It’s 17-3 JMU in the first edition of the football Royal Rivalry, and so far, the Dukes have dominated. Here is the good, bad and the ugly of JMU’s first half against the Monarchs.
The good: JMU’s energy
This version of JMU looks familiar, doesn’t it?
The Dukes look relaxed, focused and like they’re playing at home. Graduate transfer quarterback Todd Centeio is throwing the ball with ease, and redshirt senior wide receiver Kris Thornton continues to charge through JMU program history, passing Brandon Ravenel in catches, fourth, and Gary Clark in career receptions (156).
Scoring on their first drive of the game was a big plus for the Dukes, which nicely complemented the three-and-out the defense forced to start the game. Then, Centeio’s six-yard touchdown solidified JMU’s confidence, more than it’s had the previous two weeks.
The bad: Billy Atkins’ interception
Just when things looked good for the Dukes at the end of the first half, Centeio took ahit while faking a handoff and got up slowly. He finished the drive but left the field afterward.
In his place, redshirt freshman Billy Atkins entered the game with 2:59 in the first half. He got a first down but was immediately intercepted on the next play. The pass put JMU’s defense up against a newly energized ODU offense, which had a long drive before Atkins came in. The turnover resulted in a 29-yard field goal from Monarchs’ freshman kicker Ethan Sanchez with five seconds before halftime.
The ugly: Homefield advantage?
It’s a three-hour drive from Harrisonburg to Norfolk, and today’s game sold out back in September. However, for an in-state game that both teams expect to be a rivalry, there’s a lot of purple in the stands.
Now in JMU’s case, this is something fans love to see. But this isn’t Bridgeforth Stadium, it’s S.B. Ballard Stadium. There have been moments where it feels like the Dukes are playing at home, particularly during Thornton’s two highlight-level catches that put JMU in the rezone in the second quarter.
JMU fans, there are still 30 more minutes to go. ODU fans, there are still 30 minutes to go. The Dukes have emphasized maintaining momentum in the last few weeks, and that will be key moving forward if they hope to snap their losing streak.