ELON, N.C. (JMU Athletics) -- Behind a dominant rushing attack which saw James Madison gain 336 yards on the ground, the second-ranked Dukes bulldozed their way to a 45-10 victory at #24 Elon on Saturday afternoon at Rhodes Stadium.
Curt Cignetti returns to his old stomping grounds to face Elon
The Dukes improved to 4-1 on the year and 1-0 in Colonial Athletic Association play, while the Phoenix fell to 2-3 and 1-1. JMU also remained unbeaten at Rhodes Stadium, moving to 3-0 all-time at Elon.
JMU had four rushers with at least 50 yards, led by Jawon Hamilton, who ran for a season-best 81 yards and a touchdown. Latrele Palmer had the best outing of his young career, running eight times for 78 yards (9.8 avg.) and two touchdowns. Solomon Vanhorse tallied 63 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Percy Agyei-Obese added 59 yards. Additionally, of JMU's 56 rushes, none were for negative gain, as it averaged 6.0 yards per rush as a team.
Ben DiNucci was 13-of-21 for 185 passing yards while rushing for 26 yards and a score. He also moved into JMU's career top 10 for passing yards, as he now stands at 3,341. DiNucci had balance through the air, as three receivers had three receptions. Jake Brown had a team-high 53 yards, which included a 42-yard catch. Devin Ravenel had 40 receiving yards, and Riley Stapleton contributed 44 receiving yards.
After a touchdown on Elon's opening drive, JMU's defense shut down the Phoenix, allowing just 152 more yards over their final 11 drives. JMU had a +303 advantage on the ground, limiting Elon to only 33 yards and 1.4 per carry. The Dukes had 10 tackles for loss and five sacks, led by John Daka, who tied his career high with a pair of sacks. Jalen Green achieved his first career sack, finishing with 1.5, and Ron'Dell Carter had a solo sack. JMU's five sacks resulted in a loss of 40 yards for Elon.
After missing all of last season to an injury, Rashad Robinson stepped in front of a Davis Cheek pass to record his first interception in 659 days, as he moved into a tie for seventh all-time with 11 career picks. JMU also recorded its third block of the season, as MJ Hampton blocked a punt in the second half.
Elon led 7-0 after a 66-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, but the Dukes answered less than 2:30 later with the equalizer, sparking a 38-point run through the end of the third quarter. Leading 31-7 in the third, Hampton blocked a punt, setting up a JMU touchdown four plays later to make it 38-7. In the fourth, Robinson's interception set up JMU's final scoring drive to make it a five-touchdown win.
A NEW KICKING KING AT JMU
Ethan Ratke now stands alone atop the field goal charts at JMU, as he kicked home a 44-yard field goal with 12:19 to play in the third quarter. It was his 40th career field goal, passing former leader John Coursey, who made 39 from 1993-96.
The 44-yard field goal matched his season long from last week at Chattanooga and was tied for the second-longest field goal in his career.
ADDITIONAL GAME FACTS
JMU out-gained Elon 521 to 227, which included 336 to 33 on the ground.
The Dukes averaged 6.7 yards per play, as opposed to Elon's 4.1.
The Dukes did not have one negative play from scrimmage, while forcing 10.0 TFLs and 5.0 sacks.
JMU converted 8-of-13 on third down, and Elon was only successful on 3-of-14 tries.
The Dukes dominated the time of possession by a margin of 34:23 to 25:37.
JMU more than doubled up Elon on first downs, 28-13.
Harry O'Kelly averaged a career-best 51.7 yards per punt, which was his best average with at least three punts in a game.
JMU's average starting field position in the second half was its own 48, which was 22 yards better than Elon's starting field position in the third and fourth.
Elon was paced by Cheek, who passed for 189 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He completed just 44% of his passes, going 14-of-32. Robinson's interception was Cheek's first pick in 241 pass attempts.
Avery Jones had game highs of six catches for 93 yards, which included Elon's opening-possession score.
JMU closes its three-game road trip on Saturday, Oct. 5 with a trip to Stony Brook. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised on SNY and streamed through FloFootball. It will also be JMU's second trip to LaValle Stadium and the first since 2014.