Posted October 19, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Dangerous Spiders await No. 2 Dukes

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

Mickey Matthews is hoping his Dukes learned their lesson last week.

Before last week's game with William and Mary, the James Madison University football coach tried to make it clear to his team that the Tribe were not to be taken lightly. However, Matthews' message was not taken seriously enough as the Dukes didn't play well in the first quarter, and had to squeak out a 27-26 double-overtime win.

"I really thought I did a good job of making our guys understand how hard William and Mary was going to play against us," Matthews said. "But our guys obviously didn't believe me. Because we were more worried about what our pink gloves were going to look like than the game. Hopefully we'll learn from that and go on."

The Dukes have a similar opponent today when they play at Richmond at 3:30 p.m.

The Spiders (4-3, 2-2) are a dangerous team. They played both Old Dominion and New Hampshire very tough, and their only other loss was to the University of Virginia. They are averaging 35.3 points per game, third in the CAA.

Last week William and Mary started quarterback Rapheal Ortiz, who had been out with an injury, and Matthews said he was surprised by the play-calling of Tribe head coach Jimmye Laycock. Once again, this week Matthews isn't sure what to expect from Richmond head coach Danny Rocco.

The Spiders lost starting quarterback John Laub to a broken bone in his ankle in last week's 44-40 loss to New Hampshire. The week before they lost running back Jovan Smith, who was disqualified medically after a recurrence of spinal injury suffered last year.

Laub was not only the Spiders' quarterback, but also the team's top rusher. Richmond will now turn to University of Virginia transfer Michael Strauss.

"He can make all the throws," Rocco said of Strauss. "He's a little bit of a gunslinger. He's willing to throw the ball down the field. He can get into a rhythm. He's kind of like one of those 3-point shooters that's having a real good day when he gets into a rhythm. He can really distribute the football. He's got a good release. He's got a quick release. He sees it well. He's got a strong arm."

Matthews said one thing the Spiders do is get rid of the ball very quickly. They like to throw short passes, and even their runs develop quicker than most teams. They've only been sacked one time all season.

Rocco said the Spiders have a bye week next week, and then they may look at making some changes, which could include switching offenses. However, Rocco said they won't change much for today's game against the Dukes.

The biggest concern Matthews has for his team is how his offense is playing. The Dukes have struggled on offense in the last two games.

JMU (5-1, 3-0) had only 181 total yards of offense against Towson on Oct. 6, until the Dukes put together a game-winning drive in the final minutes. Against the Tribe last week they struggled for most of the first half, and only had two solid drives the entire game.

"We never really played well on offense," Matthews said of last week's game. "We need to block better. We need to run better. We need to be better on offense. I was really upset with our offensive kids the last two weeks."

It will be a homecoming of sorts for JMU tight ends coach Latrell Scott, who is in his first year at JMU. Scott was the head coach at Richmond in 2010, leading the Spiders to a 6-5 record.

Both Matthews and Rocco downplayed Scott's return being any kind of distraction. However, Matthews said he's very happy to have Scott at JMU and he's been a great addition to the staff.

Richmond has always been a big rival for JMU, and Matthews said he believes that's because of the proximity of the two schools and because they typically are recruiting the same kids.

JMU moved to No. 2 in the polls this week, and Matthews said that will have everyone trying even harder to knock them off -- including Richmond.

"They usually throw rocks at the bus when we show up at Richmond," Matthews said jokingly. "This year they may have machine guns instead of rocks."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

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