I have a simple question for you, dear reader.
What do you get when you match a high-flying team on an unstoppable winning streak with a winless rival, lying in wait?
Answer: an upset.
DOOMED DUKES: WHY JMU WILL TOTALLY LOSE TO NORFOLK STATE
Rivalries are nothing to take lightly, you guys. And if you caught the tail end of last week’s telecast of JMU’s narrow win over East Tennessee State, you know that Norfolk State is coming into this heated intra-state rivalry hungry for its first win.
Sounds like trouble’s a’brewin for the reigning champs.
When last we left the Dukes of James Madison, the boys in purple were ringing up 52 points on East Tennessee State. In a game that JMU was favored in by almost six touchdowns, JMU led 28-0 by the middle of the second quarter. All was well in Bridgeforth Kingdom.
Five touchdowns for Bryan Schor? Check.
Two touchdowns in a breakout performance for wide receiver Riley Stapleton, the second coming of former JMU receiver Daniel Brown? Check.
Absolute defensive mastery? Check. Check.
A rushing attack that barely averaged three yards per carry and only finished with 122 net yards? Check.
It’s true. East Tennessee State exposed a unique, unexpected flaw in JMU’s offense — if you stack eight or nine defensive players in the box, JMU will not be able to run the ball up the middle very well. JMU’s 122 yards against ETSU is the smallest rushing total the Dukes have managed in a game since coach Mike Houston’s arrival.
Fortunately, JMU got a great performance from Schor that lifted the Dukes to a big victory. But can Dukes fans count on that kind of performance again? Will Norfolk State be smart enough to leave their secondary wide open?
ETSU coach Carl Torbush may have leveraged his knowledge of Houston’s coaching machinations while crafting his team’s strategy for last weekend’s game. This week, JMU will contend with another coach with insider knowledge — Norfolk State coach Latrell Scott, who coached the Tight Ends in Harrisonburg during the 2012 season.
Obviously, not much has changed since then.
For the players themselves, there’s the concern of looking past a winless Norfolk State team in anticipation of next week’s game against CAA opponent Maine. A date with the Black Bears is sure to draw more excitement than a clash with the lowly Spartans.
If JMU is uninterested, that could be a problem for Dukes fans. Norfolk State is coming into this game like it’s the Super Bowl. That’s not surprising, when you consider this JMU-Norfolk State rivalry is right up there with Michigan and Ohio State.
“You got to show me you’re number one,” Norfolk State tailback Aaron Savage told WVEC, the ABC affiliate station in Hampton Roads. "Like Coach Scott said, you don't play against the record. You don't play against the fans. You don't play against their national championships.”
I hate to pile on here, but there’s also a small matter involving geography and semiotics: JMU has yet to prove they can beat a team without the word “East” in its name.
The Spartans are out to rewrite history. In the battle of Thermopylae, the Persians struggled, but eventually triumphed, over the gritty Spartans.
This weekend in Harrisonburg, though, JMU is on upset alert. Norfolk State is taking its best shot at Coach Mike “Xerxes” Houston. If the Spartans have their way, they’ll cause an upset of monstrous proportions. It could very well rewrite European history.
It’s week 3 with Norfolk State, and the Dukes are doomed.