Toyota Press Pass: JMU expects physical game against Troy

Troy is known for the physical running game but has shown they're willing to open up the playbook.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 10:33 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Two of the Sun Belt’s best will square off on Saturday night when James Madison heads faces Troy.

The Dukes are coming off a Power 5 win over Virginia. Curt Cignetti has been adamant this week that it’s time to put the win against Virginia in the rearview mirror.

“The average person would have a letdown this week against a really good football team on the road,” said Cignetti during his Tuesday press conference. “You got to have a special discipline, work ethic, focus, and mindset to separate yourself from average.”

The Trojans, the defending Sun Belt Conference Champions, are 1-1 on the season. They’re coming off a road loss at No. 15 Kansas State. Troy is known for their physicality, stout defense, and their running game. However, Troy has shown early in the season they’re willing to open up the offense, specifically with the passing game.

“Number one thing we got to do is stop the run game and then limit the explosives and pressure the quarterback,” said Cignetti. “I fully expect them to try and pound the ball.”

While Troy prides itself on running the football with Kimani Vidal, the James Madison defense takes pride in stopping the run. The Dukes only allowed Virginia to run for 18 yards.

“We just have to understand that as a team that prides themselves on stopping the run, we’re going to have to be very physical and very good up front,” said JMU safety Francis Meehan. “In the back end, we’re going to have to win our 1-on-1′s when they come and stay on our keys and not be lulled to sleep by the run. We’re going to have to stay sharp and stay intense the whole game in this one.”

One unknown surrounding this week’s game for Troy is whether star defensive lineman T.K. Jackson will play. The First-Team Preseason Sun Belt Selection was suspended in early August for violating team rules.

Troy head coach Jon Sumrall did confirm earlier in the week Jackson would be at practice but didn’t comment any further.

Cignetti says he fully expects Jackson to play.

Whether or not the Trojans have Jackson available, Troy fully knows what they expect facing JMU.

“We better get our hard hat on and get ready to play a physical, tough football game,” said Sumrall. “Lot of respect for these guys across the board. Well coached in all three phases, good players. Really tough outfit we got to be ready to play this week.”

Troy defensive back O’shai Fletcher fully knows what to expect facing JMU.

“I know they’re one of the top teams in their division on the other side opposite of us,” said Fletcher. “They’re going to come out here and give us our best shot. I think they’re going to give us a little bit of everything, really so we’re going to have to be prepared for everything.”

Kickoff on Saturday night is at 7 p.m. ET.