Five Burning Questions: SMU vs. James Madison

Scott talked with The Breeze's sports editor Richie Bozek about SMU's upcoming matchup against James Madison.

Pony Stampede: To someone who hasn’t seen this Dukes team play, how would you describe their style of play both on offense and defense?

Richie Bozek: Offense: Fast paced and efficient. JMU loves moving the ball 70+ yards in about five to 10 plays and two and a half minutes, running a quick, no-huddle offense. Defense: Athletic. The Dukes’ defense is playing under a new defensive coordinator this year, Steve Sisa. Sisa is in his second year with the program, serving as safeties coach last season. Sisa made no major changes, however the Dukes feel that play faster on defense and are more athletic this season. One area of improvement this year so far has been stopping the run. The Dukes are allowing only 102.7 yards per game on the ground compared to last year’s 186.2 ypg.

PS: Head Coach Everett Withers has suspended a number of Dukes this season—most recently defensive lineman Simeyon Robinson. How has the team dealt with the losses of these defensive players?

RB: The Dukes actually have great depth, so it hasn’t been too detrimental at all. However, looking at the roster it may not seem like it. One thing that Withers and the Dukes emphasize and take pride in is that the next guy is ready to step up. Withers hasn’t shied away from the idea or opportunity to put less experienced pieces out on the field these past two seasons. In this season’s opener 14 different freshmen saw playing time, and number of freshman and sophomore are in starting roles. It all kind of stems from Withers’ recruiting style. I’m paraphrasing this, but at this year’s media day Withers said he wants to out-recruit from year to year and find guys who he knows can make an immediate impact. Not to say that the Dukes aren’t impacted by the suspensions, just that they are prepared to fill in roles.

PS: Senior quarterback Vad Lee had four interceptions and a fumble in the first half of last week’s game against Albany, yet the offense still put up 42 points and finished with 600 yards. Who is this offense’s biggest weapon and why?

RB: Despite throwing five interceptions in total last week (Lee threw seven throughout the whole 2014 season), Vad Lee is still the biggest weapon on the Dukes’ offense. Lee, who spent his first two years playing at Georgia Tech, poses as a dual threat — he’s comfortable in the pocket but also showcases mobility, whether it be run-by-design or having to extend the play. Through the first three games, Lee has a 71.7 completion percentage for 906 yards and eight touchdowns. He is also has 267 yards rushing on 37 attempts with two touchdowns. That leads into the next major artillery that is the running back duo of junior Khalid Abdullah and redshirt sophomore Cardon Johnson. Both have ran for over 335 yards so far this season and a combined 10 touchdowns. Lee also spreads the wealth to his receivers — five JMU receivers have seven or more total receptions this season. JMU’s offense leads the entire FCS in total offense (652.0 ypg), scoring (51.0 ppg) and first downs (100). I’m intrigued to see how this offense performs against an FBS defense.

PS: SMU is obviously known for their disastrous 2014 season, but they have also played two of the nation’s top teams this season in Baylor and TCU and hung around for a good portion of the games. What is JMU’s perception of the SMU team coming into this week?

RB: You could talk to any player or coach on the roster and I’m 99.9% sure they will all approach this week’s game the same way — they focus on the Dukes and not their opponent.

PS: For James Madison, on the road against an FBS opponent, what are you expectations for this game and what must The Dukes do to get the win in Dallas?

RB: Not only is SMU an FBS program, but as mentioned earlier it has faced two top five FBS teams already this season and put up somewhat of a fight. No doubt that SMU will be the Dukes’ toughest competition this year. The last FBS school JMU faced was the University of Maryland in the 2014 season opener and the Dukes got pummeled 52-7, but I think JMU is much improved from where they were over a year ago. JMU needs to establish its run game and fast paced attack early in the game and move from there. I think SMU will come through with the victory but I could see a competitive matchup forming. A competitive contest would help JMU continue to make a name for itself. Who doesn’t love a good upset though?


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