Here is everything you need to know about the season opening matchup in our James Madison vs. West Virginia Preview.
2 p.m. ET/1p.m. CT, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
TV: AT&T Sportsnet, WVUSports.com, and Mountainer TV on Roku and Apple TV (Rob King, Rasheed Marshall, Meg Bulger)
Away Radio: Sprint Broadcast Network, wsvaonline.com (Dave Thomas and Clint Estes)
Home Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 111, XM 200, Tune-in and WVU Game Day apps (Tony Caridi, Dwight Wallace, Jed Drenning)
Fun Facts: Both head coaches will be making their school debuts. James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti graduated from West Virginia in 1982. His father, Frank Cignetti, Sr., was the head coach at West Virginia from 1976-79. The elder Cignetti is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
West Virginia has two offensive lineman on the Outland Trophy watch list. Kolby Wickline at least has three starts under his belt as a redshirt senior. He should be prepared. However, the two guards are the question marks on this offensive line. Both starting guards may be community college transfers. Despite having three starts under his belt, Chase Behrndt is the second name listed on an OR position with 6-foot-5 Navarro College transfer John Hughes listed above him. Hughes is just a sophomore. On the left side, East Arizona College transfer Michael Brown is a 6-foot-3 junior who has played in four games. How well will the protection on the inside be?
The Defensive End position
There are three players here fighting to be a starter where experience is abundant elsewhere. While the other players are just trying to help the team, look for an extra push from one of these three players: Jeffery Pooler Jr., Tajlh Alston, and Reuben Jones. One of those three may be motivated to become the star of a game against a talented FCS team.
Punt Returner D’Angelo Amos
Special teams could be the difference in a game featuring the No.2 FCS team in the nation vs. a Power Five team trying to rebuild with a new coach. James Madison is no stranger to FBS upsets. Amos is the 2018 Phil Steele FCS Special Teams Player of the Year. He led the nation with three touchdowns and a return average of 22.0 yards per return. If West Virginia does not take this game seriously, they will be burned on special teams.
CB Rashad Robinson
He missed all of 2018 with an injury, yet he’s on multiple Preseason All-America watch lists and the Buck Buchanan Award watch list. In 2017, he earned All-American honors on four publications.
It’s Neal Brown’s debut. He has an experienced defense, an experienced offensive line, and an experienced running back. The question is quarterback Austin Kendall. Oklahoma respects Kendall so much, they tried to block him from an in-conference transfer. The Mountaineers are 19-0 all-time against the FCS. Since the turn of the new millennium, only one team came within single digits of pulling off the upset: 2013 William & Mary (24-17 final). This may be the most dangerous FCS team they’ve ever played against though.
Curt Cignetti takes over the reins and his team is No.2 in the nation, only behind North Dakota State. Many believe West Virginia is on upset alert. Our own Derek Duke mentioned this possibility in his mailbag. The Dukes are 6-21 all-time against the FBS and have two victories against ACC schools. They are going into Milan Puskar Stadium hungry and would probably see this game as more of a Cignetti homecoming than a Brown debut. What would be sweeter than to kick off your head coach’s debut than score him an upset at his alma mater?
West Virginia 42 James Madison 20
I think James Madison will put up a fight. Honestly though, do we really expect an FCS team to go into a Power Five stadium against an experienced team with a new head coach? The Mountaineers are 19-0 against FCS teams. You could use the old cliché, “there’s a first time for everything”. I’d give the Dukes more of a shot if they had a coach whose system was in place. Cignetti may win the FCS National Championship in his first year, but he’s not winning his debut at a Power Five Conference school against a team with experienced players and a coach who took Troy to a Sun Belt Conference Championship. Neal Brown starts his tenure 1-0.
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