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App State looks to spoil Dukes’ undefeated season

Redshirt+junior+wide+receiver+Kaedin+Robinson+stiff-arms+a+James+Madison+defender+Sept.+24%2C+2022.+Robinson+caught+five+passes+for+57+yards+in+the+teams+last+matchup.
Haley Smart
Redshirt junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson stiff-arms a James Madison defender Sept. 24, 2022. Robinson caught five passes for 57 yards in the team’s last matchup.

On a three-game win streak, the 6-4 App State Mountaineers visit the 10-0 No. 18 James Madison Dukes with College GameDay in town.

College GameDay, college football’s most popular television program, will return to James Madison for the first time since 2017. 

App State was featured on GameDay last season, when the show came to Boone for the first time. The Troy Trojans attempted to spoil the Mountaineers’ GameDay experience, but App State won on a last second Hail Mary.

This upcoming Saturday, the Black and Gold hopes to spoil not only the privilege of hosting College GameDay, but also the Dukes’ perfect record.

“We look forward to this challenge, competing against James Madison this weekend on a national stage,” said App State head coach Shawn Clark. 

The Mountaineers’ last game ended in a 42-14 road win over Georgia State, the Dukes previous game was a 44-6 home win against the UConn Huskies.     

James Madison boasts a top-three defense in the Sun Belt, but it’s mostly a dominant run-stopping defense. The Dukes give up the third-most passing yards per game in the conference, but allow the least rushing yards per game. Their defense surrenders 61.6 rushing yards per game, nearly 40 yards less than the next best run defense. Not only is this the best run-stopping defense in the Sun Belt, but it’s the best in the entire nation.

Additionally, James Madison’s defensive lineman Jalen Green leads all of college football with 15.5 sacks on the season. App State’s offensive line will have their hands full with Green rushing the passer.

During the Mountaineers’ three-game win streak, the defense has shown signs of improvement allowing 20.3 points per game, 366.7 total yards per game and forcing six turnovers.

The Black and Gold offense during this streak is producing 194 rushing yards per game, 291.7 passing yards per game and 40.3 points per game. 

Junior quarterback Joey Aguilar and Dukes’ quarterback Jordan McCloud are having similar seasons. McCloud has passed for 143 more yards, but they’ve both thrown 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. 

JMU relies on a pass-heavy offense on the arm of McCloud, but the Mountaineers have a top-three Sun Belt defense against the pass.

“He can do it all, he can run, he can throw it, he gets the ball out of his hands quick,” Clark said. 

With junior running back Nate Noel looking more and more healthy, App State eases their way back into a dominant rushing team. Against the Panthers, they rushed for 254 yards, just one yard less than they passed for. Five different running backs got carries, three of which rushed for a touchdown. 

Previously rivals in the FCS, App State moved up to the FBS level in 2014 while James Madison moved up in 2022. In their FCS days, the Mountaineers held a 12-4 record against the Dukes. 

Last year, the two squads faced off for their first matchup as Sun Belt foes. The Black and Gold blew a 28-3 lead and got outplayed in the second half, losing 32-28

Though they’ve not lost to this point, this perfect season for James Madison will most likely lead them nowhere. A team must win six games to gain bowl eligibility, but for the Dukes, even their potential 10 or more wins might not be enough to be included in bowl season.

Due to a 2017 NCAA bylaw, teams aren’t eligible to play in a bowl game for their first two seasons after the move from FCS to the FBS level. By this ruling, James Madison isn’t eligible until next season.

The school tried to appeal the ruling multiple times, but was denied each time. The only way the Dukes make a bowl game is if there aren’t enough FBS teams with the required six wins. With two weeks left, 58 of the 82 bowl eligible spots have been filled. 

For now, this gives hope to the Mountaineers’ Sun Belt title push. In the conference’s East division, the Dukes remain at the top of the standings, but are also not eligible to play for the Sun Belt Championship. Because of their ineligibility, the East is open for the taking. 

App State battles teams like Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion for a chance in the Sun Belt Championship game. 

The Mountaineers’ season may come down to the result of their matchup against the Dukes. A win on Saturday would only improve their chances in the hunt for the Sun Belt title.

“We’re going there to win the football game, but we know it’s a big challenge,” Clark said, “We have to play our very best to have a chance to win.”

App State travels to Harrisonburg, Virginia in hopes of upsetting the College GameDay host, undefeated and nationally-ranked James Madison Dukes. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and will be live streamed on ESPN+.  

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About the Contributors
Kolby Shea
Kolby Shea, Reporter
Kolby Shea (he/him) is a senior journalism major, photography minor, from Statesville, NC. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Haley Smart
Haley Smart, Photojournalist
Haley Smart is a sophomore communications, public relations major. This is Haley's second year on the photo desk for the Appalachian.
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