Sep 12 / Rob

Dukes Roll Over Maine 55-7 in CAA Opener

JMU moved to 2-0 in the 2021 season with a dominant win over the Maine Black Bears. The game was as one-sided as the score indicates. JMU did a lot of things well. A lot of things. We’re sure there are fans out there who have complaints or manage to find things to get worked up about. But we don’t. It was one of the most impressive CAA openers we can recall seeing JMU play in years. They outgained Maine 512 yards to 194 yards in total offense. Cole Johnson marched the team down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive and that was pretty much all she wrote. The outcome was never in doubt. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

Cole Outstanding Again

Cole had a terrific performance in week one. It was hard to read too much into it, given the quality of the Morehead State team. Maine is a CAA program that gave a Top 10 Delaware fits last week. And Cole carved them apart. He completed 25 of 30 attempts for 379 yards and 4 touchdowns. And he made it look easy. Ever since he returned after losing his job to Gage Moloney, Johnson has looked like a completely different player. He’s confident, poised, and making nothing but good decisions. In the beginning of Spring ball, he looked like the game was too fast for him He looked like a deer in the headlights and was crippled by poor decisions and a fear of making mistakes. Now he’s dropping dimes into receivers hands with ease. It literally looks like he and receivers are running routes without defenders sometimes. His transformation is remarkable. And we love it.

Appreciate What We’re Seeing With Antwane Wells Jr.

This kid is special. Just plain and simple. Maine could not cover him yesterday. They could not. He went off hauling in 8 catches for 179 yards and 2 TDs. Most receivers would be thrilled to beat their defender and create 3 or 4 feet of separation once or twice a game. Wells seemed to do it on 75% of his routes yesterday. There was nothing Maine could do to slow him down. One one route the defender attempted to initiate contact and wrap him up. All he did was shed the guy, catch the ball, and scamper in for a 53 yard touchdown. It is very hard to watch Wells play and not get overly excited about his potential. JMU has been blessed with a number of outstanding receivers in its history. Wells really could end up being better than all of them.

Defense is Clicking

We were optimistic that the Dukes D would hit its stride earlier this season due to playing in the Spring. Through two games, that certainly appears to be the case. Yes, we could pick nits about the number of penalties on that side of the ball, but all things considered, the unit looks great. In week one against Morehead State, JMU’s talent advantage was overwhelming. The Dukes were perhaps even more dominant against a solid Maine squad however. Maine caught a bad break with starting QB Joe Fagnano getting knocked out early. But as distasteful as it might sound to point this out, his injury was a sign of how relentless the JMU defense was all game. They managed 11 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. The D-line was getting penetration consistently and Heatherman created pressure with blitzes all day. There’s a ton of depth. And we’re seeing guys who’ve patiently waited for larger roles, take advantage of the reps they’ve earned this season.


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  1. Rob K / Sep 13 2021

    Great game on a beautiful day at the ‘burg. It seems like Cole could have passed for more than 400 yards with a few more deep balls to Wells if he wanted to.

    I’ll also note that the quick passes into the flat to Thornton are relatively deadly. With defenses having to guard against the deep pass AND the big runs up the middle, the flat is left relatively unguarded. It looked like those quick passes were gaining at least 4-5 yards every time, if not more.

    Defense looked very solid. There were a number of penalties, but some were relatively ticky-tack. I was OK with them, but we’ll see if the trend continues against Weber.

    More generally, so great to be back! I wasn’t there last week, and it was so much fun to be in the stadium. Great turnout by the students (in the first half, but still). I know they weren’t doing this last year, but they need a few kiosks that sell just water and soda. Or have the beer stands also sell water. But that is a small thing in the relative scheme of things.

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