Mountaineers to take on James Madison in D.C.
Published: Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 01:06
A common fixture that has developed in non-conference scheduling for BCS-level programs is an early season matchup against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Such games are mutually beneficial for both programs involved: The major conference team gets a less difficult opponent than it will face throughout the rest of its schedule and the FCS opponent gets a handsome paycheck for its services.
With fewer resources at its disposal, the FCS school gladly pockets the payday and rare exposure for its program in exchange for a potentially lopsided defeat – most of the time.
Appalachian State reversed this trend with its unthinkable 34-32 defeat of Michigan in 2007. Three years later, James Madison pulled a similar upset – shocking Virginia Tech 21-16 at the Hokies’ home stadium.
Can the Dukes recapture some of that magic and stun West Virginia at FedEx Field on September 15?
All signs point to the contrary, but if history is any indicator, it’s impossible to predict what will happen on any given Saturday.
The Mountaineers’ second game of the season will take place at a neutral field that typically hosts the NFL’s Washington Redskins. FedEx Field is nearly a four-hour drive from West Virginia’s campus and less than a three-hour trip from James Madison’s.
Fans from both schools won’t have trouble descending upon Landover, Md., for what should be an interesting matchup between the two programs.
The two teams have met only once, with the Mountaineers besting the Dukes in a 45-10 rout at Milan Puskar Stadium in 2004.
While the Mountaineers will surely be heavy favorites in the game, the Dukes have the firepower requisite for making this game a tricky one for West Virginia.
Returning at quarterback for James Madison is redshirt senior Justin Thorpe, who tossed for 2,059 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. In the backfield, leading rusher Dae’Quan Scott will look to build off his impressive sophomore campaign in which he rushed for 1,304 yards and 12 scores.
The Dukes advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs last season where it fell 26-14 to eventual national champion North Dakota State. In the first round of the playoffs, James Madison eked past Eastern Kentucky 20-17 on a last second field goal from Cameron Starke.
Starke, a redshirt junior who transferred from West Virginia in 2009, connected on 15-of-19 field goal tries last season.
Though the game is played closer to James Madison’s campus, West Virginia has an extremely strong alumni base in D.C. Additionally, Mountaineer fans are known for traveling well, and this game will be no different.
West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck believes the strong presence of alumni in D.C., coupled with the perks of playing in an NFL stadium will bode well for the Mountaineers.
"This is a great opportunity for our football program to play in the Washington, D.C. market," he said.
"Our players will have a chance to play in an impressive NFL stadium, located in an area where we have a growing and passionate fan base. Our University also has drawn numerous students from that area for many years.
Luck also commented on the merits of James Madison, noting that the Dukes are not a typical FCS opponent; with a national championship and numerous playoff appearances in this decade alone, a West Virginia victory is not a guarantee.
"It is important to note that we will be playing a quality FCS opponent, who won the NCAA Division I-AA national championship in 2004," he said.
West Virginia will see a windfall of financial gains from this game, as the program will net $2.3 million from the game as well as additional revenue based on attendance incentives.
While talk of monetary benefits has surrounded this game ever since its announcement, both teams are only concerned with what happens on the field.
West Virginia is well aware that James Madison will provide some challenges and should be fully prepared for the game.
The Dukes will draw motivation from being serious underdogs and from their past success in games of this nature.
Though all signs point to a clear Mountaineer victory, West Virginia will find an opponent that not only doesn’t fear its more celebrated opponent, but revels in the idea of spoiling the Mountaineers’ 2012-13 season before it even hits Big 12 Conference play.