The Second of A Pair at Home To Start 2012: The James Madison football squad will wrap up its fist two games of the 2012 season with tonight's contest against the Alcorn State Braves. The Dukes opened the season last weekend with a resounding 55-7 victory over visiting Saint Francis, Sept. 1.
The Coaches: James Madison Head Coach Mickey Matthews (West Texas State, '76) is in his 14th season at JMU and as a head coach overall with an 97-61 record.
Alcorn State Head Coach Jay Hopson (Ole Miss, '92) is in his first year as head coach of the Braves and overall, sporting a 1-0 record. Hopson recorded his first head coaching victory with a dramatic 22-21 win over SWAC rival Grambling last Saturday.
History With Alcorn State: Today's contest is the first meeting between the Dukes and the Braves and is also the first time that Madison has played a team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
National Rankings: JMU has come into the 2012 season with high expectations both from the coaches and the media, according to their respective polls. The Dukes are ranked eighth in the FCS Coaches Preseason Poll, while being in the No. 5 slot in The Sports Network Preseason Poll, which is voted on by sports information, media members, broadcasters and other dignitaries. Following the first week of play, Madison moved up two spots in the FCS Coaches' Poll to No. 6, while holding on to the No. 5 slot in the The Sports Network Poll.
The Dukes have earned significant recognition in several national preseason publications, with four of the five putting JMU in the top five. Phil Steele's Annual picks JMU second in their preseason rankings, while USA Today has Madison fourth. Athlon College Football and College Sporting News both have James Madison in the fifth spot, while Lindy's College Football picked the squad 13th nationally.
Matthews Closing In On the Century Mark: JMU Head Coach Mickey Matthews is closing in on a historic milestone in his coaching career. In his 14th season at the helm of the Dukes, Matthews is just three wins away from having 100 victories in his coaching career. He is currently tied for 24th on the FCS career active victories list, tied with New Hampshire's Sean McDonnell.
James Madison Football On TV: James Madison is no stranger to being televised and it holds true this year, as the Dukes are on the tube six times, with a pair of nationally-televised contests as part of the CAA's package. JMU will first be on television on Sept. 15 from FedEx Field as the West Virginia Game will be televised on Root Sports Pittsburgh. Following that, Madison will make its first of two appearances on NBC Sports Network when it hosts defending CAA champion Towson on Oct. 6, followed by a Comcast Sports Network broadcast of the William & Mary game on Oct. 13. The Oct. 20 game at Richmond and Nov. 3 at Maine will be on Comcast as well, before the regular-season finale against Old Dominion Nov. 17 is on NBC Sports Network.
Thorpe Successful Under Center Leading the Dukes: Redshirt-senior quarterback Justin Thorpe has been a very solid starter for Madison when he has been in the game. Overall, he has a 12-5 record as a starting quarterback as well as being 12-4 against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponents. Even more impressive is that Thorpe has led JMU to wins in his last 10 regular season FCS starts and 11 of his last 12 FCS games overall.
Precursor to Something Greater This Year?: All college football fans want to look for something that gives them an indication of possible success for their teams. Interestingly for Dukes' fans, that may be last weekend's win over Saint Francis as their precursor for this year. Last year, the Red Flash traveled for their second game of the season to a nationally-ranked opponent -- North Dakota State -- and dropped a 56-3 decision to the Bison. So the JMU Nation hopes the same end result occurs for their squad, as NDSU went on to win last year's FCS National Championship.
Last Time Out - JMU Opens the Season With A Solid Performance: The Dukes started out the 2012 season by scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions en route to a 55-7 victory over visiting Saint Francis (Pa.), Sept. 1. Madison posted 602 yards of total offense, the third most in the program's Division I history, while tying the school Division I record with 23 rushing first downs and setting a new program and CAA record with 38 total first downs.
Madison was also a stellar 7-of-13 on third down conversions and held the ball more than 11 minutes than the visitors. The JMU defense was able to hold the Red Flash to just 155 yards of total offense off of 49 offensive plays and only 4-for-12 on third-down conversions.
Four Dukes had at least 50 yards of rushing as JMU totaled 377 rushing yards for the game. Leading all rushers was redshirt senior quarterback Justin Thorpe, who ran for 76 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 15-of-27 pass attempts for 177 of the 225 total passing yards by JMU quarterbacks, including a passing touchdown to redshirt junior Dae'Quan Scott. (Full recap on page 18).
Going Aerial Was Solid For the Dukes: Against Saint Francis, Madison's quarterbacks were very effective through the air, combining to go 21-for-34 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Redshirt-senior Justin Thorpe was 15-for-27 for 177 yards and one touchdown, while true freshman Michael Birdsong was 6-for-7 for 48 yards and one touchdown, connecting with redshirt-sophomore Daniel Brown for an 8-yard score. Even more impressive was that 10 Dukes had at least one reception in the game.
Ranking High In the Opening Weekend of Play: JMU finds itself among the leaders in the nation in various statistical categories in the opening week of the play. Offensively, the Dukes' total of 602 yards ranks third among FCS teams, the 377 rushing yards ranks fourth and the 55 points was the fifth most nationally in the opening games. Defensively, the 155 yards given up ranks eighth nationally, while 55 passing yards ranks fourth. Additionally, Madison's average of 32 yards per kickoff return ranks ninth and the 14.20 yard average on punt returns is 14th.
Starke Splits The Uprights Even Better at Home: Redshirt-junior kicker Cameron Starke has shown his ability to hit clutch kicks for the Dukes, having connected on two final-play, game-winning field goals last year. Overall in his career, he is now 17-for-21 (.810) on field goals and 41-for-42 (.976) on extra points. However at Bridgeforth Stadium, he has hit all five of his field goal attempts, including a career-long 47-yarder against Saint Francis last weekend, and is 24-for-25 (.960) on PATs, with his only missed kick ever in Bridgeforth against Villanova last year.
Calling FedEx For the Dukes: James Madison will find its way to the nation's capital on Sept. 15, as the Dukes will take on No. 10 West Virginia at FedEx Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins. Tickets are still available through the JMU Ticket Office for the game or online at JMUSports.com/tickets.
This will be the second time that JMU has played in one of the NFL's top facilities, as the Dukes played in Raymond James Stadium when they took on South Florida in 2000. It will be the second-ever meeting between the Dukes and Mountaineers, as the Dukes fell to the Mountaineers, 45-10, in Morgantown, W.Va., on Sept. 25, 2004. JMU eventually won the next six consecutive games and posted a 13-2 mark that season en route to the I-AA National Title, while the Mountaineers finished with an 8-4 record that season.
Dukes in the Show: JMU is well represented in the NFL on the 2011 rosters entering the season. The Dukes have two former players that are on opening rosters for the 2011 season. Linebacker Akeem Jordan has spent his first five years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and is slated to start this season at weakside linebacker. Starting his third season in the NFL is former defensive end turned linebacker Arthur Moats (Buffalo Bills), who is currently the starter at outside linebacker. Former tight end Mike Caussin (Buffalo Bills) is on the physically unable to perform list currently after being signed last year off Jacksonville's practice squad.
Where Are They Now - Justin Rascati: Justin Rascati is best known to the JMU Nation as the quarterback that led the Dukes to the 2004 I-AA/FCS National Title, capped off with the win over Montana. Rascati is now back in FCS football, as he is in his first year as the quarterbacks coach at Weber State. His Wildcats dropped a 37-10 decision at Fresno State in the first of two FBS games to open the season for Weber State.
Home Is Where the Heart (And the Victories) Are: The Dukes are tough to beat at Bridgeforth Stadium under Head Coach Mickey Matthews. In his 13 years at the helm, Matthews has led his squad to a solid 59-19 (.756) record in Harrisonburg. What makes that more impressive is that eight of the losses occurred during a two-year span (2001-02) when the Dukes had a combined overall record of 7-16 (JMU was 2-9 in 2001 and 5-7 in 2002). Last year, JMU was 4-1 at home, its ninth-straight .500 or better season at home.
Additionally, Madison has only lost two non-conference games at home, and only one regular-season, out-of-league home tilt, under Matthews in 25 contests. The two losses were in the 2002 home opener against Hampton and the 2008 National Semifinal against Montana.
Matthews' JMU Home Mark
Year Overall Conf.
1999 5-0 4-0
2000 6-0 4-0
2001 1-4 0-4
2002 3-4 2-3
2003 5-1 3-1
2004 5-1 3-1
2005 5-1 3-1
2006 5-0 4-0
2007 5-1 3-1
2008 8-1 4-0
2009 3-2 2-2
2010 3-3 1-3
2011 4-1 3-1
2012 1-0 0-0
Totals 59-19 36-17
Preseason All-America Honors: James Madison's Earl Watford, Stephon Robertson and Dae'Quan Scott were named Preseason All-Americans by The Sports Network, the organization announced. Watford was a first-team selection at offensive guard, while Robertson and Scott were on the third team at linebacker and all-purpose, respectively.
Additionally, JMU had five players named to their respective position watch lists by College Football Performance Awards, the organization announced. Scott was named to the running back list, with redshirt-senior Brian Barlow named to the 25-person tight end watch list. Robertson was named to the linebackers' watch list while redshirt-junior kicker Cameron Starke and redshirt-senior punter David Skahn earned spots on their respective lists.
Oh Captain, My Captains: James Madison's Justin Thorpe, Brian Barlow, Earl Watford, Jakarie Jackson, Stephon Robertson and Tyler Snow have been selected by their teammates as captains for the 2012 football season. Thorpe and Barlow are captains for the second straight season, while this is the first time for the remaining four.
Opening the Season Has Mixed Results: As a NCAA varsity program JMU is 20-18-1 in season-opening games, but since moving to the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) in 1980, the Dukes are 16-17 in season-openers.
In the FCS, JMU has started a season against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent 10 times (0-10 record), an FCS opponent 16 times (9-7 record) and a Division II opponent seven times (7-0 record).
Under Matthews, JMU is 8-6 in season-opening games, including 0-5 against FBS teams, 4-1 against FCS teams and 4-0 against Division II teams.
In season-opening games under Matthews, JMU lost in 1999 at Virginia Tech 47-0, defeated Lock Haven 72-0 in 2000, beat Elon 42-21 in 2001, lost to Hampton 31-28 in 2002, defeated Liberty 48-6 in 2003, beat Lock Haven 62-7 in 2004 and 56-0 in 2005, defeated Bloomsburg 14-3 in 2006, lost at North Carolina 37-14 in 2007, lost 31-7 at Duke in 2008, dropped 2009 's season opener at Maryland in overtime, 38-35, won in 2010 against Morehead State, 48-7, lost last year's opener at North Carolina, 42-10 and defeated Saint Francis (Pa.), 55-7, in this year's first contest.
The First at Home Tends To Be Good: Bridgeforth Stadium has been the home to many happy openings for the Dukes. Since its start in 1973, JMU is now 30-10 (.750) in the first home game of the year and it is even more impressive under current Head Coach Mickey Matthews, as his squads are 13-1 (.929) in the first contest at Bridgeforth each year, including a current nine-game winning streak. The only home opener loss under Matthews was in the 2002 season, a tough 31-28 defeat to Hampton.
Preseason Conference Poll: In the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Poll as voted on by the league's coaches, Madison was picked to finish third in the league. Towson was selected as the preseason favorite, followed by Old Dominion and the Dukes.
New Hampshire picked up two first-place votes and was fourth in the poll, followed by Delaware, Maine, William & Mary and Villanova in the top eight. Richmond was ninth with Rhode Island and Georgia State rounding out the league's teams.
Preseason All-CAA Awards: Redshirt-senior offensive lineman Earl Watford, redshirt-senior h-back/tight end Brian Barlow, redshirt-junior linebacker Stephon Robertson and redshirt-junior return specialist/running back Dae'Quan Scott were selected to the CAA's 25-man preseason squad.
Bringing Back A Solid Core of Returners: The Dukes return 46 letterwinners, including 16 starters, back to the 2012 squad. Madison has six returners on offense, led by quarterback Justin Thorpe, running back Dae'Quan Scott and lineman Earl Watford, while the defense has seven returners, paced by linebacker Stephon Robertson, lineman Tyler Snow and safety Jakarie Jackson. Madison also returns all three key specialists in kicker Cameron Starke, punter David Skahn and snapper Chris Beaver.
Last Year's Bridgeforth Crowds Set Records: There is no question that Sept. 10, 2011's crowd for the home opener against Central Connecticut State was the largest in Bridgeforth Stadium history at that time. With an attendance of 25,102, the total surpassed the previous high of 17,163 when JMU posted a dramatic 35-32 come-from-behind win over Appalachian State on Sept. 20, 2008. In fact, all five games last season surpassed the previous high, with the tops coming in the Homecoming victory over Richmond at 25,742. Last year, the Dukes ranked second in the nation in average attendance at 25,002 fans per game and the 125,010 set a new school record for regular season attendance.
Matthews The Winningest: Mickey Matthews (1999-Pres.) became the all-time leader in victories among JMU football coaches Sept. 27, 2008 in a 24-10 victory at Maine. The win gave the then-10th-year Dukes coach a 68-45 JMU record, which is now at 97-61 overall, which currently ranks 22nd among all active coaches in terms of winning percentage and tied for 24th in victories.
Challace McMillin (1972-84), JMU's first football coach, had a 67-56-1 record during 13 JMU seasons and held the program's previous coaching victories record. McMillin has retired as a JMU kinesiology teaching staff member, but he continues to work with JMU athletic teams in a sports psychology role.
JMU'S COACHING RECORDS
Coach (Years) W-L Pct. NCAA
Mickey Matthews (1999-Pres.) 97-61 .615 6
Challace McMillin (1972-84) 67-56-1 .544 0
Joe Purzycki (1985-90) 34-30-2 .530 1
Rip Scherer (1991-94) 29-19 .604 2
Alex Wood (1995-98) 23-22 .511 1
* Challace McMillin's listed coaching record at JMU does not include the program's inaugural football season of 1972 when the team's schedule did not include the minimum number of games to constitute an NCAA-recognized varsity football season. JMU's 1972 team played five games against a mixture of college varsity and junior varsity and prep-school teams.
Controlling the Football A Key Factor For the Dukes: In JMU's 12 FCS games last season, the Dukes had a time of possession advantage in nine of them, going 8-1 in the those contests. The average difference in those nine games was 7:18, with the most a 21:00 difference in the NCAA Playoff road win at Eastern Kentucky Nov. 26. The only one that Madison did not win was the 23-20 loss at Old Dominion Oct. 29. The two games that Madison did not hold the advantage were the Maine game (a 25-24 overtime loss) and the New Hampshire road contest (a 28-10 loss).
In this year's season opener, the Dukes held the ball more than 11 minutes than Saint Francis in the 55-7 victory.
Playoffs Expanding Again in 2013: Last year, JMU took advantage of the playoff expansion to 20 teams by grabbing one of the last slots in the 2011 FCS Playoffs and advancing to the second round after defeating Eastern Kentucky. Next year, the playoffs increase in participation again, as 24 teams will be selected for the field, 11 via auto bids as the Pioneer League's champion will now be automatically invited to the postseason. The top eight teams will be seeded, receive first-round byes and host second-round games. The 16 other teams will bid to host first-round games.
JMU Football History: The 2012 season is JMU's 41st season of football, its 39th varsity football season, its 34th season with football scholarship players and its 33rd season competing at what is now the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, formerly Division I-AA.
JMU began football in 1972, moved to a recognized varsity schedule in 1974, first awarded scholarships for the 1979 season and moved to Division I-AA in 1980. JMU moved from Division III to Division II in 1979 and to then-Division I-AA for the 1980 season.
JMU's top seasons in addition to winning the 2004 NCAA Division I-AA championship (13-2) have been in 2008 when the Dukes reached the FCS semifinals as the playoffs' top-seeded team and compiled a 12-2 record, 2007 (8-4, NCAA playoffs), 2006 (9-3, NCAA playoffs), 1999 (8-4, NCAA playoffs), 1995 (8-4, NCAA playoffs), 1994 (10-3, NCAA playoffs, second round), 1991 (9-4, NCAA playoffs, second round), 1987 (9-3, NCAA playoffs), 1982 (8-3), 1978 (8-2, No. 9, Division III), and 1975 (9-0-1, College Division).