Midweek news as the Tribe prepares to host James Madison on Saturday
Following their first loss of the season to Villanova, the Tribe traveled to Brookline, Mass. to face winless Northeastern. Although the Tribe claimed that it would not approach its date with the Huskies as a “trap game”, the College trailed at halftime 7-6.
“We knew going into the game that Northeastern was going to be a tough opponent. Being in the CAA, you can’t overlook anybody in this league,” junior right tackle Keith Hill said. “We were down at halftime and they threw some things at us that we didn’t think they were going to do. I’m pretty sure they blitzed us on 90 percent of the plays, and we weren’t anticipating that, the film hadn’t shown them to be a big blitzing team.”
After regrouping during the intermission, the Tribe returned to field firing on all cylinders, exploding for 28 points in the second half. Head coach Jimmye Laycock was impressed with his team’s second half resilience.
“For us to go up there and be down at halftime to a team that hasn’t won, it would be very easy for us to panic and get nervous,” Laycock said. “I think our players did a heck of a job maintaining their focus, being confident and doing a heck of a job, and not playing tight and not being nervous and making plays and then getting a very decisive win.”
The College’s rushing attacked paved the way towards victory against Northeastern. Sophomore tailback Jonathan Grimes led the way with 95 yards on 14 carries and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Tailbacks Courtland Marriner and Terrence Riggings contributed 44 and 38 yards, respectively.
Although the Tribe notched another CAA win and improved its overall record to 5-1, the team eagerly anticipated its upcoming bye week as a chance to relax.
After dismantling Northeastern, the Tribe enjoyed a long overdue weekend off for the first time in almost two months.
“It was really nice to go home and get some rest. Coach gave us a nice three day weekend, and since we usually don’t get anything more than 24 hours off, it was really nice, it was great,” junior cornerback Ben Cottingham said.
Aside from giving the team some long awaited free time, Laycock expressed the need to utilize the open date as a time to allow his players to recuperate from the various bumps and bruises incurred over the first half of the season.
“Going into the bye week, we wanted to get several things accomplished,” Laycock said. “First, we wanted to take the guys who had a lot of contact and get them a break from that. Then, we also wanted to take the backups and get them a lot of reps during practice, and we were able to that.”
Coming into the matchup with Northeastern, the Tribe was missing three key starters due to lingering injuries, including two defensive line stalwarts, C.J. Herbert and Mike Stover. Laycock expects Herbert, Stover and wideout Cameron Doshe to return to action this week against JMU.
JMU, Homecoming game
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, the Tribe returns to action against James Madison in the 81st Homecoming game in team history. While any homecoming game comes with added intensity, the fact that the game features one of the Tribe’s greatest rivals has left the team even more energized.
“Homecoming is important. Homecoming against JMU is twice as important. Since I have been here, we haven’t beaten JMU and that is something that I want to change this year,” Hill said.
The no. 5 Tribe (5-1, 2-1 CAA) enters Saturday’s matchup riding a five-game losing streak against the Dukes (2-4, 0-3 CAA), as the College has not defeated JMU since its 2004 comeback victory in Harrisonburg. Additionally, the Dukes recently made themselves at home in Zable Stadium, where they have not lost since 2001.
Last season, the College visited the then no. 1 Dukes in Harrisonburg, and received a 48-24 beating, a loss that damaged the Tribe’s playoff hopes.
Since then, the Dukes have fallen on hard times. After narrowly losing to Maryland, the Dukes reeled off wins against VMI and Liberty before losing its next three contests, all of which were against CAA opponents. JMU is not ranked in the national top 25 this for the first time since during the 2005 season.
In the past, JMU has dominated the Tribe via the rushing attack. The Dukes have rushed for 200 or more yards in nine of its last 11 meetings against the College. This year, the Tribe enters the matchup with one of the nation’s stoutest run defenses, allowing just 64.8 yards per game on the ground.
Additionally, JMU enters Saturday’s matchup with a freshman starting quarterback, Justin Thorpe, which entices the Tribe defense.