JMU: Dukes Say National Championship or Bust

By: Daren Stoltzfus Email
By: Daren Stoltzfus Email

They were all saying the right things.

“We can be as good as we want to be you know,” said wide receiver Quintin Hunter. “The only thing that's going to stop us is ourselves.”

“The skill we have on this team, all we have to do is handle our business and play our best and do what we got to do,” said Dukes senior defensive end Aaron Harper. ”I have no doubt that we got to do that.”

What they're trying to do, is win a national championship. Head coach Mickey Matthews making it clear: every year he's the coach at James Madison, his goal is bringing home a title. In 2012, it's not exactly an assumption, but if things go right for JMU, it's definitely not a stretch to imagine a run to the title game in Frisco, Texas this January.

"We have fewer questions going in to this season than we've had in years past," said Mickey Matthews Friday on the Dukes' football media day.

To put it simply, not only does Madison have a slew of talent back from last year's team, things are finally falling in the Dukes' favor. Even with something as simple as who and when they play.

“I did not like last year's schedule,”said Matthews. “As much as I didn't like last year's schedule, I really like this year's.”

A year ago, Madison's run at a title took a detour after senior quarterback Justin Thorpe was suspended five games for a violation of team rules. JMU was coming off a win at then number one William & Mary, and a win at the eventual Big South runners-up, Liberty.

With Thorpe out, the Dukes lost three of their next five games. After the quarterback's return, the Dukes didn't lose again until the NCAA FCS Quarterfinals to North Dakota State, the 2011 national champions.

In 2012, the Dukes know they have to count on more than just their on-field performance. It's about staying out of trouble, eligible, and focused.

“We have to handle things on the field and off the field,” said Hunter. “We have a lot of older guys, especially on the offensive side of the ball. We got plenty of defensive guys returning, so this team can be great.”

But until September 1, it's still just talk. The statement Madison makes, good or bad, when they run out against St. Francis, may go a long way in showing whether the title hopes are real, or just another year of lofty dreams for the Dukes.


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