JMU ready for Friday Night Lights playoff matchup

Photo courtesy of JMU Athletics

The following comes directly from James Madison:

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Top-seeded James Madison hosts 11th-ranked Weber State in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA FCS playoffs on Friday, Dec. 5.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bridgeforth Stadium and will be nationally televised on ESPN 2. 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 6 p.m.

JMU’s run through the 2017 FCS playoffs is presented by Excel Heating and Cooling.

SERIES HISTORY
Friday marks the first meeting between JMU and Weber and just the third game all-time for the Dukes against a team from the Big Sky Conference. The matchup features the top teams from the CAA and Big Sky, as JMU won the outright CAA championship with an unblemished 8-0 record, while WSU shared the BSC crown before beating Southern Utah in the second round to advance.
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JMU’S PLAYOFF HISTORY
The Dukes are making their 14th FCS playoff appearance, which includes a program-record fourth straight berth. They have gone 14-11 overall with a pair of national championships – 2004 and 2016. JMU has won multiple playoff games in three postseason trips, going 4-0 in both national title runs, and 2-1 in 2008 where it reached the national semifinals. The Dukes are 6-4 all-time at home in the playoffs, including three straight wins at Bridgeforth. They are also 6-7 on the road and 2-0 in neutral-site matchups.

In last year’s run to the championship, JMU outscored its four opponents 175-60 (43.75 to 15.0 avg). That included back-to-back games recording program bests for scoring, with 55 against New Hampshire and 65 versus Sam Houston. The 65-7 win over SHSU was the second-largest margin-of-victory by any team in FCS playoff history.

ROAD TO FRISCO GOES THROUGH JMU
After going undefeated during the regular season and holding a No. 1 ranking in both polls all season long, the FCS Selection Committee awarded JMU the No. 1 seed for the 2017 NCAA FCS playoffs. It’s the second time in school history the Dukes earned the top seed (2008) and a program-record third straight year they garnered a national seed and first-round bye. JMU is making its program-record fourth straight playoff appearance in 2017.

SCOUTING WEBER STATE
The Wildcats, who won a share of the Big Sky title, comes to town sporting an 11-2 record. WSU beat Western Illinois 21-19 in the first round before dispatching No. 8 seed Southern Utah 30-13 on the road last week. The Wildcats have won seven straight entering the weekend and hold a 6-1 road record in 2017. Weber averages 34.2 points per game while conceding 16.5 per outing, which ranks 17th and 10th nationally, respectively. The Wildcats are also seventh in both interceptions (17) and takeaways (27) and ninth in red-zone defense (66.7%).

Taron Johnson was named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, as he has three interceptions and 11 passes defended. Jordan Preator leads the team with four picks and Cardon Malan is fourth in the league with 7.5 sacks up front. Stefan Cantwell has thrown for 2,740 yards and 23 touchdowns with six picks this year. Jay Hill is in his fourth season at the helm, holding a 26-22 overall record. He was previously an assistant at Utah for 13 years.

DUKES FORCE FIVE INTERCEPTIONS IN SECOND ROUND WIN
JMU tied a Division I program record with five interceptions and Bryan Schor threw two touchdown passes to help JMU to a 26-7 victory against Stony Brook in the Second Round on Dec. 2. Terrence Alls hauled in a career high 10 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. His performance marked the first time in over 13 years a JMU player has had double-digit receptions. D.D. Boxley snatched 11 on Oct. 16, 2004 at Maine.

Schor was 26-of-35 for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He moved into first place all-time at JMU in career completions, which now stands at 506. He surpassed Justin Rascati (487) after starting the game 10-for-10 through the air.
MU’s defense tied a postseason record, holding Stony Brook to just seven points. That matched the 2016 FCS quarterfinal total when the Dukes rolled Sam Houston State 65-7. It was a season-low scoring output for the Seawolves, as they hadn’t tallied less than 17 in a single game all year.

WIN STREAK AT 24, TIED FOR 2ND IN FCS HISTORY
JMU’s 26-7 triumph in the Second Round last week marked JMU’s program-record 24th consecutive triumph, which extended the CAA record and longest mark in all of Division I. The win also tied them for second all-time in FCS history, matching Penn (1992-95) and Montana (2001-02). JMU is one of four FCS teams with active double-digit win streaks. Kennesaw State, which heads to Sam Houston this week, has won 12 straight, while Celebration Bowl participants Grambling and N.C. A&T have each won 11. Only one FBS level, the lone unbeaten team in UCF has won 12 straight.

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 25 straight games against FCS opponents, with the last loss coming on Dec. 5, 2015 versus Colgate in the second round of the playoffs.

ANKRAH TOP-3 FINALIST FOR BUCHANAN
Andrew Ankrah was voted a top-three finalist for the nation’s top defensive award, the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award. The CAA Defensive Player of the Year and three-time First Team All-CAA member ranks tied for second in the CAA in tackles for loss, tied for third in forced fumbles, tied for fifth in recoveries and seventh in sacks. He is the 10th JMU finalist all-time and the first since Stephon Robertson did so in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. The Dukes have won the Buchanan twice – Derrick Lloyd (2001) and Arthur Moats (2009).

SCHOR SETS COMPLETIONS RECORD
Bryan Schor broke another program record in JMU’s playoff win over Stony Brook, setting a new benchmark in career completions. Needing just eight to take over first place, Schor opened the game completing his first 10 passes to surpass Justin Rascati (487).  Schor completed 26 passes to move over 500 for his career, as he now stands at 506 completions. Earlier this year, he set the passing TD record (59) and he is only 115 passing yards and 205 total offense shy of program records in those respective categories.

ALL EYES ON BRIDGEFORTH
JMU and Weber State will be the only televised college football game on Friday night and will be broadcasted on ESPN2. Up in the booth at Bridgeforth Stadium on Friday will be play-by-play commentator Roy Philpott and color commentator Tom Ramsey. The game will also be streamed on ESPN3 and the ESPN app.

JMU SPRINT BROADCAST NETWORK
All 11 regular-season games, as well as any postseason matchups can be heard online on the JMU/Sprint Broadcast Network or on airwaves at WSVA 550AM and 92.1 FM. Dave Thomas is in his third season as the play-by-play man for the Dukes and is joined by Clint Estes on color commentary.

UP NEXT
The winner of Saturday’s game advances to next week’s FCS semifinals against the winner of No. 5 South Dakota State and 21st-ranked New Hampshire. Should JMU win, it will automatically host the other winner by virtue of its top seed. That game will take place either Friday night or Saturday afternoon.