The Collegian
Friday, February 23, 2024

Costly interceptions, fumbles and drops abound as Spiders lose big to JMU, 63-10

<p>First-year running back Aaron Dykes runs through the JMU defense Saturday afternoon.&nbsp;</p>

First-year running back Aaron Dykes runs through the JMU defense Saturday afternoon. 

Richmond was no match for No. 2-ranked James Madison on Saturday as the Dukes easily beat the Spiders, 63-10, at Robins Stadium.

Even though Richmond was outmatched against the No. 2 team in the Football Championship Subdivision, costly turnovers, drops and other mistakes by the Spiders destroyed any momentum and proved to be too debilitating for the team.

After the game, JMU head coach Mike Houston offered praise of Richmond. 

“I thought they had a great game plan to try to shut our running game down and make us throw the football,” Houston said. “They really challenged us.”  

The Dukes started the game strong by scoring a touchdown on the opening kickoff. Following that, Richmond and JMU continued to battle back and forth during the first quarter. Neither team could put together a long drive and two back-to-back interceptions from both quarterbacks added to a slow first quarter. 

The Spiders held JMU scoreless for the rest of the first quarter. 

Heading into the second quarter with a 7-3 lead, the Dukes eventually found their offensive rhythm behind the passing game of quarterback Ben DiNucci and never looked back. 

DiNucci, who finished the game with three touchdowns and 248 yards, led the Dukes on a 78-yard drive for a touchdown. He completed all four passing attempts on the drive and was accurate throughout the contest. 

JMU led Richmond 14-3 early in the second quarter. The Spiders were still close, but they kept hurting their chances with costly mistakes. Richmond quarterback Kevin Johnson threw his second interception, and it was returned 100 yards for a touchdown this time, tying a Colonial Athletic Association record.

The Spiders’ first-half woes continued from there.

DiNucci again led the Dukes down the field for another touchdown drive, resulting in a 28-3 lead. After tight end Stephon Jacob scored Richmond’s lone touchdown for the game, it was all JMU. 

With under two minutes remaining in the half, JMU running back Trai Sharp broke off a long run down the sideline before being forced out of bounds in the red zone. DiNucci took that opportunity to throw his second touchdown pass, stretching JMU’s lead to 35-10. 

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Richmond did not find more success on their final drive of the first half. A drop in the end zone by wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson derailed any chance of closing the gap. The Spiders trailed 35-10 at halftime. 

The lone bright spot of the first half for Richmond was first-year running back Aaron Dykes. On the game, Dykes carried the ball 13 times for 53 total yards. Dykes, who looked good running inside and bouncing outside, received more carries than older running backs Gordon Collins and Jay Palmer. 

The second half started for Richmond just as badly as the first had ended. 

Johnson threw his third interception on the first drive. On the next offensive possession for Richmond, JMU defensive end John Daka sacked Johnson and forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Dukes. 

DiNucci and the other members of the Dukes’ offense wasted no time scoring on a 35-yard touchdown pass. Then, on the very next kickoff, the Spiders fumbled the ball at Richmond’s 10-yard line. JMU recovered the ball and easily scored in one play, pushing the team's lead to 39 points. 

Midway through the third quarter, the contest was decided. The Dukes continued to score on the Spiders, though, adding two more touchdowns. 

For Richmond, the bad far outweighed the good. The Spiders’ five turnovers resulted in too many points for the Dukes and the game getting out of hand.

Richmond is now 2-3 overall on the season and 0-2 in Colonial Athletic Association standings. The Spiders will look to bounce back against the University of Delaware next Saturday at home. 

“This is a great rivalry, and there is tradition that goes back for so long between these two schools, and that is a very talented Richmond football team,” Houston said. “I think they are one of the more talented teams in this league, and I know that the score may not show that today, but they are capable of beating anybody in this league.” 

Contact sports writer Jacob Taylor at

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