Mike Houston

JMU football head coach Mike Houston talks with a player during the Dukes game against Towson.

It was an announcement JMU football didn’t see coming. The Dukes learned that they didn’t receive a top-8 seed in the FCS playoffs, setting the team up for a long road to Frisco, Texas. JMU’s road back to the title game will start at home this weekend against Delaware (7-4, 5-3 CAA).

“With the selection show today and our seeding in the tournament, obviously it’s not where anyone, I think, in the entire nation expected us to be seeded,” head coach Mike Houston said. “But, it’s where the selection committee felt like we deserved to be.”

One of the deciding factors for JMU being on the outside of the top seeds was its loss to New Hampshire on the road during Week 10. In the FCS bracket, the No. 7 seed (Maine) and the No. 8 seed (Colgate) both took home victories over New Hampshire this season.

Maine saw a 35-7 victory over the Wildcats and Colgate claimed a 10-3 win over UNH. While the Dukes did face a New Hampshire team that had the Preseason CAA Player of the Year in senior quarterback Trevor Knight back in the lineup, they understand why that loss affected their ranking.

“Like Coach Houston said throughout the season, we didn’t win the games we could’ve won through the duration of the regular season,” redshirt junior linebacker Dimitri Holloway said. “We just got to know [to] put our mind on the next game.”

The Dukes’ road back to a potential third-straight national title game will go through familiar territory. If JMU pulls out the win against CAA-foe Delaware on Saturday, the team would make the trip up to New York for a rematch of the 2015 second-round game against Colgate.

When the announcement came in, the team was left quiet and shocked during its watch party at Bridgeforth Stadium. The placement came less than 24 hours after the Dukes’ commanding win over No. 15 Towson — a win they thought would secure a first-round bye.

“One thing I know about this team is we play best when we’re pissed off,” senior running back Trai Sharp said. “We change our mindset, we get clicking on the field. So, it is what it is. I am surprised about it, but we have to play football on Saturday.”

JMU will play in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since its 26-21 loss to Liberty in 2014. While Houston and his team wanted to have a bye this weekend, they have now set their sights on this weekend’s contest and the Blue Hens team that awaits.

“At the end of the day, our deals always been you control what you can control,” Houston said. “What can we control? We can control our response. Sometimes you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it, and that’s going to be key this week.”

JMU and Delaware will meet for the first time this season at Bridgeforth Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

Contact Catie Harper at breezesports@gmail.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

Pat Summitt, Erin Andrews and Lindsay Czarniak were three names that inspired me growing up. Here I am now at JMU, Czarniak’s alma mater, taking steps to live out my dream. As Pat would say, “I’m going to keep on keepin’ on, I promise you that.”