JMU Football Three Notch’d Game Preview: Dukes Visit Coastal Carolina for SBC East Title

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

With a lawsuit against the NCAA now on the back burner, JMU football and its fans can focus its attention on the team’s regular season finale against Coastal Carolina. 

The Dukes demolished the Chanticleers 47-7 to cap off the 2022 season, but this 2023 Coastal Carolina team plays a more physical, impressive brand of football. Even with star quarterback Grayson McCall expected to miss the game due to a concussion, the Chanticleers have a top-tier passing offense coupled with an improving and competitive defense. 

Coastal Carolina won’t compete for a New Year’s Six berth this season, but the Chanticleers are plenty good enough to pull a home upset Saturday to clinch a spot in the Sun Belt title game. 

Saturday’s Sun Belt East showdown kicks off at 3:30 p.m. 

Saturday’s weather 

Saturday’s weather looks delightful, with sunny skies in Conway, South Carolina. The high temperature is 58 degrees, and there should be a breeze with winds of 10-15 mph expected. 

Don’t anticipate weather impacting Saturday’s outcome, unless the winds gust higher. 

How to watch

The game will air on ESPN2. 

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.

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

Getting to know Coastal Carolina

Record: 7-4, 5-2 SBC

Head coach: Tim Beck, 7-4 as a head coach. The longtime offensive assistant is in his first season as a head coach, and he’s doing a respectable job. Beck has previously served as the offensive coordinator at Nebraska, Ohio State, Texas, and N.C. State. 

Key contributors: With McCall likely sidelined, look for Jarrett Guest or Ethan Vasko to start at quarterback. Guest is a solid passer, and he’s improved dramatically from last season. He’s thrown for 250+ yards and three touchdowns in each of the two games this year when he’s been a primary quarterback. Vasko can really run, going for 170 yards and a score in a tight win over Old Dominion earlier this year. 

Coastal Carolina uses a few running backs, including Braydon Bennett and CJ Beasley, but it’s the wide receivers that are scary. Sam Pickney and Jared Brown have combined for 115 receptions for more than 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. The duo will test JMU’s secondary. 

Defensively, safety Clayton Isbell is a stud. He’s recorded 76 tackles and three interceptions, making plays throughout the year. He’s big time. Defensive lineman Michael Mason has been disruptive up front, posting a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.

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What to expect 

A competitive, late-season game. The winner will claim a Sun Belt East title, with Saturday’s game holding major meaning for each team. Both teams have winning records and smart, experienced coaches. 

There’s no reason to believe Saturday’s game won’t be a battle, as the Chanticleers are 10-2 at home over the last two seasons and 4-1 this year. While JMU looks the part of the best team in the Sun Belt, the Dukes have played six, one-possession games this season. 

The Dukes enter the game off a tough loss to App State. Can they turn the page? Coastal Carolina’s defense, while respectable, will yield points to Jordan McCloud and the Dukes if they execute properly. Army ran for 365 yards (5.9 yards per carry) in a win over Coastal Carolina last week. 

JMU will be disappointed with anything other than a win Saturday, but the Dukes need to play at a high level to secure a road win.

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