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Ex-Lee star hopes JMU Dukes can catch fire
Roane Babington is just being honest. The James Madison University center, who played high school football for Robert E. Lee, isn’t happy that his Dukes are 10th in scoring offense and ninth in total offense in the Colonial Athletic Association through two games this season.
That might not be too bad, especially since JMU is 1-1 this year, but the Dukes finished eighth in scoring offense and ninth in total offense last season in the CAA. The poor offensive output last year translated into a 6-5 record — one the Dukes stumbled into after opening with three wins, including a huge upset over Virginia Tech — and no playoff berth.
Babington fears a repeat could be under way.
Saturday night against what should have been an overmatched Central Connecticut State University, JMU eked out a 14-9 win. The Dukes opened the season last weekend with a 42-10 loss to North Carolina.
It wasn’t like JMU wasn’t moving the ball against CCSU — it finished with 389 yards of total offense — but it was the missed opportunities and the lack of points that have to concern this team.
And while the rest of the players were trying to make chicken salad out of, well, whatever it was JMU covered the field with against CCSU, Babington, a redshirt senior captain, wasn’t having any of it when asked what was wrong with the offense.
“I think it’s everything from top to bottom,” Babington said. “I don’t want to call anybody out right now, but it’s just execution, some of the plays we’re running … everything just needs to get better. And a lot of time when we did well, when everybody was clicking at the same time, we moved the ball. We had almost 400 yards of total offense, but too often somebody is not clicking and until that gets fixed we’re not going to have a good season.”
At one point during the postgame press conference, Babington even said he respectfully disagreed with his starting quarterback, Justin Thorpe, when the signal caller was trying to spin the lack of offense into something positive.
“The last two years haven’t been even close to par,” Babington said. “We need to step up and do what we can.”
After scoring 21 points against the Hokies last season, JMU didn’t top 17 points until the second-to-last game of the year, a 30-24 win over then No. 1-ranked William & Mary.
That win, which snapped a four-game losing streak, also happened to be the debut of Dae’Quan Scott, another Lee High product, at quarterback after spending most of the season at wide receiver.
Scott was moved to running back this year, but did sneak in one play at quarterback, late in the game when he got a shot in the wildcat offense. He made the most of it, scoring on an 8-yard run, part of his 138-yard rushing output on the night.
Scott said it was all the offensive line. For his part Babington didn’t take credit for the touchdown run, but for one of the few times during the press conference, he did seem happy with an offensive play by his team.
“All I saw was that they (CCSU) kind of overplayed the unbalanced (line),” Babington said. “They had a few extra guys sitting out there, so I think Dae’Quan may have had the option of giving it or pulling it. I think he made a guy miss.”
The bright spots for the Dukes’ offense, though, were scarce. JMU turned the ball over five times, including a fumble on the visitors’ 1-yard line, and gave up possession twice on downs in CCSU territory. The Dukes were also just 3-of-9 on third down conversions.
That doesn’t sit well with the captain.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be,” Babington said. “Our defense is doing well and if weren’t for them we wouldn’t have won this game probably. But it’s just something where we need to get better.”
by Patrick Hite, News Leader