[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Time/Date: Dec. 13 – 7 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN2
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ben DiNucci, QB, James Madison — The signal caller was a fantastic 21-of-25 passing for 273 yards and 2 TDs, while rushing for two more scores. He orchestrated a 45 unanswered point showing to finished the final three quarters after a close game after one. Also rushed for 66 yards.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: John Daka, DL, James Madison — Continued being an absolute wrecking ball, wrapping the game with 3.5 tackles for loss (2 sacks), a forced fumble, a blocked kick, a hurry, a pass broken up and six total tackles.
FIVE OTHER STAT STANDOUTS:
Percy Agyei-Obese, RB, JMU – 90 yards rushing, 3 TDs
Riley Stapleton, WR, JMU – 7 receptions, 87 yards
Evan Powell, LB, Monmouth – 13 tackles, 2.5 TFLs
Pete Guerriero, RB, Monmouth – Started things off with a 93-yard rushing touchdown and very nearly hit the 2,000-yard mark for the season, coming up just five yards short as the current national rushing leader.
Da'Quan Grimes, LB, Monmouth – 18 tackles, 1 TFL[divider]
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THE TURNING POINT
Early in the second quarter, Monmouth had hit three big plays to scores to find itself in a deadlock, 21-21, with James Madison. But from that point on, the Dukes dominated, scoring 45 points unanswered. On the very next drive after Monmouth (11-3) tied the game, James Madison moved the ball 75 yards in a little over three minutes to score when QB Ben DiNucci accounted for the first of his two rushing touchdowns. The entire drive was on the ground, with DiNucci accounting for 36, Jawon Hamilton added 30 and Percy Agyei-Obese chipping in 9 more. It set the tone for what was to come.[divider]
Coming into this game, the big question was — can Monmouth's awesome running game get traction against one of the fiercest rushing defenses in the country — James Madison's. Well, about 23 seconds into the game, Pete Guerriero answered the question with a 93-yard touchdown run. The nation's leading rusher coming into the game had just scored only the seventh rushing TD on JMU's defense in 2019. And the first quarter and the first few moments of the second quarter made it look like Monmouth came to Harrisonburg, Va. intent on bloodying the mighty Dukes. The Hawks kept making big plays, then the Dukes would counter. How was this craziness possibly going to continue?
Well folks, it didn't. Those 93 yards on Guerriero's TD run? That ended up being the exact number the Hawks finished with in net rushing, when QB Benji Bahar's sack yardage was added into the official rushing yardage.
Then, the tsunami hit — 45 consecutive unanswered points by James Madison pushed the Dukes to the No. 1 point total in school history (66 points), as well as the top offensive showing — 623 yards.
What I think we're beginning to see materialize here is two monster FCS programs on a collision course — JMU and NDSU. Both looked human for a short bit of Saturday, then locked things in and crushed the competition. In the month of November plus this December victory, James Madison has crushed opponents to the tune of 223 to 64. The Dukes are playing well when it matters most.
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JMU COACH CURT CIGNETTI: “You can see physically that we were taking control of the game as it went on, I was proud we came out in the second half and kept the pedal to the medal. So it’s a start.”
MONMOUTH COACH KEVIN CALLAHAN: “When we looked at them on both sides of the ball to find areas of weakness, quite honestly there weren’t any. We knew we’d have to be at our best today to be in this game, and there were times we were, but we didn’t sustain it all 60 minutes.”
PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEK
Northern Iowa will now come to Bridgeforth and the Panthers have had problems scoring in the first two rounds — against Pioneer League champion San Diego and big-time injury hobbled South Dakota State. UNI has also dealt with its own injuries. This really doesn't bode well for UNI coming into this upcoming week, despite the program hitting the 10-win mark this weekend. It just looks like a massive mismatch where JMU's defense shouldn't have much problem shutting down UNI's offense.
Granted, UNI's defense can be stingy, injured roster or not (came in No. 11 in total defense and had the No. 10 rushing defense) so don't expect James Madison to come in pounding on the door of the 60-plus point mark. But JMU should be able to squeeze the oxygen out of this matchup and begin looking toward whoever it may face in the national semifinals a few days before Christmas. This Dukes team is really cruising at this point of the season. It has been since early October since the Dukes have been challenged.
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