Dukes focusing on making improvements

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

James Madison University head football coach Mickey Matthews isn’t too worried about his team looking past Albany when the two teams meet at Bridgeforth Stadium at 1 p.m. today.

The Dukes are coming off a loss to a solid Delaware squad, and have a showdown with Richmond next week, but Matthews said the team needs to focus on getting better.

“Only a fool looks at next week,” Matthews said. “We’ve got to beat Albany this week. We need to get better. We need to improve ourselves instead of worrying about anyone else — whether it’s Turner Ashby [High School] or the cheerleaders. We need to worry about James Madison. We have good football players — we need to get better and we’ll have good results.”

The Dukes (3-2, 0-1 CAA) let the game against Delaware slip away. JMU led 19-7 in the third quarter, and placekicker Cameron Starke missed a field goal. The Blue Hens then took advantage and stole the momentum away with a punt return to the JMU 15, and then a blocked punt, which helped give the Blue Hens the lead.

Matthews said that the offense needs to improve, and that the coaching staff is considering making changes to the starting lineup. He said he was especially disappointed with the offensive line. The Dukes only ran for 122 yards on 39 carries against the Blue Hens.

“We did not play well anywhere on the offensive line or tight end,” Matthews said. “We missed some assignments. We just blocked the wrong guy. It didn’t matter if we were playing Turner Ashby [High School], we just blocked the wrong guy and turned their guys loose. “

Matthews said he was somewhat happy with how the defense played. The Dukes held the Blue Hens to only 127 yards rushing in the loss. JMU redshirt senior linebacker Stephon Robertson had another stellar game, with a career-high 16 tackles and an interception.
Albany is 1-4 this season, with its only win coming over Colgate, 37-34. Last week the Great Danes suffered a 66-10 loss to Old Dominion University.

The Monarchs’ fast-paced offense was too much for the Great Danes. Albany head coach Bob Ford said he hopes that his team will learn from that loss and how to handle the Dukes’ fast-paced offense.

“I hope it will help us,” Ford said. “If you face something, you then have an idea of what it’s going to be like. We just got to try to match up the best we can and see if can contain their offense.”

On offense the Great Danes (1-4, 0-1 CAA) are led by quarterback Will Fiacchi, who threw for 221 yards last week. Running back Omar Osbourne has 599 yards rushing this season, while wide receiver Cole King is coming off his best performance of the year (five receptions for 73 yards).

Ford said it will be difficult to move the ball against JMU’s defense, which is allowing just 21.0 points per game. The Dukes are giving up only 292.2 yards per game, which is third in the CAA.

“We have to move the ball against that defense,” Ford said. “They’ve got some guys that can really play on the defensive line. They’ve got an inside linebacker who is outstanding. At the same time, the challenge will be for us to move the football.”

The Dukes will be playing at home and it’s Family Weekend at JMU. The Dukes’ two losses have both come on the road.

Even though the Dukes have been a little up and down this season, Matthews said he still feels good about his team.

“I like this group of kids,” Matthews said. “They’re working very hard. I like coaching these guys. It’s a nice senior class. We’re improving. We’re going to make the corrections we need to make.”

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