JMU using good and bad playoff experiences to prepare for Stony Brook

Bryan Schor

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University football coach Mike Houston wants his team to remember the pain.

The Dukes have plenty of wonderful memories from last year’s Football Championship Subdivision national championship run. However, Houston, in his second year as JMU head coach, doesn’t want his team to forget how it felt in 2014 and 2015 when the Dukes lost to Liberty University and Colgate University in the FCS playoffs. Both games were at JMU’s Bridgeforth Stadium.

“They understand the pain of the Liberty loss or the Colgate loss, because they were there and they lived through it,” Houston said. “And I’ve asked them at various times tell me about how that felt. I want them to remember that pain, because pain can be a great motivator.”

JMU senior quarterback Bryan Schor said that it’s important to remember how those losses felt.

“I think you remember how it felt for our loses against Colgate and Liberty while I was here,” Schor said. “We know how painful it could be to lose those playoff games. And I think you feel that going forward. And you think about how bad you want to keep playing in December.”

JMU (11-0) hosts Stony Brook (10-2) in the second round of the FCS playoffs at 2 p.m., Saturday.

JMU redshirt senior defensive lineman Simyeon Robinson said that the early losses in the playoffs helped fuel the Dukes’ run to the championship last year.

“We didn’t want to go home like we did those past years,” Robinson said. “We wanted to keep it going. We were shooting for something better. There were bigger things on our plate that we wanted.”

JMU hasn’t lost to an FCS team since the playoff loss to Colgate in 2015. JMU has won 23 straight games overall. While the Dukes don’t want to completely forget the tough playoff losses of the past, they also want to remember how they made their run to the championship last year.

“I think whenever you’ve been through something before, it helps you when you’re going to go do it again,” Schor said. “I think having experience really helps us you feel comfortable in bigger games. And I think it’s something we take going forward, and it’s going to help us.”

Houston said a big key that helped the Dukes last year was to treat every game exactly the same, and he expects his team to do the same thing in the playoffs this year.

“The only thing that matters now is the Stony Brook game,” Houston said. “And our preparation is going to be the same. The things that are going to be important Saturday are the same things that were important against Elon (in the regular-season finale on Nov. 18). We’re going to have to do a great job of just doing what we do, doing the things that good football teams do.”

Houston said his team’s experience has helped them in close ball games. The Dukes pulled out several games in the fourth quarter this season, including a 20-13 victory over the University of Richmond on Nov. 11. The Dukes scored the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

Houston said all of those experiences in late-game situations will help the Dukes in this year’s playoffs.

“Our guys don’t panic,” Houston said. “They know how to handle themselves. They know what it takes to win it. They know they’re going to have to be at their best in the fourth quarter. So hopefully we’ll have that opportunity there late in the ballgame where that experience pays off, and we’re able to pull it out by one or three or whatever.”

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