Sep 8 / Rob

Three Thoughts on the First Win of the Cignetti Era

The JMU Dukes took care of business in their home opener, defeating St. Francis by the score of 44-7. Ben DiNucci lead the way completing 16 of 21 for 221 yards and 2 TDs. JMU deployed a running back by committee rushing game, with Solomon Vanhorse, Juwon Hamilton, Percy Agyei-Obese, and Austin Douglas each getting at least 9 carries. As a team, JMU racked up 295 yards on the ground. The real story was the Dukes’ defense which held St. Francis to only 175 yards and 9 first downs. The word dominant doesn’t do it justice. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

A Step Forward

The Dukes let one get away against West Virginia. And the consensus opinion was that it got away because they turned the ball over, played way too conservative, made mistakes on special teams, and failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Well, in week two JMU had clear improvements in some areas, but have room to grow in others. Granted, St. Francis doesn’t have the sort of athletes WVU does, but pitching a shutout in the interception department was still nice to see. The guys need to hold onto the football and limit the fumbles though. And it was nice seeing Ethan Ratke go 3 for 3, but D’Angelo Amos is too good to not field punts cleanly. He did have a 22 yard return though, and Hamilton also ripped off a 45 yard kick return. The offense wasn’t going deep into the playbook and kept things pretty vanilla. However, even if with the outcome all but decided, most fans will probably be encouraged by Cignetti going for it on 4th in the red zone and pushing to punch it in. While we’re only in week 2 and it’s no time to push the panic button, just like last season, settling for FGs in the red zone seems to be a thing. It’s something we’ll be keeping an eye on the next few weeks. All in all though, there were improvements made from week one to week two. That’s really all you can ask for.

All About That D Though

The JMU defense played lights out against the rush in the season opener. Against St. Francis, the team’s passing defense was every bit as good as the stellar run defense. At one point JMU forced ten straight three and outs. Ten straight. It was almost too dominant, leaving the offense with virtually no time to catch its breath. St. Francis only ran for 2.7 yards per carry and managed just 11 pass completions. JMU’s front four is going to be a handle for team’s week in and week out this season. They absolute punish teams at the line. We’d still like to see them get to the QB a bit more, but are confident the sacks will come.

No Clue Still

Through two games, we’re pretty confident that JMU has a defense that is going to cause CAA teams problems. And we know that they’ve got some great weapons on offense, with a stable of capable running backs. Brandon Polk appears to be a stud and he’s surrounded by a number of reliable pass catchers. Nooch is still Nooch. To us that’s a positive, but others will disagree (vocally). With only two games in the books though, it’s hard to tell where the ceiling is for this team. It’s also probably a waste of time, because the team is still ramping up and adjusting to the new coaches’ scheme. For now though, we’re pleased with some of the improvements we saw yesterday and anxious to see if they can improve the strike rte in the red zone. JMU is 1-1 with an opportunity to get back above .500 next week against Morgan State. The team isn’t perfect, but we’ve got plenty of reasons to be optimistic.


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  1. Rob K / Sep 9 2019

    Watching the game in person, I thought how they are using Dylan Stapleton was interesting. Sometimes he lines up as a traditional TE, but many times he is lining up behind the guard. He then pulls different directions behind the line of scrimmage to support the run. Almost like a fullback, but closer to the line. He was laying huge blocks on the defensive ends and LBs to seal off gaps.

    Also, I am a big fan of the 6pm start time – it really lets you ease into the tailgating.

  2. M@ / Sep 9 2019

    Generally it was a fun game. But we won’t know what this team is until after the Nova game; imho the most difficult game on the schedule which also happens to follow a difficult road run.

  3. ShadyP / Sep 9 2019

    Excellent showing by the Defense.

    About what I expected from the offense. Just need to be a little better at finishing drives. I still think a lot of experimentation is going on to find those plays that work/don’t work in the redzone with this team.

  4. Drake / Sep 9 2019

    One play that impressed me was Nooch scrambling on his long TD pass. He kept looking downfield, saw the receiver, and planted his feet. His errant passes are usually throwing across his body while running, like most gunslingers.

  5. CJ / Sep 10 2019

    A few random observations…

    Was I the only guy who got a little concerned watching St Francis’ first couple runs on their opening drive run through us better than WVU did, and against our first team defense no less? Luckily we made the adjustments.

    Watching UVa run circles around William & Mary last week, I couldn’t help but want to see how the Cavaliers would fare against the Dukes. It’s a matchup we need to see.

    Still a lot of games left to measure how Cignetti will turn out, but I’ll go ahead and be the guy who admits that I still miss Coach Houston a bit. I just liked his style and spirit, and I think he had that intangible ability to connect with the players. Yeah I know money talks and all of these guys are chomping at the bit to move up the ladder to FBS, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a Chris Klieman-type who spends more than 8 or 9 seasons building a dominant program, and then when he does make the move up he goes to a decent program that has more career enhancing potential.

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