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Riley Stapleton catches a touchdown against Richmond. 

All that stands between JMU football and the CAA title is 30 minutes of football. Through the opening two quarters, the Dukes have put themselves in position to take the conference championship outright without sharing it with Richmond. 

With JMU in the locker room making halftime adjustments, the score favors the Dukes, 24-6. 

The good: JMU’s ability to move the ball on offense

The JMU offense may not have found its way onto the scoreboard on its first drive, but after that, Richmond couldn’t find a way to keep JMU from scoring. 

As the first half progressed, redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci led the Dukes down the field multiple times, amassing 141 yards through the air and 29 on the ground. DiNucci found redshirt senior wide receiver Brandon Polk for a touchdown and helped get the team in position for junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese to record a 3-yard rushing score. Redshirt junior kicker Ethan Ratke also added a field goal to the scoreline. 

As the Dukes’ offense started to find their rhythm, Richmond struggled to break through the JMU defense. The Spiders didn’t get onto the scoreboard until there were less than 10 minutes remaining in the half, and even then, they only managed a field goal. 

JMU finished the half with 249 yards of total offense, while the Spiders recorded 193. Redshirt senior wide receiver Riley Stapleton led all receivers in receptions with four, which included a touchdown. 

The bad: Spiders’ coverage of Brandon Polk

Listen, at this point in the season, it should be expected that DiNucci is going to try and hit Polk early on the long ball. 

While it may be expected, no team seems to be able to cover it.

Following a Richmond turnover, DiNucci connected with Polk on an 80-yard touchdown pass. It was DiNucci’s longest throw of his career and Polk’s longest reception.  

Polk finished the first half with only two receptions but 87 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt senior’s season-high in yards for a single game is 136, which came last week against New Hampshire. 

2019 FCS Playoffs - JMU

The ugly: Richmond’s ball security 

Richmond’s attack started promising. The Spiders were driving the field and looked like they’d be the first ones on the scoreboard. 

Then, the Dukes’ defense stepped up. 

Junior cornerback Wesley McCormick forced a goal-line fumble, which senior safety Adam Smith fell on in the end zone, giving the Dukes the ball on their 20-yard line. JMU started the next drive with the touchdown pass to Polk, putting the Dukes up early. 

If the fumble deep in JMU territory wasn’t enough, on the kickoff following Polk’s score, senior defensive end Bryce Maginley’s helmet knocked the ball out of graduate student Keyston Fuller’s hands, with JMU redshirt freshman kicker Camden Wise quickly covering it. 

The Dukes ended up hitting a 22-yard field goal to put them up 10-0 early against the Spiders. 

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.”