JMU football put an exclamation mark on its season Saturday, blowing out Coastal Carolina at home, 47-7, to finish its first year in the FBS 8-3 (6-2 Sun Belt). Sports Editor Grant Johnson says that while JMU can't go to a bowl game or advance to the Sun Belt Conference Championship game, its ineligibility shouldn't overshadow how monumental the Dukes' inaugural FBS season was and how bright the future looks in Harrisonburg. 

It’s the final week of regular season play, and JMU football (7-3, 5-2 SBC) has one game left.

Head coach Curt Cignetti joined the Sun Belt coaches conference to talk about the Dukes’ 42-40 win over Georgia State on Saturday and what to expect this week against Coastal Carolina. Here are three takeaways from his time on the call.

Don’t get caught in the Senior Day emotions

Cignetti made it clear — JMU must focus on the game and winning. Senior Day will have lots of emotions, but the head coach said it’s important to remember to focus on the game itself.

Cignetti said he believes the Dukes can focus on the game when it’s time, and that’ll come down to having “a great week of preparation.” He also said playing an opponent like Coastal Carolina is motivating for JMU because of the level of competition it creates. Coastal Carolina comes into Bridgeforth at 9-1 (6-1 SBC) and will play in the Sun Belt Conference title game regardless of Saturday’s result due to JMU’s postseason ineligibility.

Get the offense consistent

One of the biggest issues the offense has dealt with this season is remaining consistent for all 60 minutes. The Dukes found a way to shut out the Panthers in the second half last week, but the offense wasn’t scoring in the first half to balance things out.

Cignetti said moving the ball like the Dukes did in that second half, getting quick first downs and making third down conversions are key. Graduate transfer quarterback Todd Centeio threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns against Georgia State, and four different JMU players found the endzone: redshirt senior wide receivers Kris Thornton and Devin Ravenel, graduate running back Percy Agyei-Obese and redshirt freshman running back Kaelon Black.

‘Finite’ is a little weird this week

This is the first time in Cignetti's tenure at JMU when he’s known exactly when the season will end. In previous years, there were always the FCS playoffs. That’s not the case anymore.

The head coach said it’s a little strange knowing that Saturday’s game is the end, but he still embraced how impactful this season was. He said the team still plans to honor the senior class and their impact on the program through Senior Day celebrations and some of their own as well.

Cignetti also said Saturday’s game has made it a little difficult in deciding what color to wear on the sidelines — choosing between a black jersey and pants look, or purple.

Other news

Coastal Carolina’s starting quarterback, redshirt junior Grayson McCall is out of a walking boot, per head coach Jamey Chadwell. Chadwell said it’s unlikely the Chanticleers will see McCall on the field in the next two weeks. It was previously said on Nov. 9 that McCall would be out for 3-6 weeks.

JMU Athletics announced last week that dorms will open at 6 a.m. rather than the originally scheduled 10 a.m. to allow students to return to Harrisonburg in time for Saturday’s game.

Three Sun Belt teams have one last try at obtaining bowl eligibility — Georgia Southern, Louisiana and Southern Miss. The Eagles play Appalachian State, the Ragin Cajuns play Texas State and the Golden Eagles play ULM, respectively.

JMU sixth-year, graduate long snapper Kyle Davis is wrapping up his last year as a Duke after starting in purple and gold for four years and serving as "the glue," as former JMU punter Harry O'Kelly (2017-21) called it, of the Dukes' special teams unit for multiple seasons. Sports Editor Grant Johnson recounts Davis' football life to this point, which spans from an impromptu long snapping football camp in middle school and gaining respect at JMU to vying for an NFL job after this season. 

JMU dominated Old Dominion on Saturday, 37-3. Sports Editor Grant Johnson recaps the action, which saw JMU graduate transfer quarterback Todd Centeio largely return to form but suffer an ankle injury in the second quarter that he played through. 

JMU has a dozen players returning to the "757" area Saturday when the Dukes head to Norfolk, Virginia, to face Old Dominion. Staff writer Craig Mathias details the importance those players place on returning home and what the game means for recruiting in the state of Virginia. 

JMU men's basketball finally has players who've played under head coach Mark Byington for three years, and with that, a solid core of teammates who dealt with the adversity that COVID-19, injuries and the CAA brought last year. Sports Editor Grant Johnson details just how much last season has benefited the more mature and hungry returning Dukes.