By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mickey Matthews has been at James Madison University for 14 years, and he's had to deal with years where his teams have been riddled with injuries. However, Matthews has never seen anything like what he saw last Sunday, a day after the Dukes' 42-12 loss to West Virginia.
"[Sunday] night we tried to get on the field and run a little bit, and it looked like we had just got back from the battle of Shiloh," Matthews said. "The game took a huge physical toll on us."
The team practiced on Monday, and had 13 starters out. Many of the players were just banged up, and will play in the Dukes' game today at Rhode Island at 1 p.m. However, the Dukes will be without several players. Running back Dae'Quan Scott is expected to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Defensive tackle Jordan Stanton (concussion), Handley graduate and cornerback Jeremiah Wilson (hamstring) and linebacker Titus Till (ankle) are expected to miss today's game. Wide receiver Daniel Brown is done for the year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on the first play from scrimmage against the Mountaineers.
"We're really beat up," Matthews said. "This may be as bad as we've ever been beat up."
It will be the first true road game of the season for the Dukes, and their Colonial Athletic Association opener.
Despite the injuries and coming off a loss to WVU, Matthews said he expects his team to play well.
"It's a problem when you play one of these games, like we did Saturday, and then you have a letdown," Matthews said. "You have to guard against it as a coach. We have some older guys on the team. They're a good group, very focused. I would anticipate we would play well on Saturday because it's the first [CAA] game. And that's why they pay these coaches, is to convince these guys as to who they're going to run into."
The Rams are 0-2, and have not looked sharp in the two road losses. They lost to Monmouth 41-6, and to Villanova, 31-10. They had three costly turnovers in the two games, and were also hurt by penalties. Last week against Villanova, the Rams were tied 10-10 at the half, but the Wildcats took control of the game in the second half.
The Rams are only averaging 200 yards of total offense, including only 62 yards per game on the ground.
"We've got to protect the football," Rhode Island coach Joe Trainer said. "We had the turnover on the first drive of the Villanova game, and then we turned the ball over right before half in our territory. Unless we change that, we're not going to be a very successful football team."
JMU is averaging 265.3 yards rushing per game, 175.7 passing yards per game, and 36.3 points per game.
Trainer said the Dukes are a more balanced team this season, which makes them even tougher to defend. He said he's been impressed with Thorpe.
"I think as he's matured as a quarterback he's finding those open receivers, and not overthrowing them and putting the ball there," Trainer said.
JMU's defense has allowed only 110.7 yards rushing per game.
"Defensively, there as athletic a defense as there is, not just in this conference, but at this level," Trainer said. "We're going to have to try to run the ball and keep them off the field as well."
Matthews said his team must be focused, because the Rams are a much better team at home.
"Rhode Island is very good at home. They're just a different team at home," Matthews said. "[CAA] teams from the south, and I'm talking about William and Mary, Richmond and us, always struggle when we go up North to play and we're not immune to that. We just always struggle whether it's Rhode Island, or New Hampshire or Maine. I told the players [Sunday] night, it's been many years since we've had a blowout [win] when we went up there."