Experience was on display in a dominating performance from JMU. Going 5-for-5 in the red zone and only giving up 79 yards on the ground — tied for the most allowed this season — helped the Dukes defeat Morgan State 63-12 and move to 2-1 on the season.
Three JMU quarterbacks combined for six touchdown throws, which is tied for the program record. The Dukes owned nearly every statistical category, only being beaten in penalties and average yards per completion.
It was a day of firsts for the Dukes. The defense forced its first interception of the season, while junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese, redshirt junior running back Jawon Hamilton and redshirt senior wide receiver Brandon Polk scored their first touchdowns of 2019. Sophomore wide receiver Devin Ravenel and freshman Kevin Curry Jr. also caught their first collegiate touchdowns.
“For me, it was kind of bittersweet,” Polk said. “My mom actually went to Morgan State. She told me not to score, but I have to and I told her I was sorry after when I called her. It was actually a great feeling with my first touchdown in purple.”
Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci tied his career-high with four passing touchdowns while going 18-for-23 for 240 yards — all of which came in the first half. The Wexford, Pennsylvania, native didn’t see the field in the second half, giving redshirt junior quarterback Cole Johnson and redshirt sophomore Gage Moloney opportunities for real-game snaps.
“The best thing was we got a lot of people involved,” JMU head coach Curt Cignetti said. “We had seven guys score touchdowns. Three quarterbacks threw touchdown passes, we ended up on the plus side of the turnover ratio … That used to be something that happened all the time, so maybe we can continue that habit.”
The scoring fest quickly turned sour when redshirt senior cornerback Rashad Robinson went down midway through the second quarter. He didn’t return for the remainder of the contest, but Cignetti says the Richmond, Virginia, native is day-to-day.
Redshirt freshman running back Solomon Vanhorse continued his touchdown streak. This time, it wasn’t on the ground. He hauled in the first receiving touchdown of his collegiate career — extending his streak of scoring in consecutive games to three in as many games.
Behind DiNucci’s dominant display, Agyei-Obese’s touchdown scamper and a 74-minute weather delay, the Dukes raced to a 35-3 lead after only 30 minutes of play.
“It makes my job real easy when I’ve got all day to throw and the receivers are getting open,” DiNucci said. “It looks good on my part, but really the credit goes to those guys.”
DiNucci finished the game with a 78% completion percentage. He says he’s proud of that feat, but he feels he missed throws and still has areas to improve in.
The second half saw the back-ups in action. Cignetti has continuously preached about his second-stringers being crucial to the game, adding credibility to his “next-man-up” mentality. Johnson initially entered in the third quarter, but after his helmet came off during a play, Moloney stepped in and tacked on a touchdown, connecting with Curry Jr.
The Bears tried to catch JMU off guard with a surprise onside kick in the fourth quarter, but Ravenel quickly scooped the attempt, eluded a player and took it to the endzone. The Stafford, Virginia, native added another score to his touchdown account, similar to his older brother and former JMU standout Brandon Ravenel.
“It was probably one of the best moments of my life,” Ravenel said. “Didn’t really know if I was going to play college football at one point, and then now I’m here. Now I’m scoring a touchdown, it’s just the greatest feeling.”
Sophomore kicker/punter Nicholas O’Shea went 2-for-3 and was responsible for the Bears’ first nine points of the season. Senior quarterback DeAndre Harris found senior wide receiver Manasseh Bailey for a 72-yard score — the first Morgan State touchdown since November 2018.
It was an offensive onslaught until the final moments of the game. Redshirt junior running back Eric Kirlew extended the Dukes’ lead to 51 with a touchdown 9-yard reception from Johnson.
JMU will hit the road for its first FCS away game when it takes on Chattanooga on Saturday, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. Morgan State falls to 0-2 and will face Army next weekend.
Contact Noah Ziegler at email@example.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.