The James Madison Dukes seems to have a slightly different look for the 2019 college football season. The Dukes have always been a solid team on offense, but the running game has been the backbone of the offense for several years. But now, it’s Curt Cignetti’s team and if the spring game gave us a taste for the fall, there’s a new air attack in town.
JMU put up 540 yards in the two-quarter game, and 407 of those were passing yards. That’s a huge difference compared to last year when the Dukes averaged 223 passing yards per game. Senior quarterback Ben Dinucci didn’t disappoint in his showing. The Pitt transfer was 14 of 17 for 177 yards and a touchdown. His deepest completion was a 62-yard bomb to running back Solomon Vanhorse. The touchdown pass came on a 20-yard pass to Davis Patterson.
Cole Johnson also had a good day in the pocket. The junior went 9 of 17 for 145 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was an impressive 77-yard strike to Jamir Hudson. Johnson proved to be a capable back-up last year but could push for more playing time in 2019. He has a similar skill set to Dinucci and gives the JMU depth at the QB position. Sophomore Gage Moloney went 9 of 16 for 85 yards at the spring game. He’s a young passer still that will grow and could fit this new type of offense very well.
As mentioned earlier, JMU has always had a balanced offense, but the play calling during the spring game showed more aggressiveness through the air. Out of 80 plays called, 50 of those were passing plays. The running game put up a respectable 133 yards, but the passing game was favored more. New offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery usually brings a balanced offensive attack, but he obviously has seen something in the quarterbacks this spring. And seeing good quarterback talent is nothing new to Montgomery either. He coached Ben Roethlisberger while at Miami (OH).
Overall, JMU had a very nice spring game and should head into the summer with high expectations. Even with the new coaching staff, the Dukes will be a top contender again in the CAA and another FCS Playoff trip is highly likely. James Madison will kick off the season on Aug. 31 against the West Virginia Mountaineers. A team that ranked 106th in the FBS last season in giving up 259 passing yards per game.