James Madison Forces 10 Turnovers, Beats SDSU to Advance to FCS Championship

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2017

A member of the staff holds up a James Madison helmet during the FCS championship NCAA college football game against Youngstown State on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Sarah Warnock)
Sarah Warnock/Associated Press

The James Madison Dukes advanced to the FCS National Championship Game on Saturday with an emphatic 51-16 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in a semifinal contest at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia. 

Undefeated James Madison improved to 14-0 due in large part to the play of running back Marcus Marshall, who rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

The Dukes also forced SDSU to commit a remarkable 10 turnovers, resulting in James Madison out-gaining the Jackrabbits 465-366.

Perhaps overshadowed in the win was the steady performance of JMU quarterback Bryan Schor, who threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score as well.

Conversely, SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion finished with 234 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions.

James Madison's win sets the stage for a highly anticipated FCS national title clash between the Dukes and 13-1 North Dakota State, which throttled Sam Houston State 55-13 on Friday.

South Dakota State was a mess in the first quarter, as each of its first five possessions ended in turnovers with three fumbles and two interceptions.

Sam Herder of Bison Illustrated wondered if the moment was too big for the Jackrabbits:

SDSU's second turnover of the game gave JMU an extremely short field, and the Dukes took advantage with a two-yard touchdown pass from Schor to Riley Stapleton to seize a 7-0 lead.

Though the Jackrabbits continued to turn the ball over early, James Madison couldn't capitalize.

After a punt and a lost fumble of its own, the Dukes forced their fifth turnover of the opening quarter with less than two minutes remaining when cornerback Jimmy Moreland reeled in his second interception of the game, as seen in this video courtesy of FCS Football:

With JMU failing to cash in on another turnover, though, South Dakota State managed to tie the game early in the second quarter when Christion threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jake Wieneke.

That would prove to be the high point for the Jackrabbits, as James Madison's offense woke up and helped the Dukes take over the game from there.

JMU scored touchdowns on each of its next two possessions with Schor and Stapleton connecting from 15 yards out, and Schor completing a one-yard quarterback sneak.

The Dukes entered the locker room with a 21-10 advantage, and they opened the floodgates even more early in the second half.

Less than one minute into the third quarter, Marshall dashed 65 yards to paydirt to make the score 28-10:

He added another touchdown on JMU's next drive from even further out, as he scampered 87 yards for the score:

James Madison extended the lead to 45-10 late in the third quarter before the defense got in on the scoring act.

Raven Greene intercepted Christion for JMU's seventh forced turnover of the game, and he returned it 59 yards for a touchdown:

With the Dukes leading 51-10 at the conclusion of the third quarter, the game had already been decided. The only question remaining was how many more turnovers JMU could force.

That was answered with 7:18 left in the game when Moreland intercepted Christion for his third pick of the game and the Dukes' 10th turnover forced overall:

James Madison's dominant performance set the stage for a battle between the past two FCS champions in the title game.

The Dukes are the defending champions after beating Youngstown State in last season's championship game, while North Dakota State won the previous five titles.

A champion will be crowned on Jan. 7 when James Madison and NDSU clash at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

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