The 2019 FCS Playoffs are here, and we've got game-by-game wrap-ups.
Time/Date: December 21, 6:30 p.m. | TV: ESPNU
Offensive Player of the Game: RB Percy Agyei-Obese, JMU: 33 rushes for 124 yards and 1 TD
Defensive Player of the Game: LB Bryce Flater, Northern Iowa: 22 Total Tackles (11 solo), 0.5 TFL
OTHER STAT STANDOUTS:
LB Spencer Cuvelier, Northern Iowa: 21 Total Tackles, 1 TFL
LB Dimitri Holloway, JMU: 8 Total Tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 PBU
DE John Daka, JMU: 2.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FF
QB Ben DiNucci, JMU: 19/28, 157 Passing Yards, 1 TD, 1 IN
WR Brandon Polk, JMU: 7 catches for 59 yards, 1 TD
DB Xavior Williams, Northern Iowa: 1 INT
Friday night's opening quarterfinal game might have been played in the Shenandoah Valley, but this was a black-and-blue Missouri Valley contest from start to finish. JMU flexed its muscles once again, proving that the Dukes can still win games in a variety of ways. Last week, JMU used a rocket-propelled offensive performance to blow past upstart Monmouth; this week, it used a dominant defensive performance to shut down a one-dimensional Northern Iowa team. JMU scored 10 points on its first four possessions; later, it kept the offense hyper-conservative as it bled the clock out after halftime. The defense limited Northern Iowa to zero net rushing yards and held a staggering 24-minute advantage (42 to 18) in time of possession. The Panthers did not cross midfield until the final 90 seconds.
THE TURNING POINT
If Northern Iowa was ever going to get back in the game, a pair of JMU miscues provided a golden opportunity for momentum. After Ben DiNucci threw an ill-advised ball that turned into a pick in the end zone, and after JMU followed that up with a drive that ended in a missed field goal, Northern Iowa could have really tightened the screws with a timely score. Instead, redshirt freshman quarterback Will McElvain threw three straight incompletions from his own 34-yard line and was forced to punt, and JMU's offense began taking the air out of the ball.
"I told the coaches at halftime, 'If we don't screw it up on offense, we'll be fine. They could play offense against our defense the whole second half, and they wouldn't score.'" – JMU Head Coach Curt Cignetti on his team's defensive performance
PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEK
JMU will face a stiff-but-savory challenge in next week's semifinal game in Harrisonburg… we just don't know what kind of challenge that will be yet. The Dukes will play the winner of Friday night's late game, featuring a rematch between No. 3 Weber State and No. 6 Montana. A game with the Wildcats would be a rematch of the 2017 instant classic, that saw the Dukes win on Ethan Ratke's 46-yard walk-off field goal. On the other hand, a matchup with Montana would be catnip to older JMU fans — a mouth-watering rematch of the 2008 national semifinal, when Montana ended JMU's season en route to the first of two consecutive national championship appearances.
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