Before the season, Mickey Matthews said his Dukes had the potential to be a "championship defense" in 2010.
On Tuesday, junior defensive end D.J. Bryant said that through James Madison's first three games, the Dukes may be surpassing those high expectations.
"We came in just thinking we could be a lockdown defense," he said Tuesday. "But right now we're a great defense, with a great effort."
"We take a lot of pride in our defense. You can tell by the way we practice," said junior linebacker Pat Williams. "We have a lot of chemistry. We've been playing together for a long time.
"We just go out and play," Williams added. "And the results, I guess they speak for themselves."
Through three games, the first-team defense has only allowed one touchdown, on the opening drive at Virginia Tech on September 11. The Dukes are ranked among the top 10 FCS teams nationally in scoring defense (third) and total defense (ninth), and the team is 11th nationally in turnover margin.
"We've only played three games. But we expected to be good on defense, and so far we've played very well," said Matthews.
But Matthews is quick to add: "I remember the words of Barry Switzer, many years ago. He said, 'Humility is a week away.' And that's probably true."
On Saturday, JMU begins CAA play at home against Delaware. Both teams enter the game undefeated and ranked in the top five of both major FCS national polls.
"This match-up here, it's a CAA match-up. Delaware knows what we're going to do on defense; we know what they're going to do on offense," Bryant said. "So right now it's more so who prepares better, who executes, and who kind of wants it more."
"I think they're going to try to run it down our throats. And we're a relatively small defense," said Williams. "So we're going to have to play quick, and use our strength to our advantage."
The Blue Hens are led offensively by quarterback Pat Devlin - in his second season at Delaware after transferring from Penn State - and running back Andrew Pierce, who had 114 yards and three touchdowns at Richmond last weekend.
"They say this guy's going to be drafted top two our three rounds, their quarterback. And certainly this running back has given them a shot in the arm," said Matthews. "They have a returning offensive line from last year. And they've been very public, they think they have the best group of receivers in the league.
"They think they're good on offense. We're going to find out."
© Copyright 2014 WHSV / Gray Television Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.