#2 JMU squashes the Ticks
James Madison won its fourth CAA conference title in five years on Saturday by beating Richmond 48-6. Ben DiNucci, JMU’s quarterback, gave us the perfect summary of this game (and this rivalry’s recent history) with his team up 31-6 late in the 3rd quarter:
The bulldozing of a defender when you’re up by 24 is reckless, as JMU Head Coach Curt Cignetti pointed out after the game. But it was a great image of the Dukes’ dominance of Richmond. The Dukes have won six of the last seven meetings, including the last four. They have won by 35 or more points in three of those games. Richmond has not led the Dukes since the 2nd quarter of their matchup in 2017.
The Dukes just ran over the Spiders, both literally and figuratively. But they did so not with the sort of animosity you would expect from a heated rivalry. They did so like DiNucci ran over that Spider defender: recklessly, definitively and without feeling.
Not that Richmond didn’t have a chance. Early in the first quarter, the Spiders drove 87 yards to JMU’s nine-yard line and looked poised to take a lead. Here’s what happened on the next three plays:
(1) Joe Mancuso, Richmond’s redshirt junior QB, found Charlie Fessler in the middle of the field. Fessler turned up field, broke a tackle, and dove for the goal line. But JMU corner Wesley McCormick poked the ball free and JMU recovered in the endzone.
(2) DiNucci threw an absolutely beautiful ball to a streaking, wide open Brandon Polk for an 80-yard touchdown.
(3) Richmond fumbled the ensuing kickoff and JMU kicker Camden Wise scooped it up to set up a Duke FG.
The three-play sequence didn’t decide the game, but it certainly defined it. Richmond kept making mistakes and James Madison kept making them pay. A Spider personal foul led to a Dukes TD four plays later. A sack and illegal formation forced Richmond to settle for a FG, then JMU marched down for a TD to make it 24-3. Right before the half, the Spiders were within two yards of a touchdown. Mancuso missed a wide open tight end on the goal line and got sacked so Richmond settled for a field goal.
The game really encapsulated where this rivalry is right now. JMU is so good that Richmond needs to be perfect to beat them and, unfortunately, the Spiders are far from perfect.
The separation between the teams seems to have chilled the rivalry a bit. I asked redshirt senior DB Rashad Robinson about the rivalry after the game. Robinson is one of just three Dukes to experience a loss to Richmond in his career and went to high school 15 minutes away from Richmond.
“Well, I mean, it’s an in-state rival. At the beginning of the year, we always want to win the state. Richmond has always been a rival here,” said Robinson. “You don’t want to lose to your rival. No matter what their record is, it’s always a rivalry, so it’s going to be a big game regardless.”
That’s it? Robinson’s sterile answer made me think of what rivalries actually mean to players. As Robinson began to speak, DiNucci, who transferred from Pitt last year, whispers off mic to Polk, a transfer from Penn State, that he “can’t answer that.” Both of them have been in Harrisonburg just a year after all.
To the Dukes’ players, Richmond is just another opponent to crush, just another obstacle on the way to the ultimate goal. JMU doesn’t need the extra motivation or hate. They just need to go about their business and they’ll probably win.