To prepare for the FCS Playoffs semifinal matchup between South Dakota State and James Madison, HERO Sports got some insight from the guys at JMU Sports Blog.
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Make sure you check out JMU Sports Blog and give them a follow on Twitter at @JMUsportsblog. Thanks to Rob and Todd for their insight on the matchup.
Now, onto the questions:
JMU was tested, really, for the first time all season against Weber State. What do you think a statement win like that means to this squad?
We think it ultimately was a blessing that JMU was put to the test on Friday. Coming from behind late to win it, had to a be a huge confidence boost for a squad that already seemed pretty sure of itself. JMU was dominating all all facets, other than the score for much of the game.
Then they made a few uncharacteristic mistakes on defense that Weber took advantage of to take the lead. As a result, the Dukes found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter for the first time all season. And things looked really bleak there for a few moments. In fact, the pressure seemed to be getting to the Dukes, when they committed a series of penalties on three straight plays.
But just when many people had them buried, they regained their focus and rallied for the win. Insert you favorite sports cliche to describe it, (heart of a champion, gut check, backs against the wall, etc.), but every player on the field did their job with the game on the line. In doing so, JMU not only treated fans to a classic game, but they proved to themselves that they can take a punch and rise from the dead.
Bryan Schor was impressive on Friday night to come back from that early interception to lead the Dukes to a win. How have you seen his presence and composure evolve over the past couple of years?
Bryan doesn't rattle easily. Or at all, as far as we can tell. He's very steady and has shown that he moves on from mistakes quickly. This season he's actually thrown a fair number of picks, but they really seem to bother fans far more than they do him. He just shakes things off and goes about his business.
He showed flashes of his ability two years ago, when he replaced an injured Vad Lee as the starting QB late in the season. He didn't blow anyone away, but did an admirable job in relief. Entering his junior year, he had to compete for the starting job with University of South Carolina transfer Connor Mitch. Most fans seemed to think the job was Mitch's, but Schor won it in the preseason and never really looked back. That was probably a good indicator of how competitive Bryan is and how he responds to a challenge.
Last year's results kind of speak for themselves, and we've seen more outstanding play from him this season. At times JMU fans almost seem to take him for granted, because he hasn't put up eye popping numbers this year. He's a great leader and a guy who never gives up on plays. It's pretty awesome considering so many people wrote him off as soon as Connor Mitch announced he was transferring to JMU.
LISTEN: Schor Talks on the HERO Sports FCS Podcast
How do you see JMU’s defense matching up against the NFL talent that’s heading to Harrisonburg this weekend in Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke?
As well as can be expected at the collegiate level and what a matchup this will be. With all due respect to NDSU's lines, these are probably the two best position groups left in the tourney facing off. In fact, while those two (and Taryn Christion) likely present the Dukes' biggest challenge to date, the converse is equally true.
JMU safeties Jordan Brown and Raven Greene are athletic and savvy vets who have played in nine years worth of big games and big matchups between them and are going to make Goedert's life as miserable as possible (especially if he's not 100 percent on that ankle from last week). A really interesting thing to watch this week is how JMU gameplans for this SDSU offense. The Dukes have spent the whole year loading up and stopping the run by being willing to let their talented DB's (Rashad Robinson, Jimmy Moreland, and Curtis Oliver) play a ton of press-man coverage and forcing other teams to show they can beat those guys one on one.
We wonder if the Dukes might take a different approach with these two, especially if nickel corner Curtis Oliver is out injured after going down against Weber State. But don't get us wrong, when we say JMU loads up to stop the run and dares teams to beat them, that's not the same as a pure blitzing scheme. The Dukes have largely been able to control the line and the pocket with four down linemen and their ability to do this against Christion is probably even more important than how they hold up on the outside.
Also, if you go all the way back and watch the ECU tape from Week 1, you'll notice JMU is willing to be so aggressive on the back end that they'll live with pass interference calls and trust the D to eventually make a play instead of giving up even bigger plays. That said, Weber was the first team all season to slip through the cracks of this scheme with two huge passing plays.
Finally, for all of the Jacks skill position guys, but especially those who work in the middle. Those guys shouldn't forget about Brandon Hereford and Kyre Hawkins, JMU's stud LB's. Both can run and hit with anyone and have canceled the plans of individual players consistently this year.
What’s your prediction for the game?
Lost in all the discussion of last week's win (which if you're a JMU fan is how gritty and wonderful of a comeback that was and if you're an SDSU/NDSU fan appears to be "Dukes were lucky") is the fact that despite all the injuries on the O-Line, JMU's offense reappeared to the tune of over 500 yards and 29 first downs, including a ground game that made a bunch of chunk plays, against at Weber St. team that was clearly one of the better defenses in the country.
JMU turned the ball over and failed to finish drives, but they were right there in terms of approach and we've got a feeling they'll be ready again this week, particularly with an extra day to plan and heal. Our best guess is this one is a bit of a shootout where one defense has to make the crucial stop. We'll take the Dukes D for that no matter who they're playing.
Same as last week, Dukes 31, Jackrabbits 28.
NEXT: James Madison's Mike Houston Signs Lengthy Contract Extension