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Redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson throws the ball downfield against Richmond on Oct. 16, 2021.

Defense was the name of the game against the Spiders, as JMU defeated Richmond in a low-scoring battle at Robins Stadium, 19-3. 

“It’s good to get back on the win track against a rival on the road,” head coach Curt Cignetti said. “Got great defensive production, thought going in we could get that kind of game in and we did.”

The Dukes charged out, halting the Spiders early in the game. Redshirt senior kicker Ethan Ratke got the Dukes on the board first, sending a 23-yard field goal through the pipes for the 3-0 lead. 

After a diving 49-yard reception by redshirt junior wide receiver Kris Thronton, JMU scored its first touchdown when redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson found redshirt sophomore running back Solomon Vanhorse to extend its lead to 10-0 to end the first quarter. 

“We’ve worked a lot this week on catching deep balls,” redshirt freshman Antwane Wells Jr. said. “We could see they would bite on one of our routes, and we were able to open up another one.”

Once JMU got on the board, Ratke sent in another field goal for the 13-0 lead. Shortly after, both teams were stuck between the 20s — neither team could gain enough ground for a first down. The biggest play led to a 40-yard field goal by Richmond, eliminating a first half shut out. Entering halftime, the Dukes had a 13-3 lead.

Defensively, redshirt senior defensive end Bryce Carter, redshirt senior defensive tackle Mike Greene and redshirt senior linebacker Kelvin Azanama led the charge for the Dukes, all tallying at least one sack. In addition, redshirt junior linebacker Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey and redshirt junior defensive lineman Isaac Ukwu both earned a tackle for loss. 

“Last week we felt like everybody was doing too much, so we just wanted everyone to do their job,” Azanama said. “It just goes back to it, that was the biggest emphasis this week.”

As the Dukes walked into the halftime locker room, the skies opened up over V. Earl Dickinson Field — soaking everything. Johnson tried using one-on-one options that worked in the first half, but nothing was open.

“[Richmond] was playing a lot of zone, so it was kind of hard to get our one-on-one matchups,” Wells Jr. said. “We made it work, and we’re just happy to have another win under our belt.”

Ratke tied his career high for field goals with four before the end of the third quarter — giving JMU the 19-3 lead — but the Dukes still couldn’t muster another touchdown. Despite the lack of touchdowns, both defensive and special teams units continued to play one of their best games of the season. Redshirt senior punter Harry O’Kelly had 301 yards on seven punts — a 43-yard average. 

“It was a really consistent day ...  we’ve been pretty consistent with our teams,” Cignetti said.

As time ticked away Richmond’s opportunity to score, the Dukes rested knowing they’ve won their sixth straight against the Spiders, soaking in the 19-3 win in the rain. Johnson finished the game with 270 yards and two sacks, compared to Richmond graduate quarterback Beau English finishing with 53 yards and four sacks.

The Dukes  — 5-1 (2-1 CAA) — travel to Delaware on Oct. 23 to take on the Blue Hens at 2 p.m. Richmond — 2-4 (0-3 CAA) — travels to Stony Brook the same day for a 3:30 p.m. kick off.

Scoring Summary

Q1 5:54 - Ratke field goal, 23-yard. JMU 3-0

Q1 1:55 - Vanhorse touchdown, 25-yard reception. JMU 10-0

Q2 9:24 - Ratke field goal, 32-yard. JMU 13-0

Q2 6:48 - Larson field goal, 40-yard. JMU 13-3

Q3 11:10 -  Ratke field goal, 24-yard. JMU 16-3

Q3 3:15 - Ratke field goal, 26-yard. JMU 19-3

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