MORGANTOWN W.Va- On August 31st, the James Madison Dukes will roll into Morgantown for a week one matchup against Neal Brown’s squad. Despite their affiliation with the FCS, the Dukes remain year after year, one of the most well-respected and dangerous teams in the nation at their level. They frequently compete for conference championships in the Colonial conference, and are often in the hunt for national titles at seasons end. They return production at many of their positions, and will be hungry for a breakout win to spoil the debut of the Neal Brown era.
The Dukes finished 9-4 in 2018 in which two of their four losses came by a field goals margin. Despite a last second field goal that ended their season in the FCS Playoffs, they still had an incredibly successful season, averaging close to 34 points a game, while their offense averaged over 400 yards per contest. The Dukes even saw their top athlete on the team get drafted, in defensive back Jimmy Moreland, going in the 7th round of the NFL Draft.
Overall, the Dukes will have a similar look on offense as they did last season with Ben Dinucci, a Pitt transfer under center. DiNucci that took over the starting role last season under center, and is expected to do the same for this upcoming season week one. Combined on offense and defense, 19 other starters besides DiNucci will return including most of his offensive line, and many of his weapons at receiver, including preseason All-American Riley Stapleton who was his top target from the 2018 season.
One man to look out for in the Dukes special teams unit is dangerous returnman D’Angelo Amos. The junior safety and punt return specialist returned 25 punts in 2018, averaging 22.0 yards per return with three touchdowns and 549 yards on returns, overall. Amos was named the FCS Special Teams Player of the Year by Phil Steele and an AP Second Team All-American, among other awards during his 2018 campaign. Neal Brown has already made note of him during his weekly press conference and should be a name to watch for this Saturday.
On the defensive side, the Dukes return 10 of 11 starters, and will have a healthy Rashad Robinson, a cornerback who was sidelined all of last season due to a foot injury, and received a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA. Robinson has already been named a preseason All-American by many outlets after a huge junior season, and will be a name to look out for going against the Mountaineers receiving core.
Still, the game remains a home game against an FCS level opponent with a new head coach. With the energy revolving around Morgantown and the new direction of the program, the Mountaineers will still have the edge, as they work to answer some of the question marks before conference play begins in week four.
Since its week one, it shouldn’t surprise anybody to have a close first half, before the Mountaineers end up pulling away due to simply having more talent. After all is said and done, the game definitely won’t be one to sleep through, but should be a good afternoon for Mountaineer fans, and the Neal Brown era should start off with a comfortable win on a Saturday afternoon.