The homecoming season has been friendly to JMU football. The Dukes spoiled both Stony Brook and William & Mary’s homecoming games before hosting their own. The trend continued as JMU fended off Towson 27-10, improving its record to 8-1 (5-0 CAA).
The game started slow with JMU holding a 7-0 lead after the first quarter. Then, the Tigers (4-4, 1-3 CAA) responded with a touchdown and a field goal to take a 10-7 advantage in the middle of the second. The Dukes scored on the following drive to reclaim the lead and added another touchdown and a field goal to complete a 17-point swing in less than five minutes. From then on, the Dukes controlled nearly every aspect of the game en route to another commanding conference win.
“This is not one of the better defenses in the league or in the country. This is, right now, one of the better defenses that have played in this league and in the country,” Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. “I know, it’s a heady, I’m not insulting all you great players who played here before and all these other teams. These guys are really, really talented.”
JMU’s defense sacked Towson’s redshirt senior quarterback Tom Flacco seven times and made nine tackles for loss. It also forced a fumble in the second quarter, which shifted the momentum toward the Dukes.
Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci went 14-for-25 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese boasted 111 yards and a touchdown and redshirt senior wide receiver Brandon Polk had a season-high 121 yards and a score. The Dukes outgained Towson 437-270, including 236-60 on the ground.
Both teams began the game with multiple drives that ended with no points, but the Dukes broke the deadlock with 2:40 left in the first quarter when Agyei-Obese spearheaded a five-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with him scoring the game’s first points.
Towson got into JMU territory on the ensuing drive but was forced to take a long field goal. Senior kicker Aidan O’Neill nailed a 49-yard kick to bring the Tigers within four, then, on the next Towson drive, Flacco found redshirt junior tight end Jason Epps in the middle of the field for a 15-yard touchdown. In 4:59, Towson took the lead, but it only held the three-point advantage for just over four minutes.
Heading into the game, one of the big questions was the JMU secondary and how it would handle Flacco’s arm and a fluid Tigers’ passing attack. Flacco couldn’t pick apart the Dukes’ defense as he went 18-for-32 for 210 yards and one touchdown and was picked off once.
“It’s like chasing a little cat,” senior defensive lineman John Daka said regarding Tom Flacco. “We work so hard throughout the week. Like coach said, Tom’s a competitor. He’s not going to quit at all. When you’re going against guys like that, you can’t quit as well. So, I had to bring my A-game today.”
Senior strong safety Adam Smith’s interception in the first quarter was his fourth of the year, which is a team-high for the Dukes. It was the little things like winning the turnover battle and having good red zone efficiency that guided JMU to victory. JMU went a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone and caused two turnovers that turned into 10 points.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, redshirt junior free safety D’Angelo Amos was called for his second targeting penalty of the season. He’ll be out for the first half of the Dukes’ next contest, which is at home against New Hampshire on Nov. 9.
After nine consecutive games, JMU can take a breather as it enters the bye week. Then, it hosts the Wildcats, who currently sit one game behind the Dukes for first place in the CAA. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
“This was a really tough nine-game stretch. I gotta tell you, we need a break,” JMU head coach Curt Cignetti said. “Everybody’s looking forward to getting away a little bit.”
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.