Dukes facing “big” Stony Brook squad in home finale
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
James Madison University football coach Mickey Matthews and his team are hoping size doesn’t matter in today’s game against Stony Brook.
Matthews said the Seawolves are “the biggest team we’ve played this year.” Matthews was very emphatic about how big they are.
“Everyone’s big — I’m not sure how big their cheerleaders are,” Matthews said in his weekly press conference. “Their offensive line is huge. Their defensive line is huge. Their receivers are huge. Their tight ends are huge. They’re just really big.
“Defensively I think they’re very good. They’re huge. Their linebackers are big. Their safeties are big. I’m telling you, they’re big. To make a point, they are really big. Every time you watch a player, everyone is big.”
The Seawolves might be big, but they have struggled in their first year in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Stony Brook is only 1-5 in the CAA, and have lost a number of close games. Three of the team’s five CAA losses have been by eight points or less, including a 39-31 loss to Richmond last week. The Seawolves were leading by double-digits earlier in the game.
Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said his team has had trouble playing all four quarters.
“I knew every game [in this league] would be competitive,” Priore said. “I knew every game would be a four-quarter game. It’s probably the one thing we haven’t done a good job of, is playing four quarters. We’ve lost three games in the fourth quarter where we were winning.”
Stony Brook quarterback Lyle Negron, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior, has thrown for 1,710 yards on 129 for 230 passing and nine touchdowns.
Running back James Kenner, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior, leads the ground game with 580 yards on 231 carries and five touchdowns.
Matthews said the Seawolves like to run the ball more than they like to pass it.
That could change on Saturday against a banged-up Dukes’ secondary. JMU’s strength this season has been stopping the run, but the secondary has been a real weakness. JMU cornerback Kwe’shon Williams missed the Dukes’ loss to New Hampshire last week with a concussion, and may not play again today. His replacement last week, Taylor Reynolds, is out with a concussion today. Matthews said he may move one of the safeties to corner against the Seawolves.
Stony Brook is averaging 20.0 points per game, but allowing 22.3 per game.
The Dukes will need to play better on offense against the Seawolves than they did against New Hampshire last week. JMU only ran the ball for 132 yards in the loss to the Wildcats, and Matthews said part of the problem was the play of the offensive line.
JMU offensive tackle Matt Cunningham was trying to play through a torn labrum in his shoulder, and didn’t play many snaps. Matthews said Cunningham will probably be replaced today by Wray Fucci.
“Matt’s really pushing Josh Wells as our best offensive lineman,” Matthews said of Cunningham. “He’s had a great year, not a good year, a great year. It’s really hard when you lose your offensive tackle.”
The Dukes are fighting for a playoff spot, but need a lot of outside help to have a chance. JMU must win its last two games, including next week against Towson.
JMU hasn’t won a road game yet this season, but the Dukes are 6-0 at home.
“We need to win the last two games and go from there,” Matthews said of his team’s playoff chances. “We just need to play better.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd