU is terrifying if it can figure out its second-half struggles and third-down woes. The way JMU played today, combined with its overall resume, should lead to a number next to its name this Thursday vs Marshall.

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