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Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci celebrates with redshirt freshman running back Solomon Vanhorse. 

In the home opener for JMU football, redshirt freshman running back Solomon Vanhorse continued to show his worth, as the Dukes went on to beat Saint Francis (PA) 44-7. The back out of Alpharetta, Georgia, found his way to the end zone just 2:51 into the game for his second score of the season. 

And he didn’t stop there. 

In the next quarter, after initially looking like the Saint Francis defensive line would hold strong, the small back bounced off a defender and quickly spun his way to a nine-yard touchdown carry. 

“I was seeing multiple holes open up all the time because [the offensive line] put in the work to help me get through those holes,” Vanhorse said. “I can just thank them for opening those holes for me.”

With a strong lead heading into the second half, Vanhorse saw limited action through the remainder of the game as junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese had more carries during the last two quarters. 

True freshman running back Austin Douglas, much like Vanhorse, added on to his Week 1 performance, proving to JMU fans that his future in Harrisonburg is bright. Late in the third quarter, Douglas hauled in a pass from redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci and took it 19 yards to the end zone.

“It was good for [Douglas] to catch a touchdown pass,” head coach Curt Cignetti said. “We're just going to keep rolling with those guys and see you as the hot hand, but right now Solomon Vanhorse is pretty special.” 

Cignetti entered the game looking for his team to improve on its showing against West Virginia last week. During its game against the Mountaineers, JMU struggled through the air compared to its success running the ball. 

Prior to being pulled in the third quarter, redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci completed 16 of his 21 passes to five different receivers. DiNucci threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns before redshirt junior quarterback Cole Johnson entered in relief for the Wexford, Pennsylvania, native, to get more game reps after DiNucci’s strong showing. 

“It was nice to kind of get going a little bit, but, you know, I'm sure watching this thing tomorrow or Monday there's a few of those I wish I had back,” DiNucci said. “We've got a lot of playmakers outside [and] the line that it did a great job tonight of keeping me clean, so as long as I control what I can control and get the ball to those guys, it's easy.”

Johnson didn’t let the quarterback play falter when he came in. The redshirt junior went four-for-four during his quarter-and-a-half of action, leading the Dukes on three drives. Johnson also threw his first touchdown pass of the year, which came on a fourth-down play with just over six minutes remaining in the game. 

The JMU defense also continued its hot start to the 2019 season. Coming off a week that saw its opponent only rush for 34 yards, the unit didn’t let up, controlling the line of scrimmage against the Red Flash.   

By the conclusion of the first half, the Red Flash only had 47 yards on the ground and 14 through the air. The Dukes also held Saint Francis to only two first downs in the opening 30 minutes, both of which came on its first drive of the day. 

The Red Flash ended the day with 96 passing yards and 79 rushing. Saint Francis managed to get on the scoreboard late, scoring a touchdown with 9:14 left in the game.

“We have everyone back from last year, so that's a great thing that we have going,” redshirt junior defensive lineman Adeeb Atariwa said. “We all feel to be the best d-line in our conference, so we work hard for it every day to make it happen.”

If there’s anything JMU needs to worry about after a dominating win, it’s ball security. The Dukes fumbled three times against Saint Francis, losing one of them. This follows a week in which JMU turned the ball over three times to West Virginia. 

JMU will be back in Bridgeforth Stadium to face off against Morgan State (0-1) next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.

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.”