Ben DiNucci running

JMU quarterback runs towards the sideline while searching for an open receiver.

JMU football’s season ended on a last-second field goal in a 23-20 road loss to No. 8 Colgate in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Five interceptions killed the team's chances, though the Dukes were still able to hang around until the end. Here are 10 key stats from the Dukes’ loss.

1. Turnover differential: -4

Research shows teams who are -2 in turnover margin on the season win about 10 percent of their games, and the Dukes found out just how hard it is to win when the offense commits five turnovers. Five interceptions from redshirt junior quarterback Ben DiNucci gave Colgate ample chances to put the visitors away, and the Raiders eventually did. The JMU defense forced one turnover, which JMU scored three points off of, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the offense’s ball management.

2. Yards per play: 5.3

JMU’s offense moved the ball against a vaunted Colgate defense that entered the game allowing just 5.7 points per game and 3.3 yards per play. The mark was far from JMU’s worst performance but well below its season average of 5.9. The Dukes had multiple chunk plays called back by penalties, but still had an average drive length of 30.2 yards.

3. Passer rating: 11.2

In his own words, DiNucci “played terrible,” a claim the numbers back up. This was easily DiNucci’s lowest passer rating and worst game of the season in starts in which he played the majority of the game. Outside of his start against New Hampshire — where he threw an interception on one of his two pass attempts before being benched — DiNucci’s second-lowest passer rating this year was 68.1 against Villanova. Five picks and no passing touchdowns led to his worst mark in what was otherwise a productive season for the Pitt transfer.

4. Third down execution: 4-for-11

JMU’s situational offense struggled Saturday as the Dukes moved the chains on just 36.4 percent of third downs. The difficulty extending drives — in addition to the team’s issues protecting the ball — limited the offense’s potential against Colgate. The Dukes were unable to pick up critical first downs, which was a noticeable factor in their three-point defeat.

5. Red-zone execution: two touchdowns in four red-zone drives

JMU converted 50 percent of its red-zone drives into scores. Had the team converted a field goal into a touchdown — notably a 38-yard field goal on a drive that began on Colgate’s 11-yard line after a turnover — the Dukes would’ve likely emerged victorious. Instead, a fumble gifted to JMU in the first play of the second half resulted in a drive consisting of three plays and -11 yards.

6. Yards per play allowed: 4.9

JMU’s defense allowed less than five yards per play for the ninth time in 13 games — an impressive feat for one of the FCS’s top defenses. The Dukes gave up 330 yards, a slight tick above their season-long average of 311.2 yards allowed per game. JMU played well enough to win on the defensive end despite playing a majority of the game due to the offense’s five turnovers.

7. Opponent third-down execution: 8-for-18

Colgate’s third-down offense converted at a 44.4 percent clip, a significantly higher rate than the 37.3 percent conversion rate it entered the game with. The Raiders finished the regular season with the 60th-best third-down conversion rate in the FCS, but found success moving the chains against the Dukes. Colgate’s strong situational offense entered the game 11-for-19 on fourth-down conversions, good for 19th in the FCS.

8. Opponent yards per rush: 3.1

JMU’s defense stifled the Raiders on the ground despite a solid outing from redshirt senior running back James Holland, who finished with 89 rushing and 46 receiving yards. The defense held tough for much of the day, despite a few sizable gains from Holland, and kept Colgate in check. Once again, JMU’s pass defense was its weak spot, as the Dukes allowed 13.6 yards per pass.

9. Opponent passer rating: 97.65

The JMU defensive line made a difference throughout the game by generating consistent pressure on sophomore quarterback Grant Breneman, who finished with 14 completions on 19 attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown. However, Breneman missed several open receivers throughout the game, which is a testament to the defensive line’s ability to affect the game. JMU tallied four sacks for a loss of 30 yards.

10. Time of possession: 25:00

Entering the game, the Raiders controlled 65.4 percent of the clock, while the Dukes had the ball 49.7 percent of the time. Unlike Army —  the only team to beat Colgate this season — JMU was unable to control time of possession, due in large part to its five turnovers. This put added pressure on the defense, which performed well for much of the day but couldn’t get a stop in its final drive, which led to Colgate’s game-winning field goal.

Contact James Faris at farisja@dukes.jmu.edu. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

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