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FCS Playoff Review: James Madison 17, Northern Iowa 0


STATS FCS Senior Editor

The Score - No. 2 seed James Madison (13-1) beat Northern Iowa (10-5) 17-0 in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

Story Line - UNI, whose injury-riddled offense managed only two offensive touchdowns in three playoff games, was suffocated by James Madison's defense, managing just 114 yards - the second-fewest of coach Mark Farley's 19 seasons - while getting shut out by an FCS opponent for the first time since it fell 38-0 to Montana in the 2001 national semifinals. Making it worse, the Dukes' offense lived in UNI territory. Quarterback Ben DiNucci was quite efficient in the first half, throwing for a first-quarter touchdown to Brandon Polk (a 15-yarder) for the only points the CAA champ needed.

Game Ball - Give it to JMU's entire defense while noting a standout at each level: defensive end John Daka (two of the Dukes' five sacks against UNI's Will McElvain, forced fumble), linebacker Dmitri Holloway (team-high eight tackles, including 3½ for loss) and safety D'Angelo Amos (three tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery). The Dukes didn't allow UNI to cross midfield until 1:29 remained in the game.

Key Stats - The fact UNI had two defenders with double-figure tackles by halftime suggested its defense was on the field too long. The Dukes owned 42 minutes, 9 seconds of game clock, kept the Panthers to zero net rushing yards and posted a ridiculous 139-1 advantage in total yards in the first quarter to set the tone. Running back Percy Agyei-Obese rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 33 carries.

The Takeaway - With 11 straight home wins, it's going to take a lot to keep the Dukes from Frisco, Texas. Only one opponent has been over the century mark against the FCS' top-rated rushing defense, and a decided advantage there usually reflects in the second half when their defenders are more rested than the opponent's. However, the Dukes failed to score in three straight trips to the UNI red zone, and that's something coach Curt Cignetti's squad can't afford to happen again.

Up Next - James Madison will host No. 3 seed Weber State (11-3) in a national semifinal Dec. 21. In their only previous meeting in the 2017 quarterfinals, the Dukes beat the Wildcats 31-28 on a game-ending field goal. Last month, the two schools announced a home-and-home series for 2021 and '22.

Updated December 14, 2019

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