JMU Football Notebook: Dukes facing another CAA opponent in playoffs

Mike Houston

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University head football coach Mike Houston isn’t happy his team has to play a Colonial Athletic Association team this weekend.

The Dukes host fellow CAA squad Stony Brook in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at 2 p.m. Saturday. JMU won the CAA title this season, but did not play Stony Brook in the regular season.

“I think its terrible,” Houston said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. “I think they’re one of the best teams on our side of the bracket. I think we are too. I hate that we’re facing each other in the second round, because either one of these two teams I think you could easily see deeper on.”

The Seawolves finished second in the CAA with their only conference loss coming to Delaware. Stony Brook beat Lehigh, 58-29, last weekend in the first round of the playoffs. Four CAA teams made the playoffs this season and only one has been knocked out so far.

The Dukes had a similar situation last season when they defeated CAA rival New Hampshire in the second round of the playoffs.

“I don’t like seeing a conference opponent this early, we’ve seen it two years in a row, Houston said. “So maybe that’s their way of weeding us out, you know putting us against each other. You got to play them at some point anyway. And if they’re in the tournament you’re probably going to have to play them at some point down the line anyway, if they’re a good team.”

READY TO GO: Houston said the JMU’s bye week last week was just what the team needed.

Houston said they practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. He said the players were off Thursday and Friday and returned on Saturday evening. Houston said the team had a great practice on Sunday.

“We had a very energetic, a very peppy practice (Sunday) afternoon,” Houston said. “They looked revived. They looked fresh. I think it was what they needed. They are motivated for this game this week.”

Houston said he thinks getting the bye is important and it allowed the team to have a week to refocus and get rejuvinated.

“I think the bye helped us get healthy,” Houston said. “It helped us work on a few things we need to work on.”

HOME SWEET HOME: With the top seed in the playoffs the Dukes have earned home-field advantage all the way until the championship game, which will be played in Frisco, Texas.

Houston said having home-field advantage is very important.

“I’ve always felt like if you can get home-field advantage it gives you an advantage,” Houston said. “We’ve won some road games, had some big road wins in the past, but certainly being at home, being at Bridgeforth Stadium, I’m sure it will be packed. I’m sure our fans are going to be as rowdy as they’ve ever been.”

The Dukes always stay in a hotel the night before a home game, and Houston said it will be no different in the playoffs.

He said staying in that same home-game routine will be good for the players.

“It helps having the same kind of trip, same kind of schedule to (a normal) Friday and Saturday,” Houston said. “I just think that adds to the consistency, to not being disrupted. So hopefully that means we go out and we play as well as we’ve played all year.”

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