There was nothing regular about this regular season.
And No. 1 James Madison is rolling into the playoffs proud of its unblemished 5-0 mark and Colonial Athletic Association South Division title through the most abnormal of campaigns.
The Dukes capped their regular season with a 23-6 win over Richmond on Saturday.
“It means a lot to us, definitely because of the unprecedented events going on,” JMU running back Percy Agyei-Obese said.
Though it was the regular-season finale for the Dukes, the contest was their first in the last three weeks and second in last six weeks, thanks to four coronavirus postponements earlier this spring.
Those weeks without a game, players were tasked with staying focused in order to be prepared for whenever they’d be able to take the field next.
“You never know if we have a game this week,” Agyei-Obese said. “We might make it to a Wednesday and then they cancel the game, so it was everyone coming together, practicing hard and just keeping their mind on the goal. It’s definitely been big for us. Everyone has been on the same track and now we’re [5-0].”
Said linebacker Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey: “Missing those games every week and not knowing the certainty of it, it messes with your head a little bit. So, you know you fight through that adversity, but coming out on top and still being on the right path to get to our goal, it’s a good feeling.”
- The Dukes won’t be the CAA’s automatic qualifier. A group of league athletic directors awarded Delaware the AQ into the postseason after Delaware (5-0, 4-0 CAA) finished its regular season with a victory at rival Villanova on Saturday.
After JMU’s win when the league still hadn’t made a decision in regard to the AQ, Dukes coach Curt Cignetti said: “That’s in the hands of some other people. There’s a lot of criteria that goes into that and I respect their decision, whatever decision they make. So, we’ll find out about that, but I expect to get a great playoff seeding from the NCAA playoff committee because those are two separate entities.”
- Agyei-Obese crossed the 2,000-yard rushing mark for his career on Saturday. The Oakdale (Frederick, Md.) graduate has 2,038 yards on the ground and 26 rushing touchdowns in 43 career games with JMU.
- Kicker Ethan Ratke set a CAA record on Saturday while booting three field goals. He now holds the league’s all-time record for field goals with 67.
“It’s crazy,” Ratke said. “I never even thought I’d get to this point, so it’s a great honor and [long snapper] Kyle Davis and [holder] Alex Miller doing it with me is great. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them, the tight ends and the O-Line who block for me, so they make my job a lot easier.”
Ratke made kicks from 27, 37 and 38 yards.
Former Towson kicker Aidan O’Neill previously held the record with 64 career field goals.
- In the fourth quarter, JMU ran 20 offensive plays and Richmond had only five offensive snaps as the Dukes were terrific while trying to melt the clock to secure the victory.
Of Agyei-Obese’s 78 rushing yards against the Spiders, 46 came in the fourth quarter.
JMU kept possession for the final 9:15 of the game.
“We went to the big package with three tight ends,” Cignetti said, “ran clock and our guys just had a lot of juice. And sometimes at that point, you break the opponent’s will a little bit which is always the goal and I think as that drive went on their will was broken a little bit. It was great to be able to keep the defense off the field for those nine minutes.”
Cignetti said his teams in previous coaching stops at Alabama, IUP and Elon could do the same things at the end of the game.
“The [Richmond] D-Line started to get tired and our O-Line was conditioned,” Agyei-Obese said, “and ready to play four quarters, and when the second half of the game came we were still energized.”
- Richmond’s regular season concludes with the Spiders at 3-1 overall and in the league. They could still reach the postseason as an at-large choice.
“Our guys want to play in the playoffs,” Richmond coach Russ Huesman said. “If we get that opportunity, they’ll come to work and try to win a game and that’s all they do.”