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Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci has been strong early in the game for the Dukes.

And just like that, JMU football is back. The Dukes are halfway through their Week 1 matchup with Power Five opponent West Virginia. After the first half, the Dukes lead the Mountaineers 7-3.  

The good: JMU’s defense

Much like it has in seasons prior, JMU’s defense came to play. The Dukes held the Mountaineers to 18 total rushing yards during the first half.

Redshirt junior quarterback Austin Kendall, who transferred to WVU from Oklahoma, has seen limited playing time during his college career. During his first career start for the Mountaineers, he was welcomed by numerous Dukes hitting him in the backfield. 

While there were a few deep throws that beat the JMU secondary, the group continued to bounce back on the next play. JMU rarely let WVU enter its half of the field, with the Mountaineers best field position coming on the JMU 36 after a fumble. 

Kendall only managed 40 yards in the opening quarter off seven receptions. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native and his teammates saw more success during the second quarter, getting down to JMU’s 21-yard-line and hitting a 38-yard field goal to start the second 15 minutes. 

The good part two: The Dukes’ rushing

With 30 minutes in the books, JMU head coach Curt Cignetti must be happy with what he saw out of his ball carriers for the most part. When Cignetti took over the team, he made one thing clear — the Dukes were going to lead the CAA in rushing. 

While this isn’t a conference matchup, the way JMU has been running the ball against an FBS program shows that Cignetti’s wish may come true. The Dukes running backs struck fast and often. 

Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci, junior running back Percy Ageyi-Obese, redshirt freshman Solomon Vanhorse and freshman Austin Douglas all contributed to the rush, collecting ___ total yards on the ground in the opening half. 

Vanhorse led all rushers with 47 yards off nine carries. Vanhorse also scored his first career touchdown to open the scoring. DiNucci record 45 yards of his own on the ground. 

The bad: JMU’s air attack

It’s not that JMU through the air was bad —it was just severely limited. During the opening two quarters, the Dukes relied heavily on the run game and neglected to use DiNucci’s arm strength. 

When JMU did go to the air, it saw a bit of success. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kyndel Dean seemed prepared to help the Dukes during the first quarter, bringing in two catches for 16 yards, which included a first down. 

DiNucc’s throwing in the first quarter was strong. The redshirt senior didn’t have an incompletion until late in the second quarter, going 6-for-9 overall.  

With how successful the Dukes were running the ball in the first half of action, it’s understandable why fans saw limited attempts through the air. When the second half begins, it’s likely JMU will capitalize more in the passing game.

The ugly: JMU’s ball handling

It’s hard to win a football game when the team can’t hold on to the ball. Through the first quarter of the game, the Dukes fumbled twice — once by redshirt junior D’Angelo Amos on a punt and and again by Ageyi-Obese when JMU was closing in on the redzone. 

JMU seemed to clean up the ball security in the second quarter, not giving up another fumble heading into the half. The Dukes will need to hold on to the ball in the second half if they want a better chance of leaving Morgantown with a win. 

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.”