Dukes Do it Again! JMU Defeats South Alabama to move to 5-0

All Photos Courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

One of the SBC West’s finest, South Alabama, visited Harrisonburg, VA to challenge JMU’s undefeated record today. JMU’s early 17-0 lead crumpled thanks to Carter Bradley, La’Damian Webb, Caullin Lacy and company. 

The Jaguars may have given James Madison a second half scare however, the cardiac Dukes keep finding a way to win. Kane Wommack’s squad could not complete the comeback and JMU held off the Jaguars in a 31-23 effort favoring the Dukes. 

“It’s a great win against a quality team,” Curt Cignetti said of the win post-game. With such a quality win, there were plenty of bright spots today. Let’s dive into the keys to the game and see how JMU protected another threatened lead.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support this season.

Monsters Among Men

The Dukes’ defense is defined on getting consistent backfield pressure and forcing the opposing quarterback to be uncomfortable in the pocket. The front four combined for 6 TFLs, 4 sacks, and a Pick 6. Jalen Green had a stellar game going for 2.5 sacks, 3.5 TFLs, as well as securing his first career TD after Mikail Kamara popped a pass into the air. Green caught it and ran 24 yards to return the INT to the house. 

“It feels good but those are plays I expect myself to make,” Green said when asked about his performance.  

Linebacker Aiden Fisher complimented his D-Line postgame saying “Four monsters are in at all times. So you can take one out, put another monster in, and if you play off them it’s easy”.

The defensive line has been a gigantic part of why this team is 5-0. The ability to shut down the run and close out games the way they have is remarkable. The JMU run defense held South Alabama’s rushing attack to 27 yards on 24 attempts. The longest rush of the day was 14 yards. Enough said. 

Horton Hears a Touchdown or Two

The Lord Botetourt High School product had a career day today and provided some much-needed explosive plays in the pass game. Zach Horton had 116 receiving yards for 2 touchdowns and a staggering 98 yards after the catch. He rumbled for a 66-yard touchdown off a broken tackle in the fourth quarter to cap off the career day. 

Head Coach Curt Cignetti said of Horton’s scores “Those were huge plays”. Horton himself said “It does feel great.. just had one guy to beat and I knew for sure I wasn’t going to outrun him so I just knew how to make him miss”

Horton accounted for 14 of the last 24 points scored today. Coach Cignetti touted him one the most consistent players on the team post game and it showed. Even when Horton doesn’t get targeted much, his blocking is critical to the success of this offense. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

Secondary Stepping Up

The Dukes’ defensive backs have received their fair share of scrutiny the past several weeks for inconsistent play and giving up chunk plays frequently. They were not perfect, but the secondary showed signs of growth today. South Alabama, like every team the Dukes have played so far, could not run the ball consistently. 

Even when the rushing attack was the feature part of their offense in the first quarter it still went poorly. So the Jags Offensive Coordinator Major Applewhite had to go back to the drawing board. USA proceeded to throw the ball 40 times over the next 3 quarters.

The JMU DBs were being put under an air raid-style attack and they held up relatively well. On the day, the Dukes gave up 299 yards through the air and USA averaged 6 yards per attempt. 

D’Angelo Ponds and Chauncey Logan both stood out and played solidly. Overall I’d give the DBs a B- on the day. Compared to what we have seen the past 3 weeks, that is a magnificent improvement. 

“We are improving in our pass defense,” Cignetti said. “We are improving back there, and I’m confident we are going to continue to [improve].” 

This young secondary has experienced growing pains to start the year against several Freshman QBs. Regardless, I think they are coming into their own week by week, snap by snap. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *