Dukes Share the Blame for Struggling Offense

By: Damon Dillman Email
By: Damon Dillman Email

James Madison senior Theo Sherman admits football isn't as much fun right now as it used to be for the Dukes.

"Confidence is pretty low," Sherman, one of JMU's captains, said Tuesday. "But I think it has something to do with us not playing as loose as we normally do."

"You get to the sideline after a three-and-out, or a drive where you think you should have done better," agreed junior center Roane Babington. "It's frustrating sometimes to look over at the scoreboard and see that we don't have more points on the board. Especially, after the past few years, we've done so well with that."

"We like to have fun out there. We like to play loose. And when we go out there on the first series, and something doesn't work out, it seems like we're panicking now," admitted Sherman. "We need to get out of that. We just need to play loose, and have fun."

The Dukes dropped to 4-2, and No. 11 in both major FCS polls, with last Saturday's loss at home to New Hampshire. The Wildcats shut out JMU in the second half, erasing a 14-10 halftime deficit.

JMU, which travels to No. 6 Villanova this Saturday, hasn't scored more than two touchdowns in a game since the team's historic upset of Virginia Tech September 11.

"You get confident when you make good plays. And we need to make better plays on offense," coach Mickey Matthews said Monday at his weekly news conference. "You can't go to the local drug store and take a pill for confidence. You need to make some plays."

"We're very close. It's like one missed assignment. On offense, when one person misses, it's like the whole offense fails," Sherman said Tuesday.

"On the field it looks really bad. It looks like we don't get any yards," said Babington. "But when you go back and look at it on film, it's usually just one block away. If one guy would have made their block, we would have 10-, 15-, sometimes even 70-yard runs.

Matthews said Monday that the Dukes' problems are wide-ranging: running backs failing to pick up blitzers; receivers running incorrect routes; inconsistent play from senior quarterback Drew Dudzik, or freshman linemen Matt Krout and Scott Jones.

"The sad part is, it's not just one person you can replace. It's everybody taking a turn, so it's not like you can blame one person," Babington said. "Somebody will have every play, do well. But then one play will be his mistake, and it'll be the reason that costs us that play. And everybody keeps rotating."

"So everybody has to be right. I think everybody's not on the same page, as we should be," said Sherman. "But we're planning on working on that this week."

Matthews said Monday that JMU coaches "haven't left a stone unturned" in evaluating how to improve the offense. But any changes will be kept secret until the Dukes take the field at Villanova, because Matthews has closed practice to the media this week.

Sherman said the Dukes share their coach's frustration.

"We're going to find the problem. We're going to find a solution to our problem," he said. "We're going to work hard this week, and hopefully we can get better."

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