Those 15 minutes stood as the epicenter of James Madison’s most dominating and suppressing effort of the season.
And there was nothing New Hampshire could do about it.
JMU used the second quarter to turn what was a competitive, Top 25 matchup into one that wasn’t.
“It’s a good win,” Dukes coach Curt Cignetti said. “And I think really, everybody’s attitude is that there’s a lot of unfinished business out there down the road and this was just the next one.”
During the second stanza No. 2 JMU scored 20 points, didn’t allow any and gained 162 more yards than the No. 23 Wildcats en route to a 54-16 runaway win in Colonial Athletic Association action to clinch at least a share of the league title on Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium.
The 20 second-quarter points were only part of a larger run that started with wide receiver Brandon Polk’s 58-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Ben DiNucci. Polk ran up the seam to zip by the opposing safety and, in perfect synchronicity, under the football to secure it and glide with ease past the goal line.
Polk’s score knotted the game at 10 with 2:42 to go in the opening quarter and that possession marked the first of six straight series with a touchdown for the Dukes.
“When we’re rolling like that the momentum is high,” running back Percy Agyei-Obese said. “The offensive line, the receivers, and I also give credit to [wide receiver] Kyndel Dean because on one of my touchdowns he had a great block on the outside, but everyone is going and everyone is staying hot.”
DiNucci said: “We kind of found a groove there early and it’s hard to sometimes stay in that, but I thought we did a really good job as an offense of not taking a series off or a play off from start to finish.”
Agyei-Obese ran for a game-best 130 yards and had carries of 20 yards, 24 yards and three yards end with him comfortably settling in the purple-painted turf. On his longest scoring run, Agyei-Obese followed right behind pulling center Mac Patrick, who cleared UNH defenders to create an untouchable path for the running back.
Entering Saturday, the Wildcats boasted the CAA’s second-best scoring defense (16.6 points allowed per game) and total defense (343 yards per game), but JMU obliterated those figures, racking up 537 total yards while leaning on the trio of Agyei-Obese, Polk and DiNucci.
“You never know going in,” Cignetti said about JMU’s efficient offensive performance. “They were highly-ranked on defense. We had a lot of respect for the way they played, but we were making some plays early in the game in the air and on the ground. I had a sense we were knocking them off the ball, and early in the game I detected that they were starting to get worn out on defense.”
The Dukes defense complimented the cause when safety Adam Smith intercepted a pass thrown by Wildcats running back Dylan Laube late in the second quarter forcing the UNH defense to return to the field just three plays after it allowed an eight-play JMU scoring drive. Smith’s pick led to DiNucci’s 1-yard touchdown run with 15 seconds left in the half and a 30-10 advantage to take into the locker room.
DiNucci completed 79 percent of his throws for 293 passing yards and two touchdowns to go along with the rushing score.
“Little discouraging to start out as slow as we did,” Smith said since the Dukes gave up 10 points in the first quarter. “But Ben came up to us on the sideline and he’s like, ‘We got you guys. We got your back.’ So I think after that and with Dimitri [Holloway] going out we knew it was time to step up and rally and get some stops.”
Holloway was ejected late in the first quarter for targeting, but after the first the Dukes allowed just six points.
UNH interim coach Ricky Santos said the second quarter was the difference.
“Ultimately, they got a couple of scores to pull ahead,” Santos said. “We tried the trick play, didn’t work and obviously it backfired, they got the score and the momentum going into the half.”
A win next Saturday over Richmond will give JMU an outright CAA championship.
New Hampshire 10 0 6 0—16
James Madison 10 20 14 10—54
UNH—Brosmer 1 run (Hughes kick), 11:12
JMU—Ratke 40 field goal, 6:00
UNH—Huges 44 field goal, 3:21
JMU—Polk 58 pass from DiNucci (Ratke kick), 2:42
JMU—Agyei-Obese 24 run (Ratke kick), 10:23
JMU—D. Stapleton 12 pass from DiNucci (kick fail), 3:48
JMU—DiNucci 1 run (Ratke kick), 0:15
JMU—Agyei-Obese 20 run (Ratke kick), 12:46
JMU—Gray 16 run (kick blocked), 3:26
JMU—Ratke 29 field goal, 12:14
JMU—Johnson 33 run (Ratke kick), 5:06
RUSHING—UNH: Washington 11-58, Gray 5-27, Laube 7-15, Seide 1-4, Post 1-(-1), Brosmer 6-(-9). JMU: Aygei-Obese 21-130, Johnson 1-33, Hamilton 7-21, DiNucci 3-15, Kirlew 4-8, Palmer 3-8, Moloney 1-7.
PASSING—UNH: Brosmer 12-21-0-101, Laube 0-1-1-0, Hill Jr. 1-1-0-49. JMU: DiNucci 19-24-0-293, Johnson 1-3-0-23.
RECEIVING—UNH: Love 5-67, Laube 2-43, Hill Jr. 2-9, Malone-Woods 1-17, Espanet 1-9, Cavallaro 1-6, Gray 1-(-1). JMU: Polk 5-136, Brown 4-48, R. Stapleton 4-39, Dean 2-23, Hamilton 2-9, Painter 1-26, Adu 1-23, D. Stapleton 1-12.