DiNucci & Carter earn CAA Player of the Year honors

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RICHMOND, Va. – James Madison redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci and defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter headlined the 2019 Colonial Athletic Association Football awards, as DiNucci was voted CAA Offensive Player of the Year, Carter was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year and the Dukes had 17 players earn a total of 18 all-conference accolades.

James Madison redshirt senior quarterback Ben DiNucci and defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter headlined the 2019 Colonial Athletic Association Football awards.

DiNucci is one of the nation’s most efficient passers, as he leads the country in completion percentage (70.3%) while ranking third in pass efficiency rating (175.2). During the regular season, he completed 187-of-266 passes for 2,552 yards and 22 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also rushed for 426 yards and four scores to finish with nearly 3,000 yards of offense. DiNucci is third in the CAA in passing touchdowns and fourth in total offense (248.2). He completed more than 75% of his passes in seven games and threw two or more touchdowns in eight games.

He’s the sixth JMU player to ever reel in the league’s top offensive award and the first since 2016.

Carter, a Buck Buchanan Award finalist, is one of the country’s premier pass rushers, as he ranks third nationally with 22.5 tackles for loss and 16th with 9.5 sacks. Carter tallied 53 total tackles during the regular season, which is third for the Dukes. During conference play, Carter registered 16.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He produced at least 2.0 TFL in seven games, including a career-high 6.0 at William & Mary. Carter also produced 10 quarterback hurries.

It’s the third straight season a JMU player has won the CAA’s top defensive laurel, as Carter is the program’s 11th winner of the award.

Joining DiNucci and Carter on the All-CAA First Team were junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese, redshirt junior safety and punt returner D’Angelo Amos, senior defensive lineman John Daka, junior right tackle Liam Fornadel, senior linebacker Dimitri Holloway, senior center Mac Patrick, redshirt junior kicker Ethan Ratke and senior safety Adam Smith.

Three Dukes made the All-CAA Second Team in senior receiver Brandon Polk, redshirt senior cornerback Rashad Robinson and senior tight end Dylan Stapleton. Rounding out the conference awards on the All-CAA Third Team were junior defensive lineman Mike Greene, redshirt junior running back Jawon Hamilton, redshirt junior offensive lineman Truvell Wilson and senior linebacker Landan Word.

Agyei-Obese led JMU’s rushing attack with 884 rushing yards and a league-high 15 rushing touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He ranked third in the CAA with 73.7 rushing yards per game, which included 83.1 yards per game during conference play. His rushing touchdown total was also ninth nationally. Agyei-Obese turned in four 100-yard rushing performances and had six multi-touchdown games, which included career-highs of 130 yards and three touchdowns versus New Hampshire.

Amos earned First Team honors both for his play as the team’s punt returner and starting safety. He had 24 punt returns for 364 yards and a touchdown, leading the CAA and ranking fifth nationally with a 15.2 punt return average. He also had three blocks on special teams, ranking second in the FCS. Defensively, he turned in 44 tackles, to go with 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions and three breakups. Amos tallied five or more tackles in four games.

Daka, a Buck Buchanan Award finalist, led the team with 12.5 sacks and was second with 20.5 tackles for loss. He additionally ranked fourth for JMU with 49 tackles, while also contributing two forced fumbles, eight hurries and two breakups. He ranked second in the league and seventh nationally in both TFL and sacks. All 12.5 of his sacks came in CAA play, which led all players. He also tied for first with 17.5 tackles for loss in conference outings. Daka registered at least 2.0 TFL in six games and 1.5 or more sacks in six contests.

Fornadel is a two-year starter at right tackle, Patrick is a third-year starting center and Wilson is in his first year starting at left guard, as the trio are part of a JMU line that ranks top-10 nationally in seven statistical categories.

The Dukes lead the FCS in completion percentage (69.9%) while also ranking second in scoring (42.2) and third-down conversions (54.9%), third in team pass efficiency (174.1), fourth in red-zone offense (93.7%) and on fourth down (77.9%), ninth in total offense (470.9) and 10th in rushing (249.3). JMU’s offense also leads the CAA in turnover margin (+10), first downs (290), offensive touchdowns scored (61), yards per play (6.7), yards per rush (5.4) and rushing scores (36)

Holloway leads the Dukes with 97 tackles (42 solo), to go with 6.0 tackles for loss, one sack, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and three breakups. He ranks third nationally in fumble recoveries and is eighth in the conference with 8.1 tackles per game. Holloway turned in four games with double-digit tackles and nine outings with seven or more stops.

Ratke has another year to play but has already established himself as JMU’s top placekicker and one of the best in league history. This season, he’s converted a JMU single-season record 20 field goals on 24 attempts. He’s also JMU’s career leader, with 51 made, which is tied for fourth all-time in CAA history. In the regular-season finale, he became JMU’s all-time scoring leader (282) and leads the CAA and ranks fifth in the country this year in that category (123, 10.2 avg.). Ratke also leads the conference in field-goal percentage (83.3%) and has converted 63 of 64 point-after attempts.

Smith earned his second straight First Team All-CAA nod after turning in 56 tackles and a team-best six interceptions, to go with six breakups, 1.0 tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. He ranks second in the CAA and seventh nationally in interceptions, as he produced five picks during conference play alone. Smith made an interception in four straight games and in five of the last six regular-season games. He also registered five or more tackles in six games.

Polk led JMU’s receiving corps with 55 receptions for 979 yards and nine touchdowns, which included scoring a touchdown in each of JMU’s seven final regular-season games. He ranks tied for fifth in the CAA in receiving touchdowns, sixth in receiving yards and eighth in receptions. Polk was also seventh with 17.8 yards per catch. He turned in at least four receptions in 10 of 12 games and had four 100-yard receiving games during league play.

Robinson returned after missing the entire 2018 season, producing 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions and seven pass breakups in 10 games. He registered all three of his interceptions during CAA play and had at least four tackles in six games. Robinson ranks third all-time at JMU with 13 career interceptions.

Stapleton turned in 19 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown, averaging 13.1 yards per reception. It’s the second straight season he caught 19 passes and was also part of JMU’s blocking unit that led the CAA in rushing, total offense and scoring.

Hamilton rushed for 689 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, which ranked third in the CAA. His 56.8 yards per game also ranked 10th in the conference. During CAA play, Hamilton led the league with 7.0 yards per rush and was sixth with 68.4 rushing yards per league contest. Hamilton produced two 100-yard rushing performance, including a career-high 150 at Rhode Island.

Greene was one of the league’s top interior linemen, as he turned in 43 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He ranked tied for eighth in the CAA in sacks, second among defensive tackles, trailing only Richmond’s Kobie Turner (7.0), who he shared a spot on the Third Team with. Greene turned in at least 1.5 tackles for loss in five CAA games and had a career-high 2.0 sacks against Towson.

Word tallied 37 total tackles with one sack during the regular season. He made at least three tackles in eight games, highlighted by a seven-tackle, one-sack performance in JMU’s overtime win at Stony Brook. His lone sack of the season came on third down in the extra period, setting up JMU’s fourth-down stop.

JMU led all CAA teams with a school-record 18 All-CAA selections, which included 11 First Team honors, also a program record. Villanova had 11 All-CAA picks, Towson had 10 and Maine and Richmond both tallied eight.

Second-seeded JMU has a bye for the opening week of the FCS Playoffs and begins postseason play on Saturday, Dec. 7 when it faces the winner of Holy Cross at #12 Monmouth. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Bridgeforth Stadium and will be streamed on ESPN3.