First and 10: Key stats in JMU’s win over Towson
JMU football outpaced No. 15 Towson (7-4, 5-3 CAA) and the CAA’s top offense in a 38-17 victory Saturday, improving to 8-3 (6-2 CAA) on the season. Here are 10 key stats from the Dukes’ win.
1. Yards per play: 8.3
JMU’s offense performed well for the second-straight week and posted its second-best yards per play mark of the season. Towson’s defense — ranked 10th in the conference in yards allowed — struggled to contain the Dukes. JMU gained 576 yards on the day, its second-highest mark of the season, in its final regular season game.
2. Yards per rush: 8.4
The Dukes ran wild against Towson with a season-high 395 rushing yards and tied its season-high in yards per rush. JMU had three 100-yard rushers on the day, including graduate student running back Cardon Johnson, who led the way with 162 yards on 13 carries — an absurd mark of 12.5 yards per rush. Senior running back Trai Sharp ran wild with 107 yards while redshirt junior quarterback Ben DiNucci added 104 yards of his own.
3. Red zone execution: 4 touchdowns in 6 red zone drives
Head coach Mike Houston’s team scored four touchdowns in six trips, settling for field goal attempts in the non-touchdown drives, on which they went 1-for-2. JMU was effective in the red zone against the Tigers, an encouraging sign against a below-average defense. The Dukes face Delaware’s defense — ranked fourth in the CAA — in the first round of the FCS playoffs Saturday.
4. Passer rating: 93.2
DiNucci had his sixth-best game of the season as a passer in addition to his aforementioned efforts as a runner. The former Pitt transfer threw for 181 yards on 15-of-22 passing with no touchdowns or interceptions as the Dukes led for much of the day. His best play of the day through the air was a 40-yard completion to redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyndel Dean on JMU’s second drive of the game.
5. Third down execution: 4-for-10
One area of improvement for JMU’s offense in a 38-point performance is its third-down execution. The Dukes moved the chains on third down just 40 percent of the time against Towson. After punting more times (five) than it converted third downs (four), JMU must improve on situation execution if it hopes to make a deep playoff run.
6. Yards per play allowed: 6.1
JMU’s defense held the potent Towson offense, which finished the regular season with a CAA-high 36.7 points per game, to just 17 Saturday. However, the Tigers moved the ball up and down the field and registered 515 yards on 84 plays. Although the stat sheet doesn’t reflect it, the JMU defense played one of its better games in terms of execution but will look to shore up holes.
7. Opponent third-down execution: 7-for-18
Defense coordinator Bob Trott’s unit held Towson to a third-down conversion percentage of 38.9, a slight tick below the Tigers’ season average of 40 percent. JMU’s defense bent, but didn’t break against Towson and stalled nine of its opponent’s 12 drives. The Tigers punted six times, turned it over on downs three times and fumbled once as the Dukes held strong.
8. Opponent red zone execution: 1 touchdown in three red zone drives
JMU held the explosive Towson offense to one touchdown on three of the Tigers’ drives — the other two ended with a field goal and a turnover on downs. In the regular season, the Dukes allowed an average of 1.2 red zone touchdowns in 2.3 red zone trips, a rate of 52.1 percent. JMU looks to lockdown Delaware’s fifth-ranked scoring offense Saturday.
9. Opponent yards per rush: 4.2
Towson’s running game was subpar against JMU, as the Tigers gained just 143 yards on 34 attempts. Towson redshirt junior quarterback Tom Flacco was the leading rusher for the Tigers with 15 rushes for 52 yards — punctuated by a 50-yard run on the third drive of the game. Sophomore running back Kobe Young gained an efficient 49 yards on seven rushes, but the Dukes held tough on the ground throughout the day.
10. Opponent passer rating: 98.1
Flacco threw for 372 yards and two touchdowns on 31-for-50 passing against the Dukes. Outside of NC State senior quarterback Ryan Finley, Flacco — the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco — is likely the most talented passer JMU’s defense has faced this season. Holding the CAA’s leading passer to a rating under 100 and a season-low 17 points should boost JMU’s confidence headed into the postseason.
Contact James Faris at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.