It took James Madison University just 1:44 to dent the scoreboard in Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association football game against the University of Maine, and the No. 3 Dukes never looked back en route to a resounding 55-7 victory at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
James Madison improved to 2-0 while winning its 19th straight home game.
JMU is now 14-5 against the Black Bears and the 55 points is the most ever scored by the Dukes in the series.
UMaine fell to 0-2 and will host 2-0 Merrimack in a non-conference game next Saturday at noon. Merrimack upset Holy Cross 35-21 a week after Holy Cross knocked off Football Bowl Subdivision team UConn 38-28 the previous week.
UMaine junior quarterback Joe Fagnano suffered a right leg injury late in the first period and didn’t return. He was taken for X-rays and they were negative. UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said it is a high ankle injury.
Redshirt freshman Derek Robertson replaced him.
“It was a really difficult loss. We played very poorly across the board,” Charlton said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t execute. We dug ourselves in a hole pretty early. Obviously, losing a quarterback is tough but we didn’t play up to our standards regardless of that.”
James Madison senior quarterback Cole Johnson tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Noah Turner to cap a game-opening four-play, 67-yard drive.
The Dukes built a 24-0 halftime lead as Johnson completed 16 of 19 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns in the half and wound up completing 25 of 30 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns on the day.
Following the Turner touchdown, All-American Ethan Ratke kicked a 41 yard field goal with 3:33 left in the first period to expand the lead to 10-0.
In the second quarter, Johnson found redshirt freshman wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. open for touchdown strikes of 73 and 51 yards.
“They made a lot of plays. Wells is an excellent player and Cole played really, really well, obviously,” Charlton said. “We have to do a much better job.”
Wells had five catches for 157 yards in the first half and finished the game with eight catches for 179 yards while Kris Thornton also had five first-half catches for 63 yards and added a second-half reception for eight more yards.
JMU coach Curt Cignetti said he didn’t think Wells played well against Morehead State last weekend “but he brought his A game today.”
James Madison held a 345-77 edge in total yards in the first half and finished the game with a 512-194 advantage.
“They executed at a really high level and that led to a number of explosive plays, especially in the passing game, and that hurt us in a big way,” Charlton said.”We weren’t able to finish drives. We let the game get away. We have to be a lot better than that.”
UMaine’s defense allowed 14 plays of at least 15 yards, including five that went for at least 20.
Ratke’s 21-yard field goal started the scoring in the second half before Desmond Green returned a blocked punt 6 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-0.
The Black Bears finally scored with 5:07 left in the third period when Robertson threw his first career touchdown pass, a 22-yarder to Old Town’s Andre Miller.
But the Dukes added three more touchdowns on Johnson’s 25-yard pass to Scott Bracey, Lorenzo Bryant Jr.’s 6-yard run and a Francis Meehan 31-yard interception return.
Charlton was particularly disappointed with the second half.
“The first half, there was obviously some adversity there [with Fagnano’s injury]. That’s a very, very good football team over there but, in the second half, we didn’t respond the way that I thought we would.” Charlton said.
“It was a good team win,” Cignetti said. “We expected an extremely difficult game. They slugged it out with a very good Delaware team the week before. But we got the momentum early and we kept it going.”
Cignetti knew UMaine would focus on stopping the run, so JMU used some pass-run-option plays to keep the Black Bears off-balance and the Dukes’ receivers were able to win some one-on-one matchups.
Kaelon Black was JMU’s leading rusher with 55 yards on nine carries. Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey and Greg Ross had seven tackles apiece to lead the JMU defense.
Robertson completed 8 of 22 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Elijah Barnwell rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries.
Devin Young caught four passes for 13 yards and Miller had two catches for 41 yards. Shawn Bowman had two receptions for 32 yards.
Fofie Bazzie had a game-high 10 tackles and Ray Miller’s eight led UMaine.