JMU seeks first national semifinals appearance since 2008

The following comes directly from James Madison University:

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Advancing to the FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals for the fifth time in school history after topping New Hampshire 55-22, fourth-seeded James Madison gears up for a prime-time battle against fifth-seeded Sam Houston State inside Bridgeforth Stadium on Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.

Saturday marks the first-ever meeting between JMU and Sam Houston State. This is the second straight year the Dukes have faced a new FCS team in the postseason, having hosted Colgate in the second round of the 2015 playoffs. A third of JMU’s 21 all-time playoff games have been against a new opponent, going 3-4 in those games. In 2011, JMU played first games at Eastern Kentucky and at North Dakota State.

The most famous first meeting came on Dec. 17, 2004, when JMU defeated Montana 31-21 to win the national championship.

Though it is JMU’s first game versus SHSU, it is not the first time the Dukes have played a Southland Conference team. They played McNeese State back in 1995 and 1996, going 1-1 in those contests.

The Bearkats enter Saturday’s quarterfinal game with the only undefeated record in FCS, coming to town with a 12-0 record. The Southland Conference champions advanced with a 41-36 win against Chattanooga and are 14-6 in the postseason since 2011. The Kats, along with North Dakota State, are the only FCS teams to have accrued double-digit playoff wins in that span.

Jeremiah Briscoe became the FCS’s all-time leader in single-season touchdown passes, with 57. He threw for 363 yards and five touchdowns and one interception. Briscoe, a finalist for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, has thrown for 4,459 yards and 57 touchdowns with a 66 percent success rate.

Remus Bulmer and Corey Avery have combined for 1,553 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Three receivers have over 900 yards and 10 or more touchdowns, led by Yedidiah Louis, who has 1,113 yards and 14 touchdowns. Nathan Stewart has 951 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Davion Davis has 927 yards and 10 scores. The Bearkats lead the country in scoring (53.1) and total offense (570.4), while ranking second in passing average (385.8).

K.C. Keeler is in his third season at the helm, going 34-9 with the Bearkats and accumulating a 208-82-1 career record. He’s led SHSU to the FCS semifinals in each of the previous two seasons.

He is no stranger to JMU, having served as Delaware’s head coach from 2002-12. He is 4-4 all-time against JMU. Keeler won the 2003 national championship and coached in the title games in both 2007 and 2010.

JMU and Sam Houston are vying for a spot in the national semifinals on Friday night and it will be in front of a national audience on ESPN2. It is JMU’s first Friday night game since hosting Montana in the 2008 FCS semifinals. This will also be the only college football game to be played on Friday.

JMU advanced to the FCS quarterfinals for the fifth time in school history and for the first time since 2008. The Dukes won their quarterfinal matchups in both 2004 (14-13 at Wofford) and 2008 (31-27 vs. Villanova) while falling in the 1991 and 1995 quarters.

JMU also improved to 3-0 in the playoffs against CAA teams, having previously beaten Villanova (2008 QF) and William & Mary (2004 SF). JMU upped its FCS playoffs record to 10-11 all-time with its first postseason victory since 2011.

JMU rolled to a 55-22 victory against New Hampshire in the second round of the FCS playoffs and multiple records fell in the process. It was not only the most points JMU has scored against UNH, but the most by the Dukes in a playoff game. The 33-point win was also the largest margin of victory for JMU against the Wildcats and versus any playoff opponent.

Individually, Bryan Schor passed for a playoff-record 371 yards and five touchdowns. His five touchdown tosses were one off the FCS playoffs record. Brandon Ravenel also caught eight receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns, setting the JMU playoff record for receiving yards. It was also the first time two players went over 100 yards in the postseason, as Terrence Alls added 126 receiving yards.

JMU earned a top-4 seed by virtue of going undefeated in CAA play for just the second time in program history. The Dukes beat the CAA’s other three playoff teams – Villanova, New Hampshire and Richmond – all on the road.

In JMU’s history, it has previous playing experience with four of the other remaining seven teams, having faced three of them during postseason play. The Dukes have a win against Wofford (2008) and losses to Youngstown State (2006) and North Dakota State (2011).

Last week, JMU played its third playoff game on a December 3, picking up its first win on that date after losing meetings at Marshall (L, 21-35) in 1994 and at NDSU (L, 14-26) in 2011. This will be the first time in program history JMU has played a game on December 9.