After defeating Morehead State, JMU football needed to fix the same mistakes from last week. Now in Week 2 and beginning CAA play, the Dukes hosted Maine for the second game of the season and walked off Zane Showker Field with a 55-7 win — closing out the team’s opening homestand.
Having energy from the start was key to defeating the Black Bears — and it was there. The Dukes kicked things off with a 27-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior tight end Noah Turner who waltzed into the end zone — making way for a 7-0 lead three plays into the game.
“I thought we had really good focus … I could detect laser-like focus,” JMU head coach Curt Cignetti said. “We wanted to start faster and we did, and that shows everybody what we’re capable of doing when we’re focused.”
Maine junior quarterback Joe Fagnano took his first drive as an opportunity to show the team’s passing ability, and although the team moved downfield, JMU halted any advances and kept the score 7-0.
Fagnano’s performance was cut short, however, after coming down on his leg midplay. The junior was assisted off the field as redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson stepped in as the second string. Robertson hadn’t played yet this season and utilized Maine’s running backs — a noticeable difference since the Black Bears rely more on passing.
“[Robertson] wasn’t prepared to be playing today,” redshirt junior defensive lineman Isaac Ukwu said. “We just threw as many bodies at him as we could so we could try to get him to make mistakes.”
The Dukes continued to control the first half despite the lack of scoring. Redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson worked both rushing and passing options, and for nearly 20 minutes, JMU could only muster a field goal.
The momentum changed when Johnson found redshirt freshman wide Antwane Wells Jr. open for two touchdowns — one 73 yards and the other 51 yards. Both touchdowns gave way for the Dukes to hold a 24-0 lead at halftime.
“We’re consistently working together,” Wells Jr. said. “During the season, everyday we’re giving it everything we’ve got so it just unfolds in the game.”
Heading into the second half, JMU looked for a big play to shut down the Black Bears. Redshirt junior linebacker Diamonte Tucker-Doresy and freshman wide receiver Desmond Green answered the call.
Tucker-Dorsey sacked Robertson on a third down, and when Maine punted the ball, Green blocked the punt and scored a touchdown. The back-to-back plays put the Dukes at a 34-0 lead.
Maine got its chance to score immediately afterward when Roberston found senior wide receiver Andre Miller in the back corner of the end zone — cutting the score to 34-7. The back-and-forth scoring crescendoed when Johnson found redshirt senior wide receiver Scott Bracey leaping toward the end zone and caught the pass for a 41-7 lead after three quarters.
“We really emphasized not letting up or showing any mercy in the second half,” Johnson said. “We saw what happens when we let off after being up 21 points before.”
As the Dukes used its depth, Johnson found redshirt senior running back Lorenzo Bryant Jr. for a 6-yard touchdown — breaking the pattern and putting JMU up 48-7. Sealing the deal, redshirt sophomore safety Francis Meehan caught an interception and ran home — marking not only his first career interception but the first of JMU’s season.
Sitting on a 55-7 lead, the Dukes decided to run out the clock and closed out the game with another dominant win.
“It was a really good performance,” Cignetti said. “It was a total team win — defense, offense and special teams blocked a punt for a touchdown. But yet there’s still some things that we could clean up and improve.”
With 379 yards, Johnson had his third game in a row with at least 300 yards passing, dating back to the 2020 FCS Semifinals against Sam Houston State. Wells Jr. had a career high 179 yards, and Ratke tied the FCS record for field goals and broke the record for scoring.
JMU is now 2-0 on the season and 1-0 CAA play, while Maine falls to 0-2 on the season and CAA play. Next, the Dukes head on the road to Ogden, Utah, to take on Weber State, and Maine welcomes Merrimack College.
Contact Madison Hricik at email@example.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.