Three Takeaways From JMU Football’s Blowout Win Over Coastal Carolina

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU football capped off a spectacular 2023 regular season with a 56-14 victory over Coastal Carolina. The Dukes love beating up on the Chanticleers to end their season!

The Dukes also had some other games break their way, which means they’re heading to a bowl game. The exact opponent and destination will be announced on Dec. 3. 

Before we move into bowl season, here are three takeaways from the win over Coastal Carolina. 

Deja Vu 

A season ago, JMU football blew out Coastal Carolina 47-7. This year’s game looked, and felt, quite similar. 

There was never a doubt which team was better. The Dukes dominated the Chanticleers, outgaining them 481-328, winning the turnover battle 3-1, and scoring the first 35-0 points of the game. 

JMU was head and shoulders above Coastal Carolina on Saturday, and the second half felt like a coronation rather than a competition. JMU cemented itself as the best team in the Sun Belt with the victory, quickly rebounding from the defeat to App State. 

The Dukes have outscored Coastal Carolina 103-21 in their meetings over the last two meetings. That’s a commanding margin of victory over a program that has been of the Sun Belt’s most consistently successful over the last five years. 

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

McCloud bounces back

Jordan McCloud struggled against App State, but JMU’s signal caller looked like the Sun Belt Player of the Year against the Chanticleers. McCloud completed 26 of his 35 passes for 324 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran for a touchdown. 

The connection with Elijah Sarratt was elite Saturday, with Sarratt catching six passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Sarratt continues to prove himself as a game-changing wide receiver, and he’ll be a huge weapon in 2024. I don’t anticipate Power Five schools calling just yet on Sarratt, as he’s already transferred once and would likely need to sit out a season if he transferred again this offseason. Once a graduate, Sarratt could opt to join a Power Five program or turn pro. 

Phoenix Sproles also crushed Coastal Carolina, finding soft spots in the defense and taking easy yards. He caught 11 passes for 99 yards. Reggie Brown and Zach Horton also caught touchdowns, as McCloud did a nice job incorporating multiple receiving threats. 

McCloud capped off a special regular season as JMU’s starting quarterback, and he’s expected to return for the Dukes next season. That’s huge as the Dukes look to contend for the Sun Belt title. 

2024 Goal is the CFP

JMU’s expectation in 2024, assuming Curt Cignetti stays at JMU, should be to contend for the Sun Belt title. The Dukes have shown they’re good enough to expect to compete for the league title regularly.

The goal, however, should be making the 12-team College Football Playoff. The playoff, which will likely have one guaranteed spot for the highest-ranked Group of Five champion, is attainable for the Dukes in 2024 with Cignetti. 

The Dukes are projected to return McCloud, the entire offensive line, and Sarratt at wide receiver, among others. Running back Kaelon Black also has remaining eligibility. Defensively, the Dukes are expected to return James Carpenter, Mikail Kamara, as well as their starting linebackers and corners, among others. 

They’ll need to replace players like Brown, Sproles, running back Ty Son Lawton, and defensive ends Jalen Green and Jamree Kromah. While not easy, that’s also not impossible. The transfer portal should prove lucrative for the Dukes with their recent success, and the 2024 recruiting class is shaping up to be a nice group. 

There’s still a bowl game left in the 2023 season, but it was really hard to watch the Coastal Carolina game and not come away thinking about College Football Playoff aspirations in 2024.

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