Craig Juer: Hanging with the Barlows
This blog entry brought to you by Daily sports staffer Craig Juer:
I had the good fortune to attend JMU's game against UMass this weekend, not as a writer but as a football fan. I was the guest of former Sherando tight end Brian Barlow's family. Barlow is in his redshirt year as a freshman at JMU, and the Barlows don't miss a game.
After spending a couple hours tailgating in the unexpectedly harsh heat, sharing a few beers and testing Tim (Brian's dad) Barlow's mettle at corn hole (the ubiquitous tailgate game consisting of chucking bean bags at a far-too-small hole cut in a board), we took our seats for the No. 3 at No. 7 match up. JMU was clearly unfazed by its slight underdog status, as the Dukes' offense was fairly unstoppable in JMU's 52-38 win.
The Dukes seem to be relying even more heavily on the run than they did last year, when they were a decidedly run-first team. JMU ran the ball 58 times (for 338 yards) against UMass compared to just nine pass attempts. And this was without Eugene Holloman, the Dukes' best tailback, who missed the game with a bruised thigh. Rodney Landers had the zone option and speed option plays working perfectly, and Scotty McGee was giving the Minutemen fits on his kick returns.
Just like last year's playoff game in Boone, I expect Saturday's Appalachian State-JMU contest to be extremely competitive.
And, of course, I wouldn't hate seeing Stonewall Jackson product Richard Long make a few tackles on defense and special teams. I spoke to Long at the playoff game a year ago and at a Stonewall basketball game last winter, and he's been having a ball in Boone, a cozy college town nestled in the mountains I visited a few times growing up in North Carolina.
I'll have more on the local players (Long, Barlow and former James Wood quarterback Aaron Butler, who I featured on Saturday) in the coming week as the game looms.