#1 JMU Battles #2 North Dakota State Saturday for National Title
JMU Seeks Perfect 15-0 Season and Back-to-Back FCS Titles
HARRISONBURG, Va. – It all comes down to one game. The national champion will be crowned this Saturday when No. 1 JMU faces No. 2 North Dakota State in the 2018 NCAA Division I Football Championship game on Jan. 6.
Kickoff is set for noon ET (11 a.m. CT) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas and will be nationally televised on ESPN2. It will also be streamed on ESPN3 and ESPN app and can be heard on the JMU/Sprint Broadcast Network, with pregame coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET.
JMU’s run through the 2017 FCS playoffs is presented by Excel Heating and Cooling.
Saturday marks the third meeting between JMU and NDSU, as all three games have occurred in the FCS playoffs. NDSU won the initial meeting in the 2011 FCS Second Round (26-14), and JMU won the latter meeting in the 2016 FCS Semifinals (27-17). Both of those games were played in Fargo, N.D.
DUKES SEEK BACK-TO-BACK TITLES
Making their 14th FCS playoff appearance, JMU looks to repeat as the NCAA Division I national champion. The Dukes won titles in 2004 in Chattanooga and 2016 in Frisco. JMU is making its program-record fourth straight playoff berth. It is 16-11 overall in the playoffs. This is the fourth time JMU has won multiple postseason games, having gone 4-0 in both national title runs, 3-0 this year and 2-1 in the 2008 playoffs.
JMU is 2-0 on neutral ground, as both have occurred in JMU’s national championship victories. The Dukes are also 8-4 at home and 6-7 in true road games. In last year’s championship season, JMU outscored its four opponents 175-60 (43.75 to 15.0 avg). This year, the Dukes have outscored the three opponents 108-51 (36.0 to 17.0 avg). Over the past two years, JMU has had the three largest scoring outputs in the playoffs. It scored 65 against Sam Houston State and 55 versus New Hampshire in 2016, and tallied 56 against South Dakota State.
SCOUTING NORTH DAKOTA STATE
The second-seeded Bison head to Frisco sporting a 13-1 record, with their lone defeat coming at rival South Dakota State. NDSU breezed through the playoffs by outscoring opponents 135-26 (45.0 to 8.7 avg). It took home wins from San Diego (38-3), Wofford (42-10) and Sam Houston State (55-13).
For the year, NDSU leads the FCS in scoring margin, as it averages 40.3 points for while conceding 11.5 to its foes, ranking second in both categories. NDSU ranks third nationally in passing defense (147.9), fourth in interceptions (20) and seventh in rushing defense (89.2). On the other side of the ball, the Bison are fourth in rushing (282.1) and eighth in total offense (462.1). Easton Stick is one of the country’s most efficient passers this year, as he’s third in yards per completion (15.47), 10th in passing touchdowns (27) and 11th in point responsibility (16.7). All-American Nick DeLuca leads the charge in the trenches for the Bison, while Robbie Grimsley has 11 passes defended this year to earn All-America laurels.
DEFENSE FORCES 10 TURNOVERS, JMU ROUTS JACKS IN FCS SEMIS
JMU tied a FCS playoff record by forcing 10 turnovers, as it routed South Dakota State 51-16 in the FCS semifinals on Dec. 16 at Bridgeforth Stadium. The Dukes used a 30-point burst in the third quarter to pull away, and Marcus Marshall led the charge with a career-high 203 rushing yards and two touchdowns in only three quarters of work. His touchdown runs came from 65 yards and 87 yards, which was a career-long rush.
JMU’s defense produced six interceptions, tying a program record, while also recovering four fumbles. The Dukes had five takeaways in the first quarter alone, with three fumbles and two picks. Jimmy Moreland tied a program record with three interceptions, Jordan Brown had two to break the JMU single-season record and Raven Greene had a 59-yard pick-six to break the JMU career INT record. Bryan Schor passed for 203 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Riley Stapleton.
26-GAME WIN STREAK LEADS ALL NCAA
JMU’s 51-16 triumph in the FCS Semifinals marked JMU’s program-record 26th consecutive win, extending the CAA record and longest active streak in all of NCAA Division I. With Mary Hardin-Baylor’s loss in the Division III title game, JMU took over as the win-streak leader at every NCAA division.
JMU’s streak currently ranks second all-time in FCS history. The Dukes are one of two teams with active double-digit win streaks, as Celebration Bowl champion N.C. A&T has won 12 straight. As of Dec. 31, only two teams at the FBS level have won 10 or more in a row, as UCF has claimed 12 straight and FAU has won 10 consecutive. The Dukes have also won a CAA-record 18 straight league games and became the league’s first team ever to go 8-0 back-to-back years.
The Dukes last saw defeat on Sept. 24, 2016 – a 56-28 setback at ACC-foe North Carolina. JMU has also won 27 straight games against FCS opponents, with the last loss coming on Dec. 5, 2015 versus Colgate in the second round of the playoffs. The Dukes have won 17 straight at Bridgeforth Stadium and hold a program-record 10-game win streak in true road games.
ANKRAH A CONSENSUS ALL-AMERICAN
Andrew Ankrah was voted a Consensus All-American this season, having earned First Team spots on all six major All-America teams. Ankrah is a top-3 finalist for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award and a finalist for the FCS ADA Defensive Player of the Year honor. Winners for both will be announced this week in Frisco.
He has already won CAA Defensive Player of the Year and Touchdown Club of Richmond Division I Defensive Lineman of the Year honors. Ankrah has tallied 54 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. He currently ranks fourth all-time at JMU with 26.0 career sacks.
EIGHT ALL-AMERICAN DUKES
Consensus All-American Andrew Ankrah was joined by seven of his teammates on the 2017 All-America list. Aaron Stinnie garnered five All-America awards, with four coming on the First Team. Rashad Robinson earned four All-America awards. Jordan Brown, a Second Team All-CAA selection, was a First Team All-American by both the AP and HERO Sports. Raven Greene was a Second Team All-American on two lists, Kyre Hawkins earned Third Team honors from HERO and both Jahee Jackson and Harry O’Kelly were Sophomore and Freshman All-Americans, respectively.
DEFENSE RATTLES CHRISTION
Taryn Christion was a victim of nine of his team’s 10 turnovers in JMU’s semifinal win. He threw six interceptions while fumbling three times in the 51-16 loss. Both of his first quarter picks went to Jimmy Moreland. Turnovers helped JMU run away, as the Dukes accounted for 44 points on six drives between the second and third quarters.
STAPLETON’S RISE IN POSTSEASON
Riley Stapleton has been a key component in JMU’s offensive success in the playoffs. After making just 19 catches for 187 yards and two scores in the regular season, he has exploded for 16 grabs for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
In the quarterfinals, Stapleton caught eight passes for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. That total set a JMU postseason record and his 40-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth set up the game-tying two-point conversion. In the semifinals, he made two first-half touchdown catches to lead JMU to a rout victory against South Dakota State.
HOUSTON SIGNS 10-YEAR EXTENSION
Jeff Bourne announced on Dec. 12 a 10-year contract extension for Head Coach Mike Houston that will run through the 2027 season. Houston is 28-1 in his two seasons with the Dukes, having won the 2016 national championship and back-to-back CAA outright championships, to go with a NCAA-best 26-game win streak. The Dukes have been ranked No. 1 since the preseason. JMU is 12-0 against ranked teams since the start of 2016 and the Dukes opened this season with a 20-point win at FBS-foe ECU.