It's the phrase no coach wants to hear, especially about their starting quarterback, "Suspended indefinitely."
But that's exactly what James Madison football coach Mickey Matthews heard late Sunday night.
Justin Thorpe, and Chase Williams a back-up linebacker, are now out with no public timetable to return, after both players violated the JMU Athletic Policy.
In his already scheduled press conference Monday, Matthews didn't mask one overwhelming feeling: disappointment.
"I think it's disappointing for everyone who wears purple. Especially the way [Thorpe] played Saturday night. It's just disappointing," said Matthews.
It should have been a big day for Madison. The Dukes are coming off their biggest win of the season, improving to 3-1 Saturday with a win over in-state and Colonial Athletic Association foe, William & Mary and had risen to 8th in the FCS Coach's Poll.
Now, they're without Thorpe, unquestionably the leader of an offense that finally showed promise its past two games. Come Saturday, Thope and Williams will be banned from all game-day activities with the team.
It's something that's going to challenge, and one Matthews says is a gut-check.
"Like any coach or parent will tell you, your kids are going to humble you some. Anyone who's been a parent will agree with that. Your children will humble you some, a lot. When you're the head football coach, you have 100 children, this is going to happen," said Matthews. "You hate it as a coach, you hate it for everyone involved, but discipline is a way of life."
Sophomore Jace Edwards figures to take the reins at quarterback against Richmond Saturday, and Matthews said Edwards would receive the lions share of snaps in practice. The Dukes though, aren't ruling out a more versatile offense, primarily based in a Wildcat formation.
Last season in the final two games, wide receiver and now running back, Dae'quan Scott took most of the snaps at quarterback, even starting there in the finale. In the run-heavy experiment, Scott won as many games as he threw passes. Two. And as a team, JMU only threw 3 passes in their final two games.
Now, Scott is back in the mix to be the Dukes new starter, along with Andre Cobble, and Edwards.
Matthews says it's about helping the most talented players get the most touches, but it's also just dealing with the reality that their main quarterback is gone for the foreseeable future.
"We'll be fine. We'll be fine. What it is, is what it is. All the things you wish could happen is, but this is reality," said Matthews. "Even if you lose two quarterbacks, you have to get the next guy in there."
And as for the reality of Thorpe and Williams dealing with the consequences of their actions?
"We're always going to run a tight ship. When the expectations of our players, are always going to be high and we're not going to compromise," said Mickey. "We always say as a staff, that discipline precedes morale, and I believe that very strongly as a coach, you've got to have discipline throughout your troops, and kids respect that, and people respect that. That's part of the deal."
We'll first see how Madison handles their new deal, Saturday against Richmond. It's homecoming for the Dukes. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Bridgeforth Stadium.
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