Dec 16 / Rob

Three Thoughts on JMU 17 – UNI 0

Survive and advance. That’s exactly what the JMU Dukes did in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FCS Playoffs. JMU took advantage of a stellar defensive effort and defeated Northern Iowa by the score of 17-0. It was the Dukes first ever playoff shutout.

JMU was much more dominant than the score might indicated. The Dukes out-gained the Panthers by 232 yards, limiting UNI to 114 yards while amassing 346 themselves. And JMU had an insane time of possession advantage, holding the ball for over 42 minutes.

The final margin might have only been 17 points, but it was far greater overall. And that’s largely due to the JMU Defense, which had a performance for the ages. UNI was held to only 7 first downs for the entire game. The Panthers had zero net rushing yards and didn’t cross midfield until the final two minutes of the game. There was absolutely nothing they could do. Here are 3 quick thoughts on the win.

The Defense Was Just Mean

You saw those stats above. They pretty much speak for themselves. Except they don’t, because they don’t allow you to see how physically dominant the JMU defense was. Well we have watched a lot of JMU football over the years, and can’t recall too many times where the Dukes have been able to manhandle another team like that. The Panthers could not move the ball.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard all of the talk about UNI’s offense being rather pedestrian. That’s true. But come on? JMU still prevented the #6 team in the country from passing the 50 until garbage time. That shouldn’t happen this deep in the playoffs.

No Style Points in the Postseason

We love watching JMU light up the scoreboard as much as anyone else, but let’s not freak out because the Dukes only scored two touchdowns. They absolutely left some points on the board Friday night. We know that. It’s a fruitless exercise to play the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” game in an attempt to demonstrate that the game very easily could have been a 4-5 TD shutout. The reality is that JMU played a very conservative gameplan and made some mistakes that resulted in missed scoring opportunities. But they still won. In the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Against a Top 10 team. And they’re moving on.

A Christmas Present from JMU

The Dukes reward for winning this game is a semi-final game at home this Saturday, 21 December against Weber State. And our fine friends at JMU Sports have a little Christmas present for our JMUSB community. Click on through to the ticket page using this link and you can get special $8 tickets for the semi-final game in Bridgeforth. Just enter promo code “SPORTSBLOG” when you checkout. And spread the word. JMU is doing this not only because they love you (they do), but also because they want to see Bridgeforth packed on Saturday.


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  1. ShadyP / Dec 16 2019

    That was as dominant a defensive performance as I have seen at any level. Awesome job by the entire defense. Let’s do it again this week.

    Excellent job by Harry O, putting 4 of 5 punts inside the 20.

    The offense especially in the 2nd half took a very conservative approach, which was dictated by game situation and weather. The offense left probably 13-23 points on the table as a result of missed FGs, turnovers, and penalties. As good as the offense has been all season I don’t expect them to score less than 20 points again this year.

    And great job to the fans that showed up. It may have only been 8100 or so, but the fans that showed up were engaged all game, loud, and stayed until the end. Great job and maybe we can get a few more there this week. These student-athletes deserve our support.

  2. CJ / Dec 16 2019

    The good:

    My primary concerns about this team have always been on defense, but this time they really stepped up and were solid in all aspects. And the final score should have been 12-0. That was clearly a safety on the UNI QB in the 4th quarter. Great job by the defense, let’s deliver that same performance to Weber on Saturday. Also I think DiNucci played very well, up until he took that hit in the 2nd quarter.

    The bad:

    DiNucci was never right after hitting his head on the turf (I’m thinking possible concussion?) and consequently our offense became very one-dimensional from that point on. The play calling became very predictable after that – it was 90% run. Not taking anything away from UNI’s defense, which is very good, but JMU’s predictable play calling in the 2nd half allowed UNI to play run defense the whole time. I think a major reason our scoring output was so low was because DiNucci’s injury limited our play selection, and UNI’s defense adjusted accordingly.

    The Ugly:

    DiNucci was either hurt or not right. We’ve been watching this guy all year and we know that he never slides with 2-3 yards to spare and he never would have forced that INT in the end zone when he had plenty of space in front of him to likely run in and score. Cignetti should have taken him out. Johnson or Moloney could have won that game for us, especially if your play book becomes handing off the ball every play. And on that note, a 10-0 lead at halftime does not mean the game is locked up and we can cruise to victory by running the ball every play. Mix it up, keep the defense honest, and try to score. UNI was one big play from getting right back into that game. I get it, a win is a win…but you just can’t let good teams hang around into the third and fourth quarter, because eventually they’re going to take advantage.

  3. Rob K / Dec 16 2019

    I agree that Nooch was hurt more than anyone let on in the 2nd quarter. He was playing excellent until that point. I suspect the offense from that point forward was some kind of combination of the effects of his injury and the play calling. Cignetti admitted that he told the offensive coordinators to be very conservative in the second half. Here’s hoping Nooch is OK by Saturday.

    Also remember that it was tough conditions throwing deep.

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