cignettipic

Curt Cignetti talks to Jordan Swann during JMU's win against Maine.

Two days have passed since JMU football’s CAA 55-7 victory over Maine, and the Dukes have had time to reflect on what went down Saturday.

Heading into Week 3 of the schedule, the Dukes will play in Utah for a Top-10 FCS matchup against Weber State. As the Dukes prepare for this week, here are the three key talking points from JMU head coach Curt Cignetti and news from around the conference during the CAA coaches’ call.

Key 1: JMU hasn’t been challenged as anticipated

One of Cignetti’s points of emphasis was that he said he believes JMU hasn’t been challenged to the extent he thought the Dukes would be.

When Maine junior quarterback Joe Fagnano suffered a “high ankle sprain injury”, as confirmed by Maine head coach Nick Charlton over Zoom, the Black Bears had to adapt to a scheme that wasn’t designed around the strengths of redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson. Charlton said that while he wasn’t happy with the performance in the second half, he’s confident in Robertson moving forward.

With Maine adjusting to Robertson and not having Fagnano, JMU took advantage. Cignetti said he prepared for a much tougher Maine team. Despite the score, Cignetti also mentioned that the Dukes have spots to clean up and that those areas have to be better ahead of Weber State.

The Dukes committed seven first-half penalties — discipline, Cignetti said, is an improvement area. The head coach said there were missed assignments for both JMU and Maine and that the Dukes are going to work to clean those areas up at practice.

Key 2: Cole Johnson is doing all the right things

Cignetti also noted the redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson is playing confidently right now, showing trust in all the players around him. 

Johnson had a rocky start in the spring against Robert Morris and Elon, throwing multiple interceptions in each game and being pulled for former JMU quarterback Gage Moloney against the Phoenix. 

So far this season, Johnson has nine touchdowns and zero interceptions — a big step up from the spring. Cignetti also said that Johnson processes things quickly and that the design of the offense has benefited the sixth-year quarterback as well.

Cignetti said Johnson came into training camp confident because of how he played in the spring, and Johnson himself said postgame that with the help of JMU quarterbacks coach Tino Sunseri, he’s taking more steps to improve his game every week. The Dukes will need another strong game out of Johnson heading into Ogden, Utah.

Key 3: Altitude or not, JMU needs to stick to its game

Cignetti touched on how JMU’s going to travel across the country this week, in addition to making adjustments against the nation’s No. 9 team. 

For Weber State, this week’s game will be the home opener. The Wildcats haven’t played at home since the spring’s FCS playoffs, and Cignetti described Stewart Stadium as “juiced up.” The Dukes will need to stick to their game and play their best against Weber State for what Cignetti called a “hostile environment.”

When it comes to the altitude change — from 1,325’ to 4,300’ — JMU defense coordinator Corey Hetherman coached through it, as he worked with Maine in 2018 at Weber State. Cignetti said Hetherman and the Black Bear’s staff didn’t arrive until shortly before the game then, and that’s how the Dukes are going to approach it now. Cignetti said JMU is flying out late Friday night, so all of the team’s preparation will be done in Harrisonburg.

Cignetti said he doesn’t think the altitude will affect the Dukes that much. He said there’ll be oxygen masks on the sideline, but overall, he doesn’t see an immediate effect on the team.

Other news around the CAA

Robertson will be Maine’s quarterback moving forward, as Charlton confirmed on the call that Fagnano is out indefinitely.

New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell earned his 100th victory as head coach against Towson over the weekend. 

Villanova and Richmond battle it out Saturday in the first CAA football Top-25 matchup of the season. 

While it’s still early, teams such as Delaware and Albany believe they have parts to fix on offense. Both of these teams play FBS opponents this weekend.

North Dakota State comes to Maryland to face Towson on Saturday. This is the second time the Bison play a CAA school this fall, the first time on the road.

Contact Savannah Reger at breezesports@gmail.com. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.