Eagles Host Dukes in Statesboro: JMU vs. GS Preview
James Madison (-12.0) @ Georgia Southern O/U 67 (per Action Network)
City: Harrisonburg, Virginia
Coach: Curt Cignetti (38-5, 4th Season)
Stadium: Bridgeforth Stadium
After becoming one of the most successful FCS teams in recent history, JMU moved up to the FBS ranks in the offseason as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. Led by Curt Cignetti, who has a 38-5 head coaching record at JMU, the Dukes have begun their FBS tenure with a 5-0 start while quickly becoming one of the best offensive teams in the country. JMU's early success has led them to the #25 spot in the AP Poll as they come to Statesboro, Georgia this week. So far this season, JMU has beaten Middle Tennessee State, Norfolk State, Appalachian State, Texas State, and Arkansas State. JMU's offense will present a HUGE problem for the Georgia Southern defense, but this also means the Eagles have a HUGE opportunity to shock the world.
The offense for JMU is one of the best in all of college football. They are currently averaging nearly 500 yards of offense - 275 passing and 214 rushing yards - and over 44 points per game. This presents a major issue for the Eagles of Georgia Southern who are statistically one of the worst defensive units in the Sun Belt. At the helm of the offensive unit is QB Todd Centeio who has thrown for over 1300 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing about 66% of his passes. The quarterback is also the second leading rusher for the Dukes with 289 yards and two touchdowns on the ground this season. The teams leading rusher, RB Percy Agyei-Obese, rushed for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns against Arkansas State. The 6'0", 215 pound running back is likely licking his chops after watching the Eagles surrender 335 rushing yards last week against Georgia State. The favorite target for Centeio is WR Kris Thornton. Through five games, Thornton has accumulated 516 yards and 5 touchdowns. This offense is ELECTRIC and should cause all kinds of problems for the Eagles defense.
As electric as the JMU offense has been, the defense has been nearly as good. The Dukes defense gives up only 15 points per game. The most points scored on them all year was 28 by Appalachian State when they played in Boone on September 24, 2022. The defensive unit is led by LB Taurus Jones who has accumulated 39 tackles, including 7 tackles for loss, to go along with an interception and a fumble recovery. The team is led in interceptions by LB Jailin Walker with two on the season. He is also the second leading tackler. The Dukes only surrender about 230 yards per game of total offense. Scoring will be at a premium of the Eagles and to hold the Dukes offense under 28 points after watching us play this season seems like a tall order.
If there is a weak spot for the Dukes, it is special teams. K Camden Wise is only 2-6 on the season on FG attempts. If for some reason, the game comes down to a kick, Coach Cignetti cannot feel great about his odds. P Sam Clark has been extremely consistent as he has punted 17 times for an average of over 42 yards. In the return game, DB Josh Sarratt has been the punt returner this year and has returned 10 punts for a 10 yard average. The Dukes do not return many kickoffs, but to be honest... they haven't had many chances as they are usually the team scoring.
City: Statesboro, Georgia
Coach: Clay Helton (3-3, 1st Year)
Conference: Sun Belt
Stadium: Allen E. Paulson Stadium
Last week, the Eagles headed to Atlanta to take on the Georgia State Panthers. The Panthers won their third consecutive game against Georgia Southern by a score of 41-33. It was one of the ugliest games I have ever seen offensively. The Eagles turned the ball over five times - four interceptions thrown by QB Kyle Vantrease and one fumble by WR Khaleb Hood. Somehow, even with five extra possessions by the Panthers, the Georgia Southern defense was able to keep the game within striking distance. The Eagles had a chance to score late in a one score game, but the final nail in the coffin ended when the Panthers forced a fumble and recovered it on the final drive of the game. This week, the Eagles are presented with an even larger problem... JMU has one of the best offenses in the country.
Offensively, the Eagles put up decent numbers against Georgia State. They finished the game with 451 yards of offense and averaged nearly 6 yards a play. There was one HUGE issue that plagued Georgia Southern the entire game... Turnovers. QB Kyle Vantrease threw four interceptions during the game and WR Khaleb Hood lost a fumble late to ice the game for the Panthers. Outside of the fumble, Hood played his best game of the season as he finished the game with 11 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. Early in the game, it seemed that OC Bryan Ellis forgot about the run game, but RB Jalen White still finished the game with 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. It would be a shame if I did not also mention that WR Amare Jones made a BEAUTIFUL catch for a touchdown as he finished the game with 6 catches for 66 yards. Look for the Eagles to run the ball a little more this week to control the clock and set up opportunities in the passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles effort was NOT pretty, but somehow they forced field goals after the offense turned the ball over a couple of times and kept the score pretty close the whole game. The unit was led by LB Marques Watson-Trent who finished the game with 8 total tackles. DB Marc Stampley II made a huge play late in the game and recorded his first career interception. The line of scrimmage was dominated by Georgia State's offensive line which led to the Panthers stacking up 335 rushing yards. In order for the Eagles to have any chance of stopping the JMU Dukes, the defensive line has to play bigger and stronger to allow the LBs and DBs to make plays in space. If the offensive line and tight ends are able to get to the second level as easy as Georgia State did, the Eagles will be in for a LONG afternoon. Hopefully DC Will Harris and the other coaches will have the group ready to roll.
K Alex Raynor is still perfect on the season as he moved to 9-9 after kicking two FGs against Georgia State this past week. K Michael Lantz continues to be the kickoff specialist for the Eagles. P Anthony Beck II has been extremely consistent the last few games after a shaky start. He's punted the ball 17 times for an average of just over 44 yards per punt including seven that ended up inside the 20-yard line. In the special teams game, the Eagles have the advantage.
I want to take a minute to give a shout out to one of the best people and athletes I have ever had the honor of meeting. LB Todd Bradley-Glenn came to Georgia Southern in 2016 after a great high school career at Valdosta High School. At seventeen, he was diagnosed with and beat a rare cancer. His first year at Georgia Southern, he tore his ACL. He fought back and came back for his second year where he played in all twelve games for the Eagles. His third year, he had to have his meniscus removed in the preseason. He came back from that and injured his other knee and was forced to miss the rest of the season. After rehabbing that injury, he returned for his fourth year which he played in all 13 games of the season and became a big part of the defense. In his fifth year at Georgia Southern, he again played in all 13 games and made some huge plays for the Eagles. After that season, all athletes were granted a "COVID year" and Todd decided to come back "ONE MORE TIME" for the Eagles. Unfortunately, he tore his left bicep and was forced to miss the entire season. He and the school filed for a medical hardship waiver and he was granted an unprecedented seventh year of eligibility. Bradley-Glenn rehabbed hard, got himself into shape and came back full speed ahead in 2022. He dislocated his elbow against UAB and was forced to sit out the 2022 Homecoming Game against Ball State and the Coastal Carolina game. As usual, he came back to play against Georgia State for the final time. Unfortunately, he injured his knee and will be forced to miss the remainder of the 2022 season. This is the end of the line for Todd's journey as a football player at Georgia Southern, but it is NOT the end of the line for Todd as a mentor, a friend, a teammate, and just an all-around good human. I have never seen anyone fight through so much adversity to play the game they love. The team, the coaches, other students, the fans, and everyone around can learn so much from watching how Todd continued to be resilient and fight for what he loved - his family, the brotherhood, football, and Georgia Southern University.
Todd - good luck in all that you do in the future. Attack every day the way that you did all the adversity that you faced and you will undoubtedly go far. Eagle Nation loves you and we thank you for all your sacrifice.
Georgia Southern, coming off of one of the uglier games in recent history makes some improvements, but the Dukes prove to be too much.
JMU - 41
Eagles - 24
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Written by: Logan Colburn