No. 3 JMU football hit the road for the first game of the season in a big FCS matchup with No. 9 Weber State. Thanks to a defensive score and the offense connecting in all facets, the Dukes took the 37-24 win over the Wildcats to advance to 3-0.
JMU and Weber State exchanged field goals to start the game on each team’s first possessions. The Wildcats had the opening possession and, after a solid return, settled for three as freshman kicker Kyle Thompson hit a 36-yard kick.
The Dukes also opened their scoring with a field goal. It was a significant one, as redshirt senior kicker Ethan Ratke kicked it 44 yards to break the all-time FCS field goal record against Weber State.
JMU finished out the first quarter with a touchdown drive led by redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson. The Dukes scored the first touchdown of the game with under two minutes to go in the first quarter — Johnson rushed it himself three yards for the score.
The second quarter was all JMU. While Weber State moved the ball down the field thanks to Dukes’ penalties, the defense came up strong. The Wildcats had the ball at the 6-yard line, but redshirt sophomore safety Josh Sarratt picked up a fumble from junior quarterback Randall Johnson and ran it 88 yards back for the touchdown.
JMU headed into halftime up 17-3 over the Wildcats.
Weber State started to mount a comeback in the third quarter but not before another JMU touchdown. Freshman running back Austin Douglas and redshirt sophomore running back Latrele Palmer picked up the running game when redshirt freshman running back Kaelon Black left the game with an apparent injury.
The two combined brought the Dukes down the field quickly on the first possession, and redshirt freshman wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. caught a five-yard pass to finish the drive off.
Weber State scored its first touchdown of the game in the third quarter. The Wildcats converted off a quick drive and capped off their efforts with a 1-yard touchdown pass by freshman quarterback Creyton Cooper to sophomore tight end Hayden Meacham. The Dukes led 24-10 in the third.
Ratke finished off the scoring in the quarter with a 40-yard field goal, and JMU took a 27-10 lead into the final 15 minutes.
The Dukes added another Wells Jr. touchdown in the fourth. Palmer picked up more yardage to give JMU prime field position as the fourth quarter started, and Johnson threw a 14-yard pass to Wells Jr. to add to the lead. Weber State tried to regain momentum with a fake punt but came up short, eventually resulting in another Ratke field goal.
The Wildcats continued to push as the quarter hit its midpoint. Sophomore quarterback Kylan Weisser led a drive mostly through the air that ended with a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Rashid Shaheed, who grabbed a 27-yard pass for the score. Junior running back Josh Davis rushed in for another touchdown on the Wildcat’s next drive, bringing the team within two touchdowns.
The Dukes got the ball back and finished the game by running the clock out.
C. Johnson finished with 177 yards and two touchdowns, while R. Johnson finished with 69 yards for Weber State. Wells Jr. had 76 yards and two touchdowns, and C. Johnson himself led the team with one rushing touchdown. Davis had 59 yards and a touchdown for Weber State, while Shaheed finished with 77 yards and a touchdown.
Redshirt senior linebacker Kelvin Azanama finished with 10 tackles and three different Dukes’ tied with seven. Junior defensive end George Tarlas and senior safety Preston Smith both had seven tackles for Weber State.
JMU advances to 3-0 (1-0 CAA) and heads to the bye week before heading out to New Hampshire on Oct. 2. Weber State falls to 1-2 (0-0 Big Sky) and welcomes UC Davis on Sept. 25.
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