FRISCO, Texas — James Madison still had one more game after dethroning the five-time defending champs in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Now the Dukes have their second national title.
The team that knocked off North Dakota State in the semifinals, and made the trip from Fargo to Frisco instead, won the FCS championship game Jan. 7. Khalid Abdullah ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns after two early TD passes by Bryan Schor as the Dukes beat Youngstown State 28-14.
“A lot of the country probably thought when we beat North Dakota State that we’d have a really great chance to win the championship,” Schor said. “Something we really focused on the whole week … we have got to earn the right to win it, and that’s something we came out and I think we did today.”
Schor threw two touchdown passes in the first 5-1/2 minutes of the game, the first after James Madison blocked a punt and the other after a shanked kick set the Dukes up at midfield.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted, and got behind the eight-ball,” Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini said. “The way we started didn’t help.”
The Dukes won their other championship in 2004, the only other time they made it to the title game.
“It means everything,” Abdullah said. “It just means that all the dreams and goals we had team came to fruition.”
Abdullah finished the season with a school-record 1,809 yards rushing and an FBS-best 22 touchdowns.
The four-time champion Penguins (12-4), who finished their second season under Youngstown native Pelini, made it to the title game for the first time since 1999. Their four titles came during the 1990s under Jim Tressel, now the school’s president after winning a national championship at Ohio State in 2002.
Abdullah’s 1-yard TD midway through the second quarter made it 21-0. He added a 2-yard score early in the third quarter, capping a drive set up by Curtis Oliver’s crazy interception after a pass that was deflected at the line ricocheted off the receiver’s toe without hitting the ground.
“At the beginning of the year, every college football program has this goal,” first-year JMU coach Mike Houston said. “The great thing about tournament play is, it’s not up to a vote system or anything like that. You go out there and play it out on the field.”
Youngstown State: The Penguins couldn’t overcome their own mistakes. The punting problems early put them in a two-touchdown hole, and their third possession ended with a botched snap on a field goal attempt. Turnovers on their only two possessions in the third quarter took away any chance of a comeback. Only Georgia Southern (six) and North Dakota State (five) have more FCS titles than Youngstown State.
James Madison: The Dukes’ defense was dominating again, with five sacks while forcing two turnovers (seven in the postseason). An interception upped their FCS-best total to 21. Youngstown State came in averaging 258 yards rushing, but had only 21 yards on 31 carries.
LOST IN TALENT
James Madison TE Jonathan Kloosterman had a 14-yard TD catch less than 3 minutes into the game. It was his fifth TD on six catches in four playoff games. He had only two TDs in the regular season. “I have such great talent around me and people tend to forget about me in the red zone,” he said.
END TO END
Youngstown State senior defensive ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss both had a sack. The Penguins set a school record with 49 sacks, led by Rivers’ 15 and Moss’ 11. “The emotion I have now is not because of the outcome of the game, it’s because my last time playing with these guys in that locker room,” said Rivers, who finished with 41 career sacks. “I wouldn’t trade the season we had for anything.”
Youngstown State will travel to ACC opponent Pittsburgh on Sept. 2 for its 2017 opener.
James Madison, whose only loss this season was at North Carolina in the third week of the season, will open its 2017 season at East Carolina on Sept. 2.
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