MORGANTOWN-Senior center Joe Madsen understands the rigors of playing an entire college football season. That is why having a bye week following the No. 9 Mountaineers' 69-34 victory over Marshall University was a welcomed prize.
"I think it (the off week) helps," Madsen explained. "We had a chance to heal after a long summer camp and the Marshall game. The only thing it hurts is the reps that you take in practice where you might tweak an injury that you had from a previous week."
Madsen and fellow offensive linemen Jeff Braun, Josh Jenkins, Quinton Spain and Pat Eger had one of their best performances in the 35-point win over the Thundering Herd. Senior quarterback Geno Smith completed 32-of-36 attempts for 323 yards and three touchdowns and senior running back Shawne Alston rushed for 123 yards and a pair of six-pointers on 16 carries-all in only three quarters of action.
"Having that group (the O-line) of guys in front of you definitely makes us feel comfortable," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "Those guys have worked hard and really bonded. They have become a complete group. They did a great job of opening up holes and protecting our quarterbacks."
They have spent much of the past two weeks in the film room.
"We've been studying a lot of film on JMU," added Madsen, who will be making his 27th start at center for the old gold and blue. "Their movement on defense catches your eyes. They have a lot of guys going all out."
The defensive line returns experience and depth this year, with six in the preseason top eight of the depth chart with at least a season of collegiate game action under their belt.
Senior Aaron Harper and redshirt-junior Tyler Snow, who finished with 46 tackles a year ago, will line up at the ends while redshirt juniors Jordan Stanton (29 tackles) and Sean O'Neill will man the tackle slot.
Third team All-American (The Sports Network) Stephon Robertson anchors the Dukes' linebacking corps. The redshirt-junior led the team with 113 tackles last season to earn first team All-CAA honors.
JMU returns two starters among the safeties as senior Jakarie Jackson is back at weak safety and redshirt-sophomore Dean Marlowe returns as the team's free safety. The cornerback positions, however, will be a different story as starters Traveion Cuffee and Mike Allen have graduated.
Regardless of who Dukes' head coach Mickey Matthews puts on the field, Madsen understands that his unit must be prepared for everything.
"That's the main focus of this week," continued the player. "At any moment you can get beat."
To counteract any possible lack of preparation Madsen and the other Mountaineer seniors have been making a special effort to remind the team's younger players of their need to take JMU seriously.
"Any time we see a player taking a play off in practice, we get on them about it. If you are going to take plays off in practice then you are going to take plays off in the game and that is when you can be beat."
And, when your goal is to play for a national title, losing to an FCS school can not be accepted.