Dukes aim for hot start and strong finish in 2011

Finish what you start. That’s the goal – simple, but maybe not so simple – for JMU football in 2011.

“We’re expecting to finish. That’s our main goal. We’re trying to be CAA champs and then national champions. That’s always our goal,” said Dae’Quan Scott, a redshirt sophomore tailback from Staunton.

“We have a bad taste in our mouth. So the preparations have been focused on, We have to win. There’s no excuses this year,” said Roane Babington, a redshirt senior offensive lineman and former teammate of Scott at R.E. Lee.

James Madison was the talk of the college-football world early in the 2010 season after its historic 21-16 upset win at Virginia Tech. But the wheels came off the Dukes Bandwagon down the stretch, and JMU went all the way from the top of the national polls in I-AA to out of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

With one national title (2004) on display at Bridgeforth Stadium, the pressure to win another is a fact of life around the JMU program.

Adding to the pressure – 2011 will mark the first season in the newly expanded Bridgeforth, which can now accommodate 25,000 fans.

“Every year, we start out saying in the first meeting, Our goal is to win the conference and win the championship. We never think we’re not going to play in January. And then with the additions to the stadium, 25,000 strong, that really does add a little bit of pressure to us,” Babington said.

“The expectations are high. As you can see, 25K, that speaks for itself. We’re not going 25K to come out here and lose games. That’s just not going to happen,” said Justin Thorpe, the 2009 CAA Rookie of the Year who missed most of 2010 with a knee injury, and who is part of a battle for the starting-quarterback job in 2011 with Kansas State transfer Billy Cosh and redshirt freshman Jace Edwards.

“When they recruited me, this is what they pitched to me. I’m so happy to see it all going according to plan. It’s going to be amazing to see 25,000 purple shirts in that stadium. I can’t wait to see the streamers flying when the offense gets into the end zone,” Thorpe said.

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