By Marc Weems
With Youngstown State University looking to win their fifth Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) championship, the James Madison University Dukes stood in their way.
JMU defeated YSU 28-14 as they beat the Penguins in every aspect of the game.
“I’m disappointed, but I congratulate James Madison,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “It didn’t start the way we wanted. We got behind the eight-ball, but they’re a good football team. Our start didn’t help.”
JMU was able to get to the Penguins early as linebacker Justin Wellons blocked YSU’s punter Mark Schuler and it was returned to the 24-yard line.
Two plays later, JMU tight end Jonathan Kloosterman caught a 14-yard pass from quarterback Bryan Schor to put JMU up 7-0 with 12:10 left in the first quarter.
After a shanked punt by Schuler, JMU marched down the field.
Originally, a pass from Schor to wide receiver Rashard Davis was ruled incomplete, but was overturned. That 18-yard touchdown gave JMU a 14-0 lead with 9:37 left in the first quarter.
After a nice drive which started with a 37-yard kickoff return by YSU tailback Jody Webb, a bad snap led to a fumble by holder Schuler, and JMU took over at their own 36-yard line.
“We’ve seen them on film. They did what they did on film,” YSU quarterback Hunter Wells said. “But you’ve got to be able to adapt to that change, and obviously we didn’t.”
The first quarter ended with JMU leading YSU 14-0. The Penguins were only able to gain 26 yards to JMU’s 100 yards.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way,” Pelini said about making mistakes. “We had a young man make a mistake, and that’s just the way that goes.”
Pelini also said that after all these are just young kids, and that’s the way the game is played.
After another unsuccessful drive by YSU, Schuler pinned JMU back deep, but YSU was unable to keep the Dukes back.
Schor quickly hit two receivers on deep throws to put them within the red zone.
After Schor set JMU up, running back Khalid Abdullah ran the ball in from 2 yards out to put JMU up 21-0 with 8:17 left in the second quarter.
Abdullah’s touchdown set the JMU career rushing touchdown mark as that was his 44th career rushing touchdown.
JMU took over at their own 7-yard line, after a 67-yard punt by Schuler.
After YSU was able to get a piece of JMU’s Gunnar Kane punt, they got the ball at JMU’s 30-yard line.
Just two plays later, Wells connected with tight end Shane Kuhn to cut YSU’s deficit to 21-7 with 3:35 left in the second quarter.
The end of the first half stayed at 21-7 in favor of JMU. YSU would receive the ball in the second half after mustering just 88 total first-half yards.
YSU’s string of bad luck continued when JMU intercepted a pass by Wells that deflected off a Penguins’ receiver and was caught by JMU cornerback Curtis Oliver.
That interception, plus a 15-yard pass interference penalty, set up JMU around YSU’s 5-yard line. Three plays later, Abdullah scored from 2 yards away to put JMU up 28-7 with 10:10 left in the third quarter.
The score at the end of the third quarter was 28-7 in favor of JMU.
“The emotion I have now is not because of the outcome, but I’m going to miss these guys,” YSU defensive end Derek Rivers said. “Honestly man, I wouldn’t trade this season we had for anything.”
YSU’s Jeremiah Braswell caught a pass from Wells to cut the deficit to 28-14, but it was too little, too late for YSU as they came up short.
YSU out gained JMU by a count of 292 to 253 yards, respectively.
JMU’s Abdullah was named player of the game with 101 yards and two touchdowns.