|« Patriot football teams set to dive into the Ivy||UTSA seeks to ground Southern Utah QB »|
JMU Zeroing in on the Flames
The Dukes will head south for a Commonwealth clash against the Liberty University Flames this Saturday.
The Flames have now won nine games in a row at Williams Stadium and are currently tied for the fourth-longest Football Championship Subdivision home winning streak. Liberty’s last loss inside of Williams Stadium was a fall to No. 6 JMU, 24-10. The Dukes are currently riding a two-game winning streak against the Flames.
Last year, the Flames finished the season with an overall record of 8-3 and didn’t make the FCS playoffs. In each of the last four seasons the Flames have won or shared the Big South Conference title, but have failed to qualify for the playoffs each time. Nevertheless, in 2010 the Flames finished the year by averaging 36.5 points per game, a figure ranking No. 3 nationally in scoring offense.
Seven of the eight returning starters for Liberty are at skill positions. Last week, the Flames had an impressive 38-7 victory over Robert Morris University in which quarterback Mike Brown threw for more than 200 yards, two touchdowns, and scampered in for two more scores.
On offense, the Flames “line up in the shotgun and they throw the ball a lot,” said JMU head coach Mickey Matthews. Liberty will feature Mike Brown, a dual-threat redshirt senior at quarterback. Brown is two-time Big South Offensive Player of the Year and is a Walter Payton Award candidate.
At wide receiver, the Flames are returning three starters: junior Pat Kelley, redshirt senior B.J. Hayes and redshirt senior Chris Summers. Summers possesses the most talent at wide receiver and was an All-American in 2010 with 1,081 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
“He’s a good receiver,” said Mike Allen, a JMU redshirt senior cornerback. “We just hope to contain him; he’s 6′5″ and got a little speed on him. I think we’ll do just fine.”
Last year at running back, the Flames relied on junior Sirchauncey Holloway and redshirt junior Korrey Davis.
“We kind of threw some guys into the fire in 2010 at running back,” coach Danny Rocco said. “Now this year, they are all back. Plus, we’ve added Aldreakis [Allen] back into the mix. All three players have returned in better shape and are ready to show improvement.”
The weakest part of the Flames’ game will be their offensive line as four seniors graduated last year and only redshirt senior right tackle Toney White returns as a starter.
On defense, the Flames do not have as many big-name playmakers. In recent years, Liberty has relied on its defensive scheme and constant substitutions to get the job done.
“They base out of an odd front where they put a defensive lineman head-up on your center,” Matthews said of Liberty’s formation scheme. “They blitz over half the time. They run a gambling defense that likes to take a lot of chances.”
This can be illustrated by the Flames’ three interceptions, four sacks and seven tackles for a loss last week against Robert Morris.
As for potential mismatches on Liberty’s defense, the Dukes need to remain optimistic and focus on the task at hand.
“We’ve got to beat all 11,” said JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe. “We have to try to utilize every player on our team and try to defeat every player on their team.”
Players to watch on offense:
#10 QB Mike Brown: This dual-threat quarterback is in his senior year, so expect him to lay it all on the line for a shot at capturing Liberty’s first bid to the FCS playoffs. Mike Brown carried the team last week, accounting for 355 total yards on offense, which is a staggering 71 percent of the team’s total offensive production, according to www.libertyflames.com
#1 WR Chris Summers: At 6′5″ and 215 pounds, Chris Summers has the physicality to dominate and change the outcome of a football game. Last season, Summers had 76 receptions for 1,081 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Players to watch on defense:
#3 DB Kevin Fogg: Kevin Fogg is Liberty’s biggest playmaker on defense. Last week against Robert Morris, Fogg had two of the team’s three interceptions and returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
#93 DL Paco Varol: This 6′3″ sophomore, who hails from Hamburg, Germany, is currently leading the team in tackles and is tied for third on the team with sacks.
By Tony Schaffner, The Breeze