JMU Football Three Notch’d Game Preview: Dukes Play First Bowl Game

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

The first bowl game in JMU football history arrives Saturday. It’s a monumental day for the program, which will navigate the game with an interim coaching staff since Curt Cignetti left for Indiana. 

Fortunately for the Dukes, the majority of their players in the transfer portal are expected to suit up Saturday, including quarterback Jordan McCloud. 

Air Force is a formidable opponent, boasting a stout defense and a triple-option offense that presents unique challenges. The Armed Forces Bowl is a familiar bowl for Air Force, which beat Baylor in the bowl game last year. 

It’s a winnable game for JMU, but it’s not an easy matchup and will require a solid showing. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Saturday’s weather

Thunderstorms are expected Saturday evening and night in Fort Worth, Texas, but they may hold off until a few hours after the 2:30 p.m. local time kickoff. Fingers crossed those big storms don’t hit until after the conclusion of the game. 

The high temperature for the game is about 65 degrees, and winds should hover around 10-15 mph. Decent weather, assuming the rain holds off until the game’s conclusion. Please, no weather delays!

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

How to watch

The game will air on ABC.

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.

Getting to know Air Force

Record: 8-4, 5-3 Mountain West Conference

Head coach: Troy Calhoun, 129-82 as Air Force’s head coach. Calhoun has led Air Force since 2007, and he’s done a fantastic job of fielding a consistently competitive program. The Falcons have developed into one of the most consistent Group of Five teams in the country the last three seasons.

Key contributors: Quarterback Zac Larrier (1,200+ total yards and 11 total touchdowns) makes the offense hum. Larrier is a dynamic player and runs the triple option to perfection. He’s been dealing with injuries, however, which limited him in the second half of the season. 

Five players other than Larrier also have 200+ rushing yards this season. It’s no surprise, but the Falcons will lean mostly on running the ball Saturday. 

Defensively, Bo Richter is a joy to watch. He leads the team with 15 tackles for loss, as he’s a beast along the defensive edge. PJ Ramsey leads the team with 7.5 sacks, and Alec Mock has a team-high 89 tackles. Trey Taylor does a little bit of everything, recording 71 tackles and three interceptions from the safety spot.

Richter, Ramsey, and Taylor earned First Team All-Mountain West honors this season. 

What to expect

Who knows! 

Bowl season feels drastically more unpredictable than the regular season, especially as it relates to this JMU team. The Dukes have a makeshift coaching staff this week, and they’ve lost two starters (DE Mikail Kamara and OL Carter Miller) who opted out of the game. 

While other transfer portal players are expected to compete Saturday, it’s hard to guess how locked in they’ll be. If the Dukes play their A game, a win is in the cards. If they don’t, Air Force is a nightmare of an opponent. The Falcons are well-coached and solid on both sides of the ball. 

Air Force isn’t as talented a team as JMU, but the Falcons will end the Dukes’ season with a loss if JMU isn’t committed to the game. 

I’m expecting JMU’s players to take Saturday seriously, and for the game to be competitive. I think JMU pulls out a 28-17 win with a late touchdown to ice the victory. 

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