Sep 2 / Todd

Dukes Fall To WVU 20-13

The Good

Adeeb Atariwa – Monster. WVU fans all around us were screaming about “who the hell is 95 and why can’t we block him?” by halftime as he was on a one-man tour of destruction from a DT position where it’s hard to even be noticed, much less look like a man among boys in a P5 matchup. And really the entire Dukes’ defense, who shut down the running game completely – limiting WVU to 1.4 yards per rush – and consistently pressured the QB and got off the field on 12 out of 18 3rd downs, deserves all the credit in the world. They saved JMU from the two turnovers early and kept them in the game all the way till 10-10 entering the fourth and the terrible INT.

172 – 34. That was how much JMU outrushed WVU. Total Yards, First Downs, Time of Possession. Basically every category JMU flat-out beat the Mountaineers phyically. Except for turnovers, which were very clearly the difference in the game and the Dukes lost that stat 3-0. But still, physically outplaying a P5 team is no joke, and JMU will be just fine.

WVU atmosphere – RV’d all weekend in the Coliseum and West Virginia fans were easily the kindest, most welcoming, most good-natured road group I’ve ever been around. Only issue we saw was two Mountaineers fighting in the stadium because one young couple was too hammered to know they weren’t in the student section. Otherwise, what an outstanding trip and hope we get to go back someday.

The Bad

Pass protection – As strong as the Dukes were at times in the run game, especially in the first half, they really struggled to give DiNucci anytime at all in the second half. Everyone wants to scream about Ben throwing it up on the INT, but that play was a fail from the snap for everyone involved.

Mistakes – A lot of JMU folks were pleased with only having two penalties, but wow were there some big mistakes in this game. Three terrible mistakes on specials were enormous (fumble, blocked FG, kickoff out of bounds) and of course the other two turnovers and some real “Ole” blocks in the second half were all huge game-changers.

The Ugly

Punting with no timeouts – It worked out because the Mountaineers out-stupided us later. And had that Big 12 mystery hold not showed up for JMU’s only penalty, thus wiping out a 30-yard run by the Nooch, we might still be playing. But it doesn’t excuse the wrongness of not going for it there when time and score say you have to.

St. Francis beat Lehigh on the road, so better not take next week too lightly either.


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  1. Rob K / Sep 2 2019

    Completely agree with this post. I would add to the “Ugly” section not trying to get at least 3 points at the end of the first half. You are on the road against a P5 team, don’t just go into the half without taking a shot.

    And the issue with the pass protection wasn’t that Nooch was taking too long in the pocket and eventually the protection was breaking down, it was guys were getting free runs at Nooch from the snap.

    All that said, I came away very encouraged by that game. Yes, I think we beat WVU at least 4 times out of 10, but the run defense looks like it’s going to be a monster. And I think the pass pressure will be improved against non-P5 teams. If we limit turnovers, we can beat anybody.

  2. SCduke / Sep 2 2019

    a couple of other adds and amplifications from my watch of the game….

    good: run offense in first half, but after WVU made halftime adjustments we didn’t seem to adjust accordingly and I thought the run game slowed in second half (maybe just my impression, I haven’t seen stats to validate). Although probably expected, you have to add R Carter to the good list.

    bad: secondary. don’t think it’s an FBS vs FCS difference, our linebackers and secondary looked routinely out of position and consistently 1-2 steps slower on routes. Good QBs in FCS will exploit as WVU did. And add special teams into the bad as well…blocked kick, muffed punt, terrible return yardage.

    ugly: coaching, especially clock management. Punting with no timeouts and 2:30 on the clock should get you fired and time management at end of first half was ugly as well. play calling wasn’t innovative in the second half when it needed to be. Cignetti looked like he was in over his head.

    I remain on the doubter train even though they’ll beat up on two cupcakes the next couple weeks. I see this team losing two regular season CAA games and bowing out early in the playoffs, again.

  3. The Fly / Sep 2 2019

    Count me as another who was mystified at Cignetti’s approach to the game, especially clock management. I think the talent is outstanding on this team. I just don’t see people allowed to do their things. Not invoking Mickey’s worst years yet, but based on this one game sample I wonder if the system will wind up squashing the talent.

    And I’m still longing for Bryan, Vad, and Rodney.

  4. Drake / Sep 2 2019

    I just don’t understand those that want to kill DiNucci. If those people are going to mention the “bad” plays, they need to at least acknowledge the good ones. He made some really nice plays with his feet, took a few sacks when he needed to, and threw a few really nice passes along the sideline. He was also without his best deep threat.

  5. Chris / Sep 3 2019

    Clock management: WE GOT THE BALL BACK! Complaining about things that might have been, but weren’t, is the height of nit-pickery.

  6. M@ / Sep 3 2019

    My initial reaction to the punt was similar to yours. But upon sober reflection I think it was the lesser of two bad choices. If you go for it and miss (very likely) they are already in FG range. They run the ball 3 times (1:55 off the clock) and kick a FG to go up 10…game over (barring something like a missed FG). If you punt and they do the same three runs and punt you get the ball back down by only 7 with ~30 seconds to go and with Amos a chance to return it. And put pressure on them to try a pass since the run game wasn’t working. I’m not saying it was the right decision. But I do think it played better to the odds than calling it pure “ugly”.

    Now… kicking a FG down by 10 on fourth and 1 in the redzone when you’re averaging more than 4 yards a carry? I call that ugly. At the end game you are likely not going to have time outs. I’d rather be driving for a FG (and go for the TD if it’s there) than *having* to get a TD. That does assume you get that 4th and 1 *and* can get in to the endzone on that drive. But let’s face it… you’re already down there.

  7. ShadyP / Sep 3 2019

    I agree with portions of this summary:
    – Pass Protection was poor especially in the 2nd half (maybe the oline just got worn out, but there were a lot of guys running free at DiNucci in the 2nd half – I think this will get better as the worst of the busts seemed like miscommunication.)

    – Running game looked great, especially in the 1st half. Have not seen holes opened like that in a couple of years.

    – Very impressed with VanHorse at RB, had the best game of the bunch.

    – A little disappointed in Percy’s day, but think he got a lesson about not putting the ball on the ground.

    – Really impressed with the front 7 on defense, especially the DL. I think Daka had limited impact in this one being on the ‘light’ side. Will not be the case against FCS teams.

    – Was very impressed with Austin Kendall (WVU QB) — he made some very nice throws and just missed on some others that were open. Plus he is tough, he took some shots.

    – DiNucci played a solid game. He had the one INT, but as was mentioned that play was a train wreck from the snap.

    – FCS teams will never get any officiating help if the game is close late with an FBS team……the phantom hold on that big run from DiNucci (reminded me of the phantom hold at Maryland years ago)…..then followed by a no call on the very next play for interference as the JMU WR was being mugged and given no chance to make a play toward the ball.

    – I really don’t get the griping about clock management when in fact it worked and JMU got the ball back with plenty of time at their own 40. Geez I have never seen so many folks play Monday Morning Coach when something actually worked.

  8. CJ / Sep 3 2019

    I thought it was a great showing overall by the Dukes. I honestly didn’t think they would hang with WVU but they did and were within striking distance of a win throughout the game. I think WVU was happy to get out of there with a W anyway they could.

    We most certainly have reason for optimism this season, but again I don’t think we’ll have a true measure of how we stand until that Chattanooga game. I remember back in 2010 how we knocked off #13 VT and I thought for sure we would run the table for the rest of the year, but then turned out to have a basically mediocre season. Plenty of football left to be played, and the CAA can be a meat grinder with every opponent bringing their best when they play the Dukes.

    I’m still not entirely sold on DiNucci. I’ve always said he’s a good QB but not a great one. I wouldn’t put him in the same class as Vad Lee, Easton Stick, or even Bryan Schor. Having a great QB is crucial to having a championship team. I’m not surprised DiNucci left Pitt because up to this point he’s shown that he’s only a good FCS QB at best. That being said, I’ll give credit where it’s due and say I think he had a pretty good game on Saturday. He had some good mobility and good ball control. Yeah, I think that INT was a poor decision but he was trying a little too hard to make something happen. I’d still give him an A- for the game. I’m hoping he really develops and breaks out this season because I think he does have some good skill sets.

    Defensive line and linebackers did great, as well as the O-line and RBs. If that continues we should crush our CAA opponents this year.

    I also couldn’t help but keep my eye on that ECU-NCSU score this weekend, Pirates got pummeled 34-6. I think Coach Houston would have stood a better chance of beating the Wolfpack with the Dukes squad. As I’ve said before, these FCS coaches are always jumping at their first chance to move up to FBS, but they often go into floundering programs that don’t always seem to advance their careers (eg Scherer, Withers). It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out for Houston at ECU.

    Finally, props to Jimmy Moreland for making the Redskins roster. I think he’s the next Cortland Finnegan.

  9. Chris / Sep 3 2019

    @CJ With you on DiNucci, I’m seriously afraid that he’ll mentally check out sometime or whatever happened with the Colgate game will happen again, (bad fundamentals etc). That being said, he had a good game. His interception was a poor decision, and there was another play which made me cringe (it was a pass into the endzone between two defenders, which got knocked down — wasn’t after all a bad throw per se, but close calls with Ben make me cringe ok?).
    After the pick, he got out there and started making plays again. That is a sign of maturity and good for him. No one is going to have a game that is 100% perfect, but when you can get back up from your mistakes and get your chin up then that’s a good thing.
    I sincerely hope that he plays to his potential for the rest of the year, Polk and co. are certainly worthy of getting the ball, here’s hoping Ben delivers.

  10. Eric / Sep 3 2019

    “I really don’t get the griping about clock management when in fact it worked and JMU got the ball back with plenty of time at their own 40. Geez I have never seen so many folks play Monday Morning Coach when something actually worked.”

    The only reason it worked was because their HC out-dumbed our HC. That’s not a winning strategy you should rely on every week. Basic math says that with the 40 second play clock and having 3 plays to run, WVU could’ve run ~2:15 off of the clock. WVU got the ball back with 2:35 left. If WVU had just run the ball straight ahead on every play and punted on 4th, that would give JMU ~15 seconds to drive 60 yards for a TD.

    Which one gives you a greater opportunity to score:

    1) Stop the other team from getting a 1st down and then go 60 yards in 15 seconds for a TD.


    2) Convert a 4th and 9 and go 75 yards in 2:45 for a TD.

  11. Chris / Sep 3 2019

    @ Eric Failing to convert on the 4th and 8 or 9 would have put the game out of hand instantly. These were two bad options, it worked out. The guy that makes the call gets paid good money to do just that.

    Maybe he knows something you don’t?

  12. ShadyP / Sep 3 2019

    Eric…..neither one was a good choice. Perhaps and just maybe CC had a strong hunch based on game planning and tape review that the WVU Coach would not simply be content to run up the middle 3 times and punt. I grant you it worked better than anyone could have imagined with the injury, penalty and 2 pass incompletions. But I was not surprised in the least to see WVU pass once, everyone prefers to end the game on offense and one 1st down does that. Geez give the dude some credit. I suspect the same complaining would have ensued had they went for it and missed and WVU kicked a short FG to end period. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t choice.

  13. 89 Duke / Sep 7 2019

    Shady, excellent point. To me, the ‘analytics’ said you had to punt (do you go with the 4% chance or the 5% chance). If you don’t make it, it’s more than likely game over. They were too close to FG range – and besides his miss, he is a good kicker. Their QB was a 4 star recruit, so I am sure they felt they could pass. Stop them and you have, hopefully, better field position with time on the clock. My fear was if we went for it, they would bring the full house blitz and it would be game over. Too many mistakes put us in a situation where we had to pick our poison at that point.

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