AMHERST, Mass. - In an important game for its playoff hopes, No. 19 James Madison put up 24 first-half points and rode it to 34-17 Colonial Athletic Association victory at Massachusetts, Nov. 19. The Dukes finished the regular season at 7-4 and 5-3 in league play and the Minutemen wrap up at 5-6 in their final season of Football Championship Subdivision play before moving to FBS next year. JMU will awaits its fate tomorrow (Nov. 20) as the NCAA Division I Football Championship field is announced on ESPNU at 10 a.m.
Redshirt sophomore Dae'Quan Scott rushed for a career-high and team season-high 251 rushing yards and 11th 200-yard game in school history. It was the second-most single-game rushing yards in school history, surpassed only by Warren Marshall's 264 yards against William & Mary in 1986. He also surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, finishing the game with 1,166 yards.
After forcing a 3-and-out on UMass' first drive, the Dukes got the ball on the Minutemen 48 after a short punt into a stiff wind. From there, the Dukes went to work on the ground, with three long combined runs by Scott and redshirt freshman Jordan Anderson. On the sixth play, Anderson plunged in from the 1-yard line for the score. Redshirt sophomore kicker Cameron Starke knocked through the point after and Madison led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
On the ensuing drive, UMass went back on second down to pass and pressure from redshirt senior defensive end D.J. Bryant forced quarterback Kellen Pagel to throw off his back foot. Redshirt senior cornerback Mike Allen picked it off at the UMass 44, picked up several blocks and returned it for a touchdown. It was Allen's second interception of the year and first career defensive touchdown, giving JMU an early 14-0 lead.
JMU forced a UMass punt at the Dukes 48, but the rugby punt hit a Madison player and UMass recovered it at the JMU 16. From there, UMass was unable to punch it in the end zone on three plays from the Dukes' 6. Kicker Brandon Yelovich hit the 20-yard field goal attempt to trim the margin to 14-3 with 1:55 to play in the first quarter.
The Dukes answered with a score of their own on the next drive, going on an 11-play, 56-yard march down the field. However, JMU could not find the end zone and Starke was forced to try a 25-yard field goal, which split the uprights for a 17-3 lead with just under 11 minutes to go in the half.
The Madison offense continued to move down the field efficiently on its next drive, going the 80 yards in eight plays. To cap off the drive, Scott scooted through the line, picking up two solid blocks at the line of scrimmage and downfield, and scored from 18 yards out to push the Dukes' lead to 24-3 with 5:07 to play in the first half.
After stopping JMU on its first possession of the second half, Massachusetts moved down the field quickly for a score. On the first play, Pagel hit running back Jonathan Hernandez in the left flat and the back broke two tackles and went 53 yards to go to the Dukes' 11. On the next play, Alan Williams took it in for the touchdown, with the point after trimming the lead to 24-10 with 11:25 to go in the half.
On the next offensive play, Scott went around the left side of the line, got blocking on the edge, and ran 76 yards for the touchdown to put the Dukes up 31-10. The rush put Scott over the 100-yard mark in a game for the seventh time this season.
UMass responded with 13-play, 72-yard drive over 4:05 to put points on the board again. This time, Pagle found tight end Rob Blanchflower open in the right flat and he went into the end zone from nine yards out. The point after was good and the lead was again back down to 14 at 31-17 with just under seven minutes to play in the third.
Madison made it a three-score game on a drive early in the fourth quarter. The Dukes were stopped short of the end zone, but Starke hit on his fourth-straight field goal, this one from 38 yards out, to make it a 34-17 lead for JMU with just under 12 minutes to go in the contest.
UMass tried to close the final gap with a drive late in the game, but the fourth-down pass from the JMU 6 was incomplete, giving the ball back to Madison with 17-point lead. From there, the Dukes ran out the clock for the win.
For the game, JMU outgained the hosts 427-304, including limiting the Minutemen to just 68 yards on the ground. JMU's 386 rushing yards were a season best, the most rushing yards given up by Minutemen this season and the first time since 2008 UMass allowed 300 yards rushing in a game. The Dukes held a significant time of possession advantage, holding the ball for 37:27 of the game's 60 minutes, including 31:31 of the final three quarters. Madison also converted 8-of-14 on third down conversions.
Anderson also added to the rushing attack, with 20 carries for 81 yards and one score, with redshirt junior quarterback Justin Thorpe had eight carries for 46 yards. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Stephon Robertson led the Dukes with 11 tackles on the game, all solos, including one sack.
Robertson's impact was felt by UMass' leading rusher Jonathan Hernandez, who entered the game among the league's leaders at more than 100 yards per game. For the contest, Hernandez was limited to just 47 yards on 15 carries, a 3.1 yards per carry average, and three catches for 61 yards. Pagel finished the game going 20-for-36 for 236 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, with wide receiver Julian Talley his main target with six receptions for 57 yards.
This was the second-straight win for JMU in Amherst in the final FCS meeting between the two schools. For the regular season, Madison was 4-1 at Bridgeforth Stadium and 3-3 on the road, including 3-2 in FCS contests.