Jawon Hamilton.jpg

Redshirt junior running back Jawon Hamilton scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Stony Brook. 

Following a three-point loss last season after a missed field goal, Stony Brook was determined not to face the same fate in front of its own homecoming crowd as it did one year ago in Harrisonburg. 

With only nine seconds remaining in the contest, Stony Brook hit a 47-yard field goal to pull even with JMU at 38. On the ensuing kickoff, redshirt junior safety/returner D’Angelo Amos was unable to make anything out of the squib kick, sending the Dukes to their first overtime game since 2014. 

A touchdown run from redshirt junior running back Jawon Hamilton and an incomplete pass in the end zone gave the Dukes a 45-38 victory to advance to 5-1 (2-0 CAA) on the season.

The scoring started early and fast at LaValle Stadium as the No. 2 and No. 24 teams in the FCS came face-to-face for the third time in as many years. 

When the Dukes clashed with Stony Brook last season, it was a low-scoring bout that saw JMU barely pull off a 13-10 victory in front of its homecoming crowd. This season, with the Dukes making the trip to Long Island for the Seawolves’ homecoming, the floodgates opened. 

JMU started the game with a fumble recovery that ended in a touchdown from redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci only three plays later. As the half continued, the Dukes and Seawolves found the end zone a combined seven times with neither team settling for a field goal in the opening 30 minutes. 

“I've been coaching a long time — 37 years — I've never seen one quite like that one,” head coach Curt Cignetti said. “First of all, there were a lot of great efforts … I shouldn't be critical after a win, but we did everything possible not to win the game with some superlative performances, but at the end of the day, we won the game.”

Prior to Saturday’s contest, the JMU defense only allowed 20 points in a game once — during Week 1 against West Virginia — and it took all four quarters for the Mountaineers to accomplish that feat. Against Stony Brook, the Seawolves racked up 21 points on the No. 1 defense in the CAA within the first 30 minutes of the contest. 

JMU’s defense managed to put together a stronger second half. After they allowed 21 points in the opening frame, the Dukes started the second half strong, giving up only seven points in the third quarter. However, the Seawolves managed 10 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Stony Brook finished the day with 318 yards through the air and 118 on the ground.

“We had to really dig deep and play our hearts out,” senior defensive lineman John Daka said.  “Those types of one are important because it shows what your team's about — [the] resiliency to overcoming adversity.”

Ball security proved to be a problem for both teams as the game progressed. Following four turnovers in the first half — two by each team — senior tight end Dylan Stapleton fumbled the ball on the Dukes’ second drive in the third quarter. The fumble came after a 37-yard pickup from Stapleton that would’ve put the Dukes deep in Stony Brook territory. 

However, the Seawolves took the ball 62 yards in the other direction for a touchdown, putting them within three points of JMU. The touchdown was Stony Brook’s second off a JMU turnover. Later in the half, junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese put the ball on the ground after getting it to Stony Brook’s three-yard line.

“I think the reason with the ball security was just [attentiveness],” Agyei-Obese said. “We got to be more attentive with the ball and got to focus on the ball more — hold it right.”

Even with a fumble and an unlucky interception that bounced off redshirt senior wide receiver Brandon Polk, DiNucci had a decent showing against the Seawolves. He went 13-of-17 for 218 yards and one touchdown. The Wexford, Pennsylvania, native also thrived with the long ball during the game. DiNucci completed three passes for over 25 yards — two of which led to touchdowns later in the drive. 

DiNucci contributed 80 yards on the ground and had a rushing touchdown to help the JMU rush attack thrive for yet another week. Along with DiNucci, the running back by committee was led by another back this week. Hamilton led the Dukes for the second week in a row with 105 yards and two touchdowns — including the game-winner.

JMUvsStonyBrook.jpg

Stony Brook redshirt sophomore wide receiver Delante Hellams can't hold on to a game-tying touchdown in overtime, giving JMU the win. 

Between Hamilton, DiNucci, Agyei-Obese and redshirt freshman Solomon Vanhorse, JMU finished the night with 329 yards on the ground and recorded all but one of the Dukes’ touchdowns.

“The amount of work we're putting in the body is paying off,” redshirt junior running back Jawon Hamilton said. “Coach [Matt] Merritt does a great job preparing us throughout the week — Monday through Friday — whether it's in a meeting room or whether it's on the field 

The Dukes look to correct their Week 6 mistakes before returning home to Bridgeforth Stadium for the first home game in almost a month. JMU kicks off against CAA-opponent Villanova at 1:30 p.m. in front of a Family Day crowd. 

“I'm very excited to be home,” Polk said. “I feel like I've been away for five weeks but I'm excited to go home in front of  the home crowd and just do things there."

Contact Catie Harper at breezesports@gmail.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

Pat Summitt, Erin Andrews and Lindsay Czarniak were three names that inspired me growing up. Here I am now at JMU, Czarniak’s alma mater, taking steps to live out my dream. As Pat would say, “I’m going to keep on keepin’ on, I promise you that.”