Dukes squander first-half lead, fall to Sam Houston in FCS Semifinal

The James Madison football team’s 2021 spring season came to an end Saturday in the semifinals...
The James Madison football team’s 2021 spring season came to an end Saturday in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.(WHSV)
Updated: May. 8, 2021 at 7:17 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The James Madison football team’s 2021 spring season came to an end Saturday in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

The No. 3 seed Dukes suffered a 38-35 loss to No. 2 seed Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas.

James Madison jumped out to a 24-3 lead at halftime behind three second-quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Cole Johnson accounted for all three scores with a one-yard TD run and a pair of touchdown passes to Antwane Wells and Clayton Cheatham. Johnson finished the game 16-of-26 passing for 271 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Wells hauled in seven catches for 89 yards and a score while running back Percy Agyei-Obese led the rushing attack with 98 yards on 24 carries.

Sam Houston responded to take the lead by outscoring JMU 28-3 in the third quarter. The Bearkats scored three touchdowns within the last three minutes of the frame to go in front, 31-27. Quarterback Eric Schmid ran for a 20-yard touchdown while also throwing a 69-yard TD pass to Jequez Ezzard. Ezzard also returned a punt 80 yards for a score in the quarter. Schmid accounted for 273 total yards and three total touchdowns for Sam Houston.

JMU-Sam Houston Stats Comparison
JMU-Sam Houston Stats Comparison(WHSV)

The teams traded scores in the fourth quarter with Schmid scoring on an 11-yard TD run before Johnson found Scott Bracey for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Following a successful two-point conversion run by Johnson, JMU trailed Sam Houston 38-35 with 10:14 remaining in the game.

However, neither team would score again. Gage Moloney entered the game at quarterback for James Madison late in the contest due to a thumb injury suffered by Johnson on the two-point conversion. Moloney was sacked on a critical third down play with under three minutes to go which led to a 51-yard field goal attempt by Connor Madden. Madden’s kick was wide left. In his postgame press conference, JMU head coach Curt Cignetti says Madden attempted the kick due to it being out of range for JMU’s starting kicker, Ethan Ratke. Ratke made a career-long 48-yard field goal earlier in the contest.

James Madison appeared to get the ball back at about its own 10-yard line with 26 seconds remaining following a Sam Houston punt but a personal foul penalty against JMU on the play led to the Bearkats receiving a first down and they were able to run out the clock and secure the victory.

Watch “TJ’s Three Takeaways” from Saturday’s FCS Semifinal here:

DIGITAL EXTRA: TJ's Three Takeaways - vs. Sam Houston (5/8/21)

James Madison finishes the 2021 spring season with a 7-1 overall record. Sam Houston advances to play top-seeded South Dakota State in the FCS National Championship next Sunday (May 16) in Frisco, Texas.

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