James Madison coach Mickey Matthews claims he isn't fazed by his team's 2-3 record.
"I don't know. I hadn't really given it much thought," Matthews said with a slight smirk this week at practice. "You're the first one that's brought it up."
Unlike their coach, JMU players admit to dwelling on the losing record.
"It's tough. You lose a little sleep at night thinking about it, especially as a senior," said senior tight end Mike Caussin.
"I've never been 2-3 in my life, so it's brand new to me," said freshman quarterback Justin Thorpe, whose last-minute fumble ended JMU's chance at beating top-ranked Richmond this past weekend. "And it doesn't feel really good."
"It doesn't feel good at all," agreed senior defensive end Arthur Moats. "I just feel as a team we've got to stay focused. Keep pressing through."
The Dukes haven't opened a season 2-3 since 2003, when they finished 6-6. And the team has already surpassed its loss total from last year, when JMU went 12-2, including playoffs.
"It's very frustrating, considering how last year was. It was like we got all the breaks," said Moats, pointing to JMU's last-second wins on a punt return at Richmond, and a Hail Mary pass at Villanova.
"It takes a lot of luck to win a lot of games like we did last year," said Caussin. "We were lucky last year, and it's just not falling our way this year, as of right now."
"I just feel like this year, it's a little tough," said Moats. "But it's going to build character in us, and help us out later in the season."
Matthews has said in the past that a team probably needs eight wins to have a chance at being selected for the FCS playoffs. His Dukes have six games remaining, starting with Saturday's visit by No. 6 Villanova.
"We're going to take it week by week. And really emphasize that this week," said Caussin. "We want to be 1-0 at the end of this week. And if we take every week like that, we know that our schedule is favorable; that we can get it done."
And Matthews maintains that confidence is not an issue for his team.
"We played our best game Saturday, against probably the best team we've played this year. And we came up one fumble on the four-yard line short," he said. "That doesn't mean we have a bad football team. It doesn't mean we can't play.
"We just need to not make the big mistake, and everything will be fine."