Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
JMU football rolled past Morgan State 63-12 to wrap up the easiest part of its schedule. The sledding gets tougher from here, with JMU starting a challenging three-game road trip this week at Chattanooga.
The Dukes look solid through three games, and I have a few quick observations and thoughts I wanted to get on paper.
Ben DiNucci looks solid
I know the competition the past two weeks hasn’t been up to CAA standards, but the redshirt senior quarterback looks good through three games. DiNucci is second on the team with 122 yards, which includes yards lost on sacks. He’s also completing 73% of his passes for just over 200 yards a game.
Most importantly, DiNucci has six touchdown passes to just one interception. He also showed off his deep ball accuracy on a touchdown pass to Brandon Polk on Saturday.
There’s a lot of season left, but DiNucci looks strong through the easy portion of the schedule. He’s third nationally in passing efficiency through three games, which is exactly what JMU needs from him. He doesn’t need to do too much, but if he can remain efficient and limit turnovers, the Dukes will win a lot of football games.
JMU has 3 starting caliber quarterbacks
Don’t expect a quarterback controversy any time soon, but the Dukes have three capable starters on the roster. DiNucci is the current starter, but Cole Johnson and Gage Moloney are both quite talented.
Johnson is 10-12 for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns in relief, and Moloney is 1-2 for seven yards and a touchdown in limited action. While the Dukes want DiNucci leading the team all season, an injury to DiNucci wouldn’t ruin the team’s chances of making a deep playoff run.
Dimitri Holloway is a legit NFL prospect
The linebacker leads JMU with 26 tackles through three games despite playing with a cast on his hand. He made a tremendous play to rip the ball from a Morgan State running back early in the first quarter Saturday to force JMU’s first takeaway of the season. He’s a beast, and he sets the tone for JMU’s defense.
Holloway is a key part of JMU’s defense, and he needs to stay healthy and play well during the next few months for the Dukes to stay undefeated against FCS teams.
Looking for more
I’m surprised at the lack of production from Percy Agyei-Obese and Landan Word. I still believe Agyei-Obese is JMU’s best running back, and he barely has 100 yards through three games. His 4.2 yards per carry average is a full yard or so below what I expect from the junior tailback, so I’m looking for him to explode onto the scene in the next few weeks.
I also expect to see more from Landan Word. The starters haven’t been needed throughout the entirety of the last two games, but the talented linebacker only has seven tackles through three games. He’s a player with the potential to record 100 tackles in a season. I imagine Word starts making more tackles as the competition increases and he sees more consistent playing time.
We still don’t know what JMU is
The Dukes looked better Saturday than the first two weeks of the season, but the opponent was the weakest. Through three games, the Dukes have played two subpar FCS foes and a Power 5 program. It’s hard to accurately gauge this team from those performances.
We’ll learn a lot about JMU very soon
The Dukes schedule gets tough starting this week. Chattanooga is a solid team, and by far the best FCS team the Dukes will have faced this season. Following that game, the Dukes play at Elon and at Stony Brook before a few challenging home games. Each game for the next two months will test the Dukes.
Sept. 21 at Chattanooga – The first FCS road test of the season. The Mocs are beatable, but they’re a solid program.
Sept. 28 at Elon – The Phoenix look good, even without Cignetti. They lost a close game to NC A&T, but they just blew the doors off Richmond and have a proven leader at quarterback in Davis Cheek.
Oct. 5 at Stony Brook – The Seawolves have been anything but dominant the last few weeks, but they’re 2-1 with an athletic quarterback and solid defense. It’s not easy to play three consecutive road games with the final game of the stretch coming in Long Island.
Oct. 12 vs. Villanova, Oct. 19 at William & Mary, Oct. 26 vs. Towson – The Dukes’ three games after the difficult road stretch seem to get harder every week.
Villanova is 3-0 with each win coming by at least 20 points. The Wildcats play Towson this week, which should help us learn a lot about their team.
William & Mary is 2-1 with its lone loss coming to Virginia. That game won’t be a cakewalk.
Towson looks like a legitimate national title contender through three games, and the Tigers get easy home matchups with Albany and Bucknell in the two weeks before coming to Harrisonburg.
After Towson, the Dukes earn a much-needed bye week.
JMU’s schedule gets difficult starting this Saturday. We’re going to learn a lot about the Dukes, and it should be an exciting ride.