By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG -- JMU moved to No. 2 in both The Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision poll and the FCS Coaches poll.
The Dukes had been fourth in the TSNFCS poll and fifth in the Coaches poll last week. All of the teams that had been ranked ahead of the Dukes lost this past weekend. Eastern Washington, which had been No. 6 in both polls, moved ahead of the Dukes after defeating previously undefeated Montana State on Saturday. The Dukes did pick up 42 first-place votes in the TSNFCS poll and seven in the coaches poll.
One of the upsets this weekend was Old Dominion losing to Villanova. ODU's loss puts JMU in first place in the CAA, and the only undefeated team in the conference.
When told at the press conference following Saturday's game that they may be the new No 1 team, and that they were the only undefeated team left in the CAA, the Dukes didn't want to talk or think about it.
"We don't pay attention to the rankings," JMU senior linebacker Stephon Robertson said. "Towards the end it might mean a lot, towards the playoffs. But that's the last thing on out mind right now. Were just trying to win games."
JMU coach Mickey Matthews only response was "It's a long season."
The Dukes know they still have a lot of games left to play, and Saturday's 27-26 double-overtime win over William and Mary showed how difficult it is to win in the CAA.
"They have great players. It's another great team. It's CAA football," JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe said of William and Mary after the game.
Matthews said the Tribe showed just why the CAA is so strong, and considered by many to be the SEC of the FCS.
"The strength of the CAA has always been, not necessarily at the top, although we've had some top teams, how good the middle of the road teams are," Matthews said. "We've been a middle of the road team before and we've beaten some great teams. I think that's William and Mary. I mean they're good. They're getting lots better. They're improving and they're going to beat some people."
STEPPING UP: Matthews was a little worried before Saturday's game about his receivers. JMU's top wide receiver DeAndre Smith came down with the flu on Saturday morning and was not 100 percent. Luckily for Matthews, JMU redshirt junior Arlandis Harvey rose to the occasion.
Harvey entered Saturday's game with just two receptions for 22 yards on the season. Against the Tribe on Saturday, Harvey had six receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown.
"I thought he played well," Matthews said. "Arlandis is a good football player. We needed to get him the ball a little more. When DeAndre wasn't going to [be 100 percent] he stepped up for us and made some plays for us. He made some really good catches."
Thorpe said it was nice having Harvey step up when the team needed it.
"He ran sharp routes," Thorpe said. "He's probably the best route runner on the team anyway. He ran sharp routes today and found gaps in the defense."
Harvey said it helped that the Tribe were playing a lot of zone defense.
"It was kind of easy to settle down in those zones and be able to hook up with Justin," Harvey said. "I really just think [it was] just luck this week really. Like last week we just didn't hook up that much, but this week [we were] just clicking."
SPECIAL DUKES: Special teams may get overlooked at a lot of colleges, but not at JMU. Once again on Saturday, special teams play helped save the day for JMU.
While William and Mary struggled with its kicking game, including three missed field goals, the Dukes were mostly solid.
JMU's Sage Harold blocked a punt in the third quarter that helped set-up JMU's game-tying touchdown. That play came after Thorpe had hit a surprise pooch punt to the William and Mary 1-yard line.
"As a team coach Matthews emphasizes that so much," Thorpe said. "He says everybody focuses on offense and defense, but the game is really won on special teams. Blocked punts and things like that can win a game, and it definitely helped us out [Saturday]."
CALLING ALL D-LINEMEN: Injuries have really hurt the Dukes on the defensive line. JMU was playing without defensive tackle Alex Mosely on Saturday due to a concussion. Fellow defensive tackle Sean O'Neill went down with an injury in the first half and senior defensive end Aaron Harper also suffered an injury.
Matthews wasn't sure if Harper would be able to play in the second half, but he was able to.
"We were going to put Chase Williams at defensive end in the second half [if Harper couldn't play]," Matthews said. "Him being a linebacker, he'd know the calls and he'd know what to do. He'd never played there in his life.
"We were just out of players. We're probably going to have to look at taking some redshirts off some guys."
Matthews said he does expect Mosley to return this weekend at Richmond.
Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org