WHSV Sports Presents: Road To Frisco

By  | 

FRISCO, TX (Press Release) -- After knocking off five-time defending national champion North Dakota State to earn a berth in the NCAA FCS championship game, No. 4 James Madison travels to Frisco, Texas, to battle Youngstown State for the national title inside Toyota Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 7.

The Dukes and Penguins are not regular foes, having not played in a decade. Saturday marks the fifth meeting all-time, with YSU leading 3-1.

The teams last met on Nov. 25, 2006 in the first round of the playoffs - a 35-31 Youngstown win. The Dukes led 31-20 early in the fourth, but YSU scored 15 straight, including the game-winning touchdown with 1:12 to play in regulation.

Prior to the 2006 meeting, the programs met in three straight years from 1990-1992. After Youngstown won the first meeting in Harrisonburg and second in Youngstown, the Dukes captured a 52-49 triumph at YSU on Sept. 26, 1992 for their only win in the series.

It is also JMU's second straight game against a Missouri Valley Football Conference foe. The Dukes have never faced a MVC team not named Youngstown State or North Dakota State.

The Penguins enter Saturday's title bout with a 12-3 record and seeking their fifth-ever national championship. YSU won four national championships in the 1990s, claiming the 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 titles under the leadership of Jim Tressel.

The Penguins average 28.5 points per game while allowing 19.4 per outing. Over the last five games, YSU has averaged just over 42 points per contest, including 37 points on average in the four playoff wins.

Youngstown boasts a strong rush defense, allowing under 130 yards on the ground per game, helping it rank ninth in FCS in scoring defense. It is also ninth in sacks per game, averaging 3.1. YSU's rushing offense has been stellar too, ranking seventh with an average of nearly 260.

Jody Webb is the ninth-best all-purpose player in America, averaging 160 yards per game. He averages 6.14 yards per carry. Martin Ruiz and Tevin McCaster have combined for 23 touchdowns, while Webb and Ruiz have both gone over 1,000 rushing yards.

Bo Pelini is in his second season at the helm, garnering a 17-9 record with the Penguins. Prior to YSU he spent seven years at Nebraska where he went 66-27.

It was fitting that North Dakota State's 22-game playoff win streak, which began with a 2011 second-round win against JMU, ended at the hands of the Dukes. That was the case on Dec. 16 when JMU walked out of the electric Fargodome with a 27-17 victory, thus advancing to the national championship game for the second time ever.

The win, JMU's 11th straight this year, put a halt on the Bison's drive for a sixth straight championship and ended NDSU's undefeated win streak at home in the postseason. It was the Bison's first loss all-time in the FCS playoffs at home in 19 games.

Khalid Abdullah rushed for a game-high 180 yards and added 51 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Bryan Schor threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

After NDSU rallied from a 17-0 deficit, Tyler Gray hit a career-long 45-yard field goal - the longest field goal in JMU playoff history - to give the Dukes a 20-17 lead with 11:46 to play. Following a JMU defensive stop, Abdullah ran 55 yards to put the Dukes in scoring position. Three plays later, Schor connected with John Miller on a 25-yard touchdown to make it 27-17 with less than seven minutes to play.

JMU's win at top-seeded NDSU grabbed the attention of many around the country and the numbers speak volumes of how difficult it is to win there.

Arguably the loudest venue in FCS football - no lie, it's deafening - JMU snapped the Bison's 18-game FCS home playoff win streak, becoming the first team to eliminate NDSU on its home field. The streak of 18 began with a 2011 victory over JMU, ironically.

The Bison had also won 22 straight playoff games dating back to their first title run in 2011 and it was the first time in 46 games that a non-conference opponent defeated NDSU in Fargo, dating back to 2003. JMU also became just the fourth top-10 team to win in the Fargodome in 20 tries all-time.

JMU has won an astonishing 11 straight games for a 13-1 overall record, with its lone loss coming to FBS foe North Carolina.

The only team to go unbeaten against the FCS this season, the Dukes tied the program record for most wins in a season, as they finished 13-2 in the 2004 national title year. JMU is also 5-1 on the road this year (5-0 vs. FCS), which is second all-time to its 7-1 mark the year they won three straight playoff road games to make the national title in '04.

JMU is leaving the Eastern time zone for the second consecutive game to play Youngstown State for the national title. Leaving the East Coast is not something JMU does too often, however, the majority of those trips have occurred in recent years.

JMU is 3-2 all-time in the Central time zone, having won two in a row. Aside from JMU's win in Fargo last month, JMU also won 48-45 at FBS-foe SMU last season. JMU's other CST games came in 2011 (at NDSU - lost), 1996 (at McNeese - won) and 1980 (at Austin Peay - lost).

JMU's historic season does not go without high honors for individuals, as the Dukes produced seven All-Americans across multiple outlets. Mitchell Kirsch is a five-time All-American, followed by four-time All-Americans Khalid Abdullah and Rashard Davis. Taylor Reynolds collected a pair of All-America accolades while Raven Greene, Bryan Schor and Aaron Stinnie each notched one.

In the most recent All-America team release, the Dukes tied a program record with seven on the HERO Sports FCS All-America Teams. That number tied for the most JMU players on a single All-America squad.

Four players - Abdullah, Davis, Kirsch and Reynolds - were named STATS All-Americans. Three players - Abdullah, Davis and Kirsch - were named Associated Press All-Americans. Davis and Kirsch were tabbed Walter Camp All-Americans, while Abdullah and Kirsch were AFCA All-Americans.

Khalid Abdullah's special season continued in the FCS semifinals with an impressive 180-yard performance. Following the NDSU win, Abdullah ranks second all-time at JMU in career rushing and is third in single-season rushing yards. He has rushed for 3,577 yards, second only to JMU Hall of Famer Warren Marshall (4,168).

Abdullah has gained 1,708 yards on the ground in 2016, which is just 11 yards off Curtis Keaton (1,719 in 1999) and 62 shy of Rodney Landers (1,770 in 2008). The back is also second in the NCAA this season in rushing yards and needs 92 to pass Fordham's Chase Edmonds, who had 1,799 yards this year.

Abdullah is also first all-time in rushing touchdowns (39), touchdowns (43) and scoring (258) while ranking second in rush attempts (647) and fourth in all-purpose yards (3,976).