Dukes offensive line adapting without Kidwell

James Madison to play full-game against South Alabama without Nick Kidwell.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 1:46 AM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - When offensive lineman Nick Kidwell got injured after the first play of the game against Utah State the mood on the James Madison sideline was gloomy.

“Everybody was super down. Nobody knew what was wrong with him at first,” said offensive lineman Tanner Morris. “You see him get loaded on to that cart and you know it’s not really a great diagnosis.”

However, it’s what Kidwell did next that proves how important he is to the JMU locker room. After the redshirt senior was loaded onto the cart to get transported to the medical tent, he purposely directed the driver of the cart to the James Madison sideline.

“They pulled him over to us and he was getting everybody hyped up,” said Morris. “That definitely says a lot about him. Thinking about the team first and not thinking about himself.”

Kidwell was encouraging the offense to put up early points, which the Dukes would do when Jordan McCloud hit Omarion Dollison on a 54-yard touchdown pass. Ironically, Kidwell was down in the corner of the end zone right where Dollison scored, according to Morris.

“What was a dire situation turned into something really positive,” said Morris.

Head coach Curt Cignetti said Kidwell became one of the voices of the team.

“Nick had really emerged as the leader of the team,” said Cignetti. “He’s a good player. He was here a year before I was here. I feel terrible for him.”

The question for the Dukes is how the line will perform moving forward with Kidwell, a Preseason First-Team All Sun Belt Selection. They passed the first test against Utah State which saw Tyler Stephens move from left guard to right tackle and Carter Miller get slotted in at left guard.

“We definitely have a lot of guys that can step up,” said Morris.

However, the next test gets even tougher when South Alabama comes to town on Saturday.

“I thought the guys really stepped up,” said Cignetti. “This is going to be a big challenge this week. South Alabama’s really good inside.