DiNucci's bounce-back performance leads No. 9 Dukes to win over Rhode Island

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HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Behind a five-touchdown performance by redshirt junior quarterback Ben DiNucci, ninth-ranked James Madison outlasted Rhode Island for a 48-31 Colonial Athletic Association Football victory on Saturday afternoon at Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field.

The Dukes improve to 7-3 on the year and 5-2 in CAA play while the Rams fell to 5-5 and 3-4. It also marked JMU’s ninth straight win over URI in the series.

QUICK RECAP
---JMU scored three straight touchdowns to bridge the first and second quarters and added two late field goals in the first half to grab a 27-14 lead at the break.
---URI and JMU traded scores all through the second half and the Rams never drew closer than 10 down the stretch.
---DiNucci was 18-of-25 for 227 passing yards and a career-high four touchdowns, to go with a pair of interceptions. He also rushed for 44 yards and a score, marking his second career game with five total touchdowns.
---The Dukes rushed for 192 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per rush. Seniors Cardon Johnson and Trai Sharp led the way with 73 and 62 rushing yards, respectively. Johnson added a third-quarter touchdown to move into 10th place all-time in career rushing touchdowns.
---Three Dukes had at least four receptions, led by redshirt freshman Kyndel Dean, who had a JMU-best five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
---Redshirt junior Riley Stapleton tallied four receptions for 35 yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt sophomore Jake Brown made four grabs for 55 yards.
---Defensively, JMU was led by junior linebacker Landan Word, who made a game-high 10 tackles, matching his career best. Redshirt junior Ron’Dell Carter and redshirt senior Darrious Carter each made 1.5 sacks, and junior John Daka added a sack of his own in the win.
---Redshirt senior corner Jimmy Moreland picked off his fifth pass of the season to tie himself atop the CAA leaders in the interceptions department.
---URI was led by JaJuan Lawson, who passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns, with Marven Beauvais reeling in all three passing scores.

MEMORIES MADE AT BRIDGEFORTH
Saturday marked the final regular-season home game for JMU’s 11 seniors, as the group won for the 44th time in 52 games. The JMU seniors have gone 26-3 over the past four seasons at Bridgeforth Stadium.

Tabb Patrick was commissioned into the Army during halftime of Saturday’s game and later made his first career fumble recovery in the second half on special teams.
After the win, senior kicker Tyler Gray stood at midfield, surrounded by his teammates, and proposed to his girlfriend Abby.

CAREER WATCH
Jimmy Moreland nearly returned an interception for a touchdown right before halftime, as he has five in 2018 and 18 for his career, extending his JMU career record.

Cardon Johnson ran in a third-quarter touchdown to up his career total to 24, as he now ranks tied for 10th all-time at JMU in rushing scores.
Tyler Gray converted two field goals to move into a tie for sixth with Ethan Ratke with 28 career field goals. He also tacked on six extra points to slide up into fifth place with 216 career points.

CAA TITLE RACE
Entering next weekend’s regular-season finale, five teams are still in the running to claim the 2018 CAA championship. Maine (6-1) controls its own destiny, having already clinched at least a share of the title. The Black Bears need a win over Elon next Saturday at home to win it outright.

Should Elon win, the winner of JMU and Towson would share the crown, while wins by Stony Brook over Albany and Delaware over Villanova would allow those teams to share the conference title.

UP NEXT
JMU closes the regular season next Saturday, Nov. 17 at No. 20 Towson. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Johnny Unitas Stadium and it will be streamed live through CBS Digital and College Sports Live.