JMU football ended the regular season perfect in both FCS play and conference play. The Dukes dropped Rhode Island 55-21 to improve to 11-1 (8-0 CAA) and will now turn their attention to the FCS playoffs.
JMU found its way onto the scoreboard first when redshirt junior kicker Ethan Ratke knocked in his 19th field goal of the season. The Mechanicsville, Virginia, native went on to add another field goal in the fourth quarter. Ratke was also perfect on extra-point attempts during the contest, hitting seven of seven.
The Dukes’ dominance was on full display across all phases of the game. Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci started the game strong and didn’t throw an incompletion until the first play of the fourth quarter. The Wexford, Pennsylvania, native finished the game 8-for-9 for 129 yards and a touchdown.
It was redshirt senior Riley Stapleton who hauled in four of DiNucci’s completions, including a touchdown and a catch along the sideline. Redshirt senior wide receiver Brandon Polk had the longest reception of the game for the Dukes with a 39-yard grab in the final quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were times of elation, but there were also areas for questions. The Dukes managed to force a few turnovers but also lost redshirt junior defensive lineman Adeeb Atariwa for the remainder of the game and the opening half of the first playoff game after what seemed to be a Rhode Island fumble. Atariwa became the third Duke to be called for targeting this season, joining redshirt junior safety D’Angelos and redshirt senior linebacker Dimitri Holloway.
Both redshirt senior cornerback Rashad Robinson and senior safety Adam Smith came up with an interception against the Rams. Smith leads the Dukes in picks this season with six followed by Robinson, who’s grabbed three. With Robinson and Smith in tow, the JMU defense controlled the Rhode Island attack throughout the majority of the game.
The Rams relied mainly on redshirt junior quarterback Vito Priore against the Dukes. The Atlanta native finished 23-for-42 with 203 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. With not much going right for the Rams on the ground — Rhode Island was held to -6 rushing yards — Priore’s ability to throw and redshirt senior wide receiver Ahmere Dorsey’s 89-yard kickoff return for a score helped Rhode Island find some success against the Dukes.
However, it was the JMU run game that once again stole the attention throughout the game. Both redshirt junior running back Jawon Hamilton and junior back Percy Agyei-Obese rushed for over 100 yards, with Hamilton leading with 143 yards. Both backs found their way to the end zone at least once. Redshirt junior running back Eric Kirlew also recorded a touchdown off a 51-yard run. DiNucci finished the game with 82 rushing yards of his own.
The Dukes are now onto the FCS Playoffs and will learn their path to the title game Sunday during the FCS Selection Show. The show begins at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Contact Catie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.