There was nothing different about the way Monmouth beat Holy Cross, at least according to James Madison coach Curt Cignetti.
The Dukes host the Hawks in the second round of the FCS postseason on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Harrisonburg.
“All they did was continue playing at a high level,” Cignetti said Monday during the Colonial Athletic Association coaches teleconference, “which they’ve been doing for nine straight weeks. So this is the best football team they’ve ever had and it’s a veteran team.”
The opening-round playoff win for Monmouth was its ninth victory a row and marked the fifth straight contest that the Hawks have scored 40 or more points. This season, Monmouth also has two wins over teams still competing in the postseason – Kennesaw State and Albany.
“The line is big,” Cignetti said about Monmouth’s offense. “… The quarterback [Kenji Bahar] is the player of the year in the league and the running back [Pete Guerriero] leads the country in rushing. They got a lot of tight ends, two receivers that are dynamic and the defense is playing really, really well. So this is a really good team.”
Cignetti said Monmouth is like JMU in some ways.
The Dukes have their own winning streak going as winners of 11 straight games entering Saturday’s playoff contest. He mentioned that both teams rely on its seasoned players, too.
On its depth chart Monmouth lists 20 of its 22 starters on offense and defense as juniors or seniors. All 22 of JMU starters are juniors or seniors.
And like the Dukes are determined to get to Frisco, Texas for the third time in four years after missing out on a national championship game appearance last season, Cignetti recognizes a clear motivation for Monmouth.
“They have a little chip on their shoulder, too,” Cignetti said, “because they didn’t make the playoffs last year and had a good team, and I think they want to make a statement, so they’re very formidable.”
The style of play varies though, with the most in common between JMU and Monmouth coming on offense.
“Offensively, they’re a little bit like us,” Cignetti said. “They’re a little more wide open, perhaps, but there’s a lot of similar concepts. Defenses are different and their kicking game is good.”
- Cignetti said last week’s off week was used very similarly to the regular-season bye week JMU had. Players were off from Thursday through Sunday and return to practice today.
- Cignetti has previous playoff experience from his time at Elon and Division II IUP. “Both those places I was at before were rebuild jobs,” he said. “This one wasn’t, so in my mind this is no different than getting ready for an opponent during the season.”
- In case you missed it, on Sunday the Daily News-Record reported JMU and Monmouth agreed to a home-and-home series that will be played in 2024 and 2025.