Game Preview: WVU vs. JMU at FedEx Field

After destroying Marshall and then getting a week off, the Mountaineers head to FedEx Field to take on the James Madison Dukes.  With the team fully rested and with JMU being a Division II school, this game should be a walk in the park for the Mountaineers.

The offense went all out against Marshall and ended up beating them by 35 points.  Geno Smith had a spectacular game throwing for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Smith picked apart the Marshall defense with ease and if he can play this way on Saturday then he should have no problem putting up similar numbers.  Stedman Bailey had an amazing game, grabbing nine balls for 104 yards and two touchdowns.  Senior wide receiver, J.D. Woods hasn’t had a noteworthy career as a receiver, showed that he is a big threat.  Against Marshall, he had seven receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown.  If he can keep this up he just might be Smith’s new favorite deep threat.

One thing about the offense that suprised many fans two weeks ago was how much the Mountaineers ran the ball.  In total they had 35 carries for 331 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Shawne Alston seems like he will be the main back this year; he ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts.  Even Smith got in on the running game, rushing for 65 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.  Last year, the running game was one of the weaker points of the Mountaineers’ offense, but they showed two weeks ago that they are committed to running the ball as well as passing the ball.  If the offense can keep this up then there is no reason that they can’t win some of the bigger games later in the season.    

Last year the Mountaineers' defense was nearly unstoppable, but two weeks aho they seemed a bit slow and they allowed the Thundering Herd to get some big plays on them.  Hopefully, with that week off they were able to fix many of the problems that plagued them in their first game.  While the defense did have a few sacks and they did have one interception, they allowed 413 passing yards and 132 rushing yards.  While the rushing yards don’t seem very concerning the passing yards should have some fans worried.  This game against JMU is a perfect game to bounce back and show other teams what they are made of.  If they can’t get it together this week, then it could come back to bite them when they play teams like Texas and Oklahoma.

One defensive player who caught the Thundering Herd by surprise was redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce.  Bruce had an excellent game defensively; he was in on several plays and he  returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown.  If he can play like this every game then his career as a Mountaineer will be a very memorable one and if he can stay healthy and productive then sometime in the future Mountaineer fans may see him playing on Sundays.

Last year, the biggest problem for the Mountaineers was their special teams.  When they played Marshall they looked like a whole new team.  The return men were getting blocks and both the kicker and punter had great games.  Kicker Tyler Bitancurt didn’t need to kick any field goals, but he went 9 for 10 on extra points.  Last year since it seemed like the Mountaineers could barely punt the ball 20 yards down field.  Now with r Corey Smith doing the punting it went a lot more smoothly.  Smith only had to punt once and it went 45 yards down field, a huge improvement over last year.

So far, JMU is 2-0 and they have destroyed the teams they've faced.  However, neither one of those teams is even close to the same caliber as WVU and JMU will be in for a big surprise with the high powered offense that the Mountaineers bring.  That being said, the Mountaineers’ defense has to stay on top of the Dukes’ quarterback Justin Thorpe.  Not only is he a threat in the passing game, he is also a threat on the ground.  This season, Thorpe has thrown for 317 yards, and three touchdowns and he has rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns.  If the defense can get in his head early, then Thorpe might start making bad decisions and with bad decisions comes fumbles and interceptions.      

The Mountaineers should easily be able to come away with the win in this game and if they can play like they did against Marshall then it should be another slaughter.  However, one thing to keep in mind is that a few years ago JMU did upset Virginia Tech, so WVU can’t be headed into this one too cocky.  This game is also designated as Sam Huff Day, who played for the Mountaineers and the Washington Redskins.  His number is retired at Mountaineer Field and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Kickoff for this game is set for 4:30 PM.

Prediction: WVU-70  JMU-20

Player of the Game: Geno Smith 36/47 450 yards 5 TDs

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