For the first time this season, JMU football took the field in front of a white-out crowd at Bridgeforth Stadium. Following the first half, the Dukes hold a 27-0 lead over Saint Francis.
The good: JMU defense’s control of the game
In last week’s 20-13 loss to West Virginia, the Dukes established themselves as a strong team in the run department after rushing for 172 yards. It was no secret JMU head coach Curt Cignetti wanted to implement a run-oriented offense and a stout run defense, and through a game and a half games, it’s been the strongest part of the Dukes’ game.
Saint Francis had just 47 yards on the ground compared to JMU’s 155. The defense didn’t stop there as it kept the Red Flash’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Jason Brown to 14 yards in the air.
With every defensive stop, the offense worked its way down the field and put points on the board. Redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci didn’t have many opportunities last week, but in the first half, he went 12-for-15 for 155 yards and one touchdown.
The good part two: Solomon Vanhorse
It’s been a journey for redshirt freshman running back Solomon Vanhorse. When Cignetti arrived in Harrisonburg, he quickly saw potential in the 5-foot-7-inch back. Now in the midst of the regular season, Vanhorse has established himself as a primary runner for the offense.
So far, he’s accumulated 86 yards and two touchdowns off 14 carries. Vanhorse now has a team-high three touchdowns this season.
The bad: The Dukes’ ball security
For the second consecutive game, JMU turned the ball over in the first quarter. Last week, redshirt junior safety D’Angelo Amos muffed a punt and junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese fumbled in Mountaineer territory.
Against the Red Flash, freshman running back Austin Douglas coughed up the ball on the Dukes’ third drive. While the defense forced a three-and-out, JMU needs to take care of the ball and limit self-imposed mistakes. Turnovers shift momentum, and all it takes is one play to alter the result of a game.
In the second quarter, the Dukes nearly lost the ball again. A Saint Francis punt took an awkward bounce and deflected off Amos. Luckily for the Richmond, Virginia, native, he fell on it first and avoided his second turnover in as many games.
With less than a minute in the first half, DiNucci lost the ball inside the five-yard line. JMU caught another break when Vanhorse recovered it, but only managed a field goal.
The ugly: Saint Francis’ offense
Going against one of the best defenses in the FCS is no easy task. Through 30 minutes, the Red Flash haven’t been able to sustain momentum.
On its first drive, Saint Francis fired five quick plays for 32 yards. Since then, it had no first downs, averaged 2.4 yards per play and had 280 total yards less than JMU.
It would take a miracle for Saint Francis head coach Chris Villarrial to orchestrate a comeback in the second half, as all signs point to the Dukes controlling the rest of the contest and earning their first win of the season.
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.