It's the CAA opener for JMU football and it welcomes Maine to town for the first time since 2017. The Dukes lead 24-0at the half, but there are still many variables at play for JMU to hold onto for a win against the Black Bears.
The good: JMU’s offensive efficiency
JMU’s offense started hot, and when it had the ball, the Dukes were efficient and quick.
It started with the first drive of the game. In under two minutes, JMU took the opening kickoff and went four plays, 67 yards, down the field, capped off by redshirt senior tight end Noah Turner Redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson threw the ball 27 yards on the touchdown, and unlike against Morehead State, the Dukes grabbed a lead on their first possession.
JMU also traveled another 49 yards down the field in just under three minutes. Although the Dukes made it all the way downfield and while they didn’t find the endzone, redshirt senior kicker Ethan Ratke nailed a 41-yard field goal.
The Dukes were more efficient in the air than on the ground, but not by much. While redshirt freshman Kaelon Black and redshirt sophomore running back Latrele Palmer occasionally had offensive bursts, wide receivers Kris Thornton and Antwane Wells Jr. were lighting up the scoresheet.
JMU scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter — both by Wells Jr., 73 and 51 yards — respectively. Both touchdown drives were completed in under two minutes, the second in under a minute. The Dukes started in their own territory and once again were efficient getting the ball to the endzone.
The bad: Joe Fagnano’s apparent injury
Late in the first quarter, Maine junior quarterback Joe Fagnano fell to the ground after a play. He looked like he was in pain as he rolled around holding what looked to be his leg.
The crowd at Bridgeforth Stadium quieted as they noticed the injury. Multiple members of the medical staff helped Fagnano off the field and, after spending some time in the medical tent, he was placed on the medical cart and driven to the locker room.
Fagnano is critical to the Black Bears’ offense, throwing 795 yards and eight touchdowns in Maine’s spring season, which consisted of only four games. Redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson is the backup and came into the game, but doesn’t have the experience and fluidity that Fagnano brings. This is a big loss for the Black Bears.
The ugly: Maine’s run game
With the injury to Fagnano, Maine’s aggressive passing game took a hit. Coming into the matchup, the Black Bears relied on Fagnano's arm and the experienced receiving core with seniors Devin Young and Zavier Scott.
While redshirt junior running back Elijah Barnwell has seen the snaps and has the ability to make plays happen, he isn’t typically relied on as heavily as the passing game. Since Robertson doesn’t practice with the first team as much, the chemistry isn’t there for Maine compared to where they’d most likely like it.
Before the Fagnano injury, Maine couldn’t get anything going on the ground. JMU’s defensive line was swallowing up everything the Black Bears showed, and the only way Maine was getting down the field was through the long ball.
With Fagnano out, the Black Bears have started to run the ball more than they typically would, but they still aren’t getting far. The run game hasn’t looked its best, and Maine will need to figure out the JMU defensive line and linebackers in order to start picking up more yards down the field.
Contact Savannah Reger at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.