MORGANTOWN - If Mickey Matthews has chosen to go in any direction this week where his James Madison team's Saturday game against No. 9 West Virginia is concerned, it's the self-deprecating route.And that's probably a good angle to take because Matthews does it very well.Take, for instance, when the moderator on Monday's Colonial Athletic Association football coaches teleconference mentioned, in introducing Matthews, that Saturday's game in Landover, Md., would be televised regionally by Root Sports."Oh, I didn't know there was going to be people watching this game,'' Matthews said. "I thought it would be really quiet up there - just sneak in, play them and come home. It's going to be on television, huh? I didn't know that. I don't know if that's good or bad.''Well, yes, the game at the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field will be televised. It might not be watched by too many live - if half the 82,000 seats are filled, it probably will be considered a success - but it will be on the air.And to listen to Matthews, one would think that will be akin to televising an execution."You know, I'm sure the true statement is I'm sure they haven't even watched our film,'' Matthews said. "I would be very surprised if they were worried about anything we do.''
OK, so that's pretty much standard operating procedure, right? What FCS coach in his right mind isn't going to play up the huge underdog angle, even if the team he's coaching is one of the best at its level?And, to counterpunch, what's a guy like West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen supposed to do? Agree?Not on your life."They were a Top 10 team last year and led their conference in every single category,'' Holgorsen said. "I'm impressed with what they do technique-wise defensively, I'm impressed with the effort that they play with. They tackle tremendously well. We're anticipating this being a bigger challenge than what we faced a week ago.''
That, of course, would be Marshall, which the Mountaineers hammered 69-34. And before anyone begins dissing Holgorsen for dissing the Herd (a bigger challenge from an FCS team), don't. What's he supposed to say, that JMU can't carry the water of a team his just walloped with ease?Anyway, back to Matthews. If nothing else, the veteran James Madison coach - who was Jim Donnan's defensive guy at both Marshall and Georgia - has at least managed to provide some levity.Take his answer to how concerned he was after seeing West Virginia run for more yards than it managed passing against Marshall."I think when he gets bored making so many yards passing, Dana calls some runs so the running backs won't quit,'' Matthews said.
In a slightly more serious vein, though, Matthews does manage to point to a concern that has nothing to do with stopping West Virginia's ridiculously efficient offense or the chances of pulling what would be a monumental upset. He's concerned that even if his players aren't treating this like the biggest game of their lives, apparently some fans are."I don't know if our players are [too worked up about the game]. I'm worried about the JMU nation,'' Matthews said. "You'd think this was Super Bowl V or something that we're playing. It's a good game and we're going to play as hard as we can."But when I came to work in July they had a billboard around here saying how many days it was to the WVU game. We certainly had to talk to our players about it back in August that we had two games to play prior to the WVU game."On the other side of the coin, it's a good opportunity for our people - once again, not the players, but our fans - it'll be a lot of fun to go up there. We're looking forward to it, but I've been extremely concerned about it because we do have a lot of big games after this.''None, though, are likely to match this one for the opportunity to play the little guy."I mean, they're very good. They beat Marshall and could have scored a hundred against Marshall if they wanted to,'' Matthews said. "So I would be very surprised if anything we do concerns them.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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