FARGO, N.D. - In its first game indoors since 1987, No. 17 James Madison was unable to put together consistent running game and lost 26-14 at No. 4 and No. 2 national seed North Dakota State in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship, Dec. 3. With the loss, the Dukes finished the year at 8-5, while the Bison advanced to 11-1 on the season.
For the first time since the season opener at North Carolina, the Dukes did not reach the 100-yard rushing mark as a team, finishing the game with 32 carries for 67 yards. NDSU also outgained the Dukes 329-301, rushing for 219 yards in the game.
After a scoreless first quarter with only a small threat by Madison on the opening drive, NDSU got on the scoreboard first on its first drive of the second period. After getting it at their own 20, the Bison went down the field, mixing the pass and run effectively. Running back Sam Ojuri took it the final yard on the 10-play march that consumed 5:38 of the clock. Ryan Jastram put through the point after attempt and the hosts led 7-0 with just over nine minutes to play in the opening half.
Late in the half, the Dukes got things going themselves, moving the ball down the field 80 yards in 10 plays over 4:27. Redshirt-junior quarterback Justin Thorpe (Richmond, Va./Varina) hit redshirt-freshman wide receiver DeAndre' Smith (District Heights, Md./Wise) with a fade route to the left corner of the end zone that he wrestled away from the NDSU defender for the touchdown. Redshirt-sophomore kicker Cameron Starke (Halifax, Va./Halifax County (West Virginia)) put through the extra point and the game was tied at seven with 22 seconds left in the half.
JMU's ensuing kickoff was mishit and sailed out of bounds and gave NDSU the ball at the Dukes 49. From there, the Bison went to the air to move quickly into field goal range. Jastram hit a career-long field goal from 53 yards out as time expired, and the home squad went into the locker room with a 10-7 advantage.
On its second drive of the third, NDSU started on its own 39-yard line. Using a strong ground attack, the Bison moved it to the end zone on 10 plays over 5:50. Ojuri found the end zone for the second time on the day on a 6-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the margin at 16-7 with 5:13 to go in the third quarter.
After JMU was unable to convert a fourth-down attempt at the Bison' 40, NDSU got the ball back late in the fourth quarter and worked to eat up some clock. Eventually, the Dukes' defense held and forced a field goal attempt. Jastram hit his second of the day, this time from 44 yards, and the Bison led 19-7 with 9:31 to play in the game.
JMU got the ball back and used the aerial game to get on the board. Thorpe started it off with a 25-yard pass to redshirt-freshman wide receiver Daniel Brown (Windsor, Va./Isle of Wight) to get the ball at the Bison 49. Then two plays later, redshirt-senior Kerby Long (Arlington, Va./Yorktown (Fork Union) took the handoff in the wildcat formation, pulled up and threw a 35-yard strike to a wide open Thorpe for the touchdown to trim the margin to 19-14 with 7:26 left in the game.
NDSU got the ball back on its 40 after another kickoff out of bounds by the Dukes. The next play, D.J. McNorton went around the right side, broke a tackle and went in from 60 yards out for the score to put the margin back at 12, 26-14, with just over seven minutes remaining.
Redshirt-sophomore Dae'Quan Scott (Staunton, Va./Robert E. Lee) was the top rusher for JMU, carrying it 17 times for 63 yards, while Thorpe was 21-for-38-for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Redshirt-freshman Andre Coble (Richmond, Va./Meadowbrook (Fork Union)) had a career-high six catches for 34 yards. Redshirt-senior linebacker Vidal Nelson (Virginia Beach, Va./Kellam) led JMU with 12 tackles while redshirt-sophomore linebacker Stephon Robertson (Alexandria, Va./Edison) chipped in 11 stops and a pass breakup.
North Dakota State was paced by McNorton with 19 carries for 154 yards and a score, with quarterback Brock Jensen going 11-for-18 for 110 yards through the air. Wide receiver Warren Holloway was his top target, connecting with him on seven receptions for 78 yards.