JMU redshirt seniors Kelvin Azanama and Mike Greene celebrate a combined sack against Richmond on Oct. 16.

It’s been a physical first half in Richmond, Virginia, as JMU football takes on the Spiders. The Dukes are up 13-3, but have some adjustments to make in the second half.

The good: Kris Thornton

Redshirt junior wide receiver Kris Thornton had himself a half and was integral in the Dukes’ heavy passing game. 

The Manassas, Virginia, native exploded in the first quarter with 57 yards, including a 49-yard catch to set the Dukes up in the red zone. Redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson threw to Thornton on slants and short routes, and he was dependable.

Thornton finished the half with 78 yards and was the most effective receiver for JMU. Redshirt sophomore running back Solomon Vanhorse picked up the lone touchdown on his only carry, but it’s been the Thornton show all game and should likely continue that way in the second half.

Watch for redshirt freshman wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. and redshirt junior wide receiver Reggie Brown to be engaged in the third and fourth quarters, as behind Thornton, both had spurts of catches in the half. 

The bad: JMU’s run defense

Heading into the rivalry matchup, JMU’s run defense was top notch, holding opponents to 52.4 yards per game. 

The Spiders have figured JMU out.

Richmond’s already at 43 yards rushing — almost matching the Dukes’ average. Redshirt sophomore Savon Smith leads the Spiders’ rushers with 32 yards, including a 22-yard burst that set Richmond up for their only points of the half.


The secondary was clean in the first half, but there are adjustments to be made on the defensive line. In the loss to Villanova, JMU head coach Curt Cignetti cited missed assignments as reasoning for why the Wildcats scored. Making sure coverage is sound is key for JMU’s defense in the second half.


The Dukes stepped up when it counted and held Richmond to three points. However, JMU needs to continue putting immense pressure on the Spiders if the team wants the win.

The ugly: the Spider’s inconsistency

In the first quarter of Saturday’s contest, graduate quarterback Beau English exited the game with a hand injury but came back in during the second quarter.

Freshman quarterback Jackson Hardy stepped in during the absence, but both of those combated with the ineffective passing game contributed to the Spiders’ offensive inefficiency. 

At times, Richmond cruised down the field, backed by the run game. Smith led the charge and entered JMU’s territory multiple times. Other times, both quarterbacks were sacked in the backfield, and the Spiders’ were stuck in long conversions. 

The backfield’s been the bright spot for Richmond, but it needs to convert in the air to have a chance at a comeback. JMU’s defense makes adjustments every play, but if Richmond can find consistency and have players step up and make plays, this one will be a game to watch.

Contact Savannah Reger at For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.