By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
JMU has lots of room for improvement after suffering a 42-12 loss to West Virginia on Saturday. Perhaps the biggest area the Dukes need to work on is scoring inside the red zone.
On JMU's first three trips inside the red zone, they came away with only three points total. Twice the Dukes had the ball inside the WVU 10 in the third quarter. They were stuffed at the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the WVU 1, and JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe was intercepted in the end zone on the second of those possessions.
"That's the biggest thing -- we didn't convert," Thorpe said of JMU's offense. "We didn't punch the ball in when we got a chance."
Matthews said he wasn't as upset about that as he was JMU's play on offense in the first half. The Dukes had only 99 yards of offense in the opening half. JMU had five penalties in the first quarter for 31 yards.
"We just didn't come out of the chute at all," Matthews said. "That was the biggest thing we said coming into the game, we said 'West Virginia's going to make a lot of plays. We can't help them.' And we helped them a lot."
TIME FOR CAA PLAY: After three non-conference games the Dukes are ready to begin Colonial Athletic Conference play.
JMU plays at Rhode Island this Saturday at 1 p.m. The Rams are 0-2, and 0-1 in the conference. They lost to Villanova 31-10 last week.
The Dukes haven't won the CAA since 2008. The CAA is considered one of the best conferences in the FCS.
After losing to West Virginia, the Dukes said they were glad to move on to CAA play.
"Just go play Rhode Island next week," Thorpe said of how the Dukes recover from the WVU loss. "Rhode Island's not a Big 12 team. We're going to go play Rhode Island."
JMU linebacker Stephon Robertson said the goal now is for the Dukes to win the conference.
"We know the conference is the next big thing for us, the next big step," Robertson said. "It's been a while since we've won that. Having that taste of the playoffs last year will definitely help the team this year."
JMU'S WEAPON: JMU punter David Skahn was one of the bright spots for the Dukes against WVU.
The senior had five punts for a 42.6 average, including a 49-yarder. He sent two punts inside the WVU 20.
One of the biggest things Skahn did was he took away one of WVU's strengths. He was able to get so much hang time on his kicks that WVU punt returner Tavon Austin had to fair catch all of the punts.
"He did a great job," Matthews said. "I think David had a great game. I think David's the No. 1 punter in the nation. Last year he led the nation in punting the last eight games. He is a tremendous punter. He's an NFL prospect."
INJURIES PILING UP: The Dukes have been hurt by injuries since the beginning of preseason training camp, and after the loss to WVU, things may be getting worse.
JMU played Saturday without starting tailback Dae'Quan Scott, due to a left ankle injury. The Dukes had three more starters go down with injuries on Saturday.
JMU starting wide receiver Daniel Brown tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament on the first play from scrimmage. Linebacker Titus Till suffered an ankle injury, and Matthews said he thinks he could be out for a while. Defensive tackle Jordan Stanton suffered a concussion.
"That's major losses," Matthews said. "You take Dae'Quan out and those are four starters.
Those are good players. Daniel [Brown] is a very good football player. He can play."
Matthews said he believes Scott may be back for the Rhode Island game this week.