Dukes Enjoy Spotlight Following Upset of Tech

By: Damon Dillman Email
By: Damon Dillman Email

James Madison coach Mickey Matthews was listening to a college football radio show on his way to campus Monday morning when something caught his ear.

"They said, 'We're going to talk to Mack Brown and Nick Saban,'" recalls Matthews. "And then he said, 'Then we'll talk to Mickey Matthews of James Madison.

"I nearly had a wreck, you know," adds Matthews, drawing a laugh from the larger-than-usual crowd at his weekly news conference.

Matthews and his team have been national news since upsetting Virginia Tech 21-16 Saturday in Blacksburg. The loss knocked the 0-2 Hokies, who had been ranked No. 13, out of both major FBS polls.

Television highlights and online articles from national outlets like ESPN and "USA Today" have featured the Dukes' coach and quarterback, Drew Dudzik.

On their own campus, players were surrounded by purple-clad classmates Monday, as the school continued to celebrate Saturday's unlikely win.

"There may be some faculty members who want things to calm back down," comments Matthews. "But by and large, to have this much excitement on your campus is a very positive thing."

"This is great. We have great fan support, from the students and alumni, and from the town of Harrisonburg," says senior quarterback Drew Dudzik. "And we just want to keep winning to keep the excitement going."

The Dukes rose to No. 3 in both the Sports Network and coaches' Top 25 polls, released Monday. A pair of JMU players, Dudzik (offensive player) and linebacker Stephon Robertson (co-rookie), also won weekly awards from the CAA.

However, when asked if Saturday's win, and the resulting national publicity, would put a target on his team, Matthews said the Dukes already had one.

"I can't think of anybody that likes us. So that's not going to be new to our players," adds Matthews. "I think probably what's different about it is the fact that we went down and beat the great Virginia Tech Hokies in Lane Stadium. Certainly that adds to that mystique. That'd be the second-best thing, to beat the team that beat the team kind of deal."

"We're a more mature team than last year, and everyone knows what we have to do," says Dudzik. "We're not going to get too cocky off of this game, and we're ready to play Liberty."

The Dukes now have two weeks to prepare for the Flames, who come to Harrisonburg on September 25.

Matthews said Monday that this Saturday's open date should help his team avoid a post-upset hangover.

"If we played this week, we would have practiced last night. We might have scrimmaged last night, to get our guys' minds off of Tech. Just to get our guys going," says Matthews.

"Obviously, this is an exciting moment for our team. But we know we can get better," comments Dudzik. "We played a great game the other night. But I feel like we've got the guys to get it done every week, and we're going to keep getting better."

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