Key Takeaways From JMU Football’s 20-9 Win Over Marshall

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

The Dukes’ perfect season lived for another week Thursday, as they outlasted Marshall 20-9. JMU improves to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Sun Belt with the win, and the Dukes may see their name in the AP Top 25 come Sunday. 

Who knows, maybe even ESPN’s College GameDay could come to town for JMU-ODU next weekend! Before we dive into the homecoming matchup, let’s look back at JMU’s nice win over Marshall. 

Here are three key takeaways from the Dukes’ win. 

Jalen Green is special

Five sacks! JMU’s standout defensive end recorded five sacks, matching a single-game JMU record. He’s up to 13 on the season through seven games, with 12.5 of the sacks coming against FBS competition. 

There was hope among JMU fans that Green would step up with Isaac Ukwu transferring to Ole Miss. Green hasn’t just stepped up, but rather he’s become the leading candidate for Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. 

He even has an interception return for a touchdown this season, adding to his special year. He’s been incredibly effective off the edge for JMU, and he’s one of the best pass rushers in the entire conference. There’s a case to be made he’s one of the better pure pass rushers in all of the Group of Five, and maybe even all of college football.

JMU’s defense didn’t allow any points Thursday – Marshall recorded a safety and returned a kickoff for a touchdown – and Green’s ability to create disruption in the backfield was a key reason why.

Jordan McCloud is a gamer

McCloud didn’t start the season as JMU’s QB1, but he’s grown into the role after the Dukes benched Alonza Barnett. McCloud played arguably his grittiest game yet Thursday, battling through a leg injury in the second half. 

Despite being in obvious pain, McCloud completed 21 of his 31 passes for 264 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also added a team-high 69 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. 

McCloud was a warrior Thursday, making key plays to help JMU win a road game against a challenging opponent. McCloud wasn’t perfect, but don’t mistake Thursday’s game for a defensive battle. It wasn’t. 

JMU gained 405 yards compared to Marshall’s 169. The Dukes’ offense didn’t score enough in the red zone, but McCloud and company moved the ball just fine for much of the night. He played well, and he’s proving to be one of the tougher quarterbacks to stop in the Sun Belt. 

Transitioning teams should be bowl eligible

Non-JMU fans hate that the Dukes complain about not being bowl eligible. 

That’s fair. I get that. JMU knew the rules of its transition. The Dukes knew they’d likely have to wait two full seasons before being able to play in a postseason game. 

That doesn’t make the rules any less stupid, and I’d love to see them changed for future programs. 

It’s my understanding that the current transition rules are in place to dissuade teams from recklessly jumping to the FBS without the proper resources. OK, that’s fine. But more often than not these rules just seem to punish plenty qualified teams and student-athletes for no reason. 

If anything, JMU could’ve (maybe even should’ve??) moved to the FBS sooner.

The Dukes have the resources and commitment to win at the FBS level. They’ve had that ability for over a decade. JMU waited for the right opportunity to move into the Sun Belt, something NCAA transition rules seem to encourage. 

Why, if JMU waited to be fully ready to move up a level, should the Dukes be punished with multiple seasons of postseason bans? It’s flawed logic by the NCAA, as JMU clearly should be an FBS member. 

The same goes for a team like Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks are 6-2 and coming off a really nice win over Western Kentucky, one of the best teams in Conference USA. Why are those student-athletes being punished for that move?

Jacksonville State, with a well-known former Power Five head coach in Rich Rodriguez, looks plenty ready to battle CUSA peers. The transition rules shouldn’t punish programs ready and able to make the FBS leap. 

It’s a huge bummer that JMU, which has a stronghold on the Sun Belt East, seems destined to miss the conference title game while waiting on the edge of its seat to see if fewer than 82 teams qualify for bowl games. 

Bonus takeaway: Ryan Hanson is a beast

JMU’s punter had seven punts Thursday, with all seven finishing inside the Marshall 15-yard line. He pinned the Thundering Herd at the 1-yard line multiple times, giving them horrible field position throughout the nine. 

JMU’s defense and Hanson were standouts Thursday. Hanson, an Arkansas State transfer, is proving to be one of the team’s most notable transfer additions. Of his 38 punts, 17 have finished inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. He only has one touchback, and that was a punt that the coverage team misplayed around the 1-yard line and bumped into the end zone.

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