By Preston Adams
Well, James Madison has finally suffered its first conference loss of the Mike Houston era. I will eat my crow deep fried and smothered in gravy because before the preseason I did not see Elon as a true CAA title contender, much less a threat for a national championship. I am happy to admit, I was wrong. Elon RB Malcolm Summers is the real deal, that offensive line can play with the best of them, and QB Davis cheek proved why he was a 4 star prospect coming out of high school. Take nothing away from their defense too, which played Riley Stapleton very well and was flying all over the field. The Elon Phoenix are for real, and had their CAA coming out party yesterday.
All of that being said, WELCOME TO THE NEW CAA JMU!!! This is what happens when you beat down everyone for two years. Schools are going to come for you, and if you’re not on your A game against top competition, you’re gonna get knocked off. That said, let’s not push the panic button and call this season a loss. Predictably, some more fickle fans have called for us to fire our offensive coordinator, to bench our QB DiNucci, burn the uniforms (because that totally has something to do with your team losing right?), and other things that one might expect in the immediate aftermath of an unexpected loss. Were there some questionable play calls? Yes. Did Ben look a little off his game? Yes, and in his defense he was doing quite a bit of scrambling. Did we get burned on too many big plays for my liking? Yes. Did we leave some dropped passes and missed tackles on the field? Oh you know it. Did the refs have some questionable calls (looking at you @AverageCAARef) at best? Oh yes. But all of that is not to take away from an Elon team that came in with a game plan and executed. They are a top 5 team after all. Personally, I think this loss will be better for JMU in the end. Now they know they can be beat, they know the sting of losing a regular season FCS game, and I bet you the players will never want to feel like this again.
Despite the somewhat optimistic outlook I have, JMU has a lot to improve on, and the rest of the CAA will not be laying down. The Dukes will be challenged by a desperate NOVA team that will be playing for their playoff lives next weekend, a Stony Brook team the following week that will be looking to prove that they are not the team that got worked by Towson on Saturday, and the season has said Towson, renewed Rhode Island, and revived UNH all coming after the bye. These games will not be easy, but I believe that JMU should be favored in every single one of them, and if the Dukes play up to their potential, should win. Something we might not be able to see from this loss to Elon is that it will be a teaching moment for the team. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall for the rest of the season with Coach Houston being able to remind our squad that they can be beat, and if they don’t bring their best game, they will be. I expect him to also have a chat with his offensive and defensive coordinators on how to scheme better, and open up our playbook. We can’t hold everything close to the chest and expect to win now.
So, deep breaths JMU. This is still a national title contending team. Anyone that tells you otherwise is just a football fanatic and not paying attention closely to what is happening on the field, much less what’s happening around the conference and in the FCS on the whole. Rhode Island, Towson, Elon, and Maine are the undefeated teams in the CAA, and NOVA, Richmond, and UNH are chillin at the bottom. Clearly this conference is gonna cannibalize itself, and it is on the Dukes to rise above it and show why we are still the kings of the conference. One loss will not define our season, and it will not define Coach Houston’s career. Let’s get back to being humble and hungry, because we were clearly missing that against Elon.