JMU Now Likely To Miss I-AA Playoffs
Posted: November 17, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Entering Saturday night’s game against Old Dominion, the James Madison football team needed to win.
The Dukes, 13th-ranked in Division I-AA, started strong but slumped their way through the second half to blow an 11-point lead and lose 38-28 to likely miss the playoffs for third time in the past four seasons.
JMU (7-4 overall, 5-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association) started the season with national-championship expectations, only to be undercut by a consistently inconsistent offense — one that atrophied and died in the second half Saturday in front of 23,051 fans at Bridgeforth Stadium.
The Dukes managed just 94 yards and went three-and-out on four of seven possessions, while ODU (10-1, 7-1) scored 21 unanswered points from the 4:34 mark in the third quarter to the 12:26 mark in the fourth to rally after trailing 28-17.
JMU finished with 311 yards of offense and held the No. 4 Monarchs — who entered the game leading I-AA, averaging 556.6 yards to per game — to just 353 yards, but ODU’s average field starting field position was its 39-yard line. On three of their 12 possessions, the Monarchs — who, with their super-powered offense, didn’t need a short field — started on JMU’s side of the 50. Seven times they started on their side of the 40 or better.
ODU star quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 32 of 45 passes for 357 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. The sophomore got hot during the 21-point run, throwing touchdown passes of 59, 17 and 9 yards.
After being intercepted by JMU safety Jakarie Jackson off a tip from linebacker Stephon Robertson with 6:32 left in the game, Heinicke completed 12 passes in a row before throwing incomplete on the second play of a nearly four-minute drive that left JMU with just 3:08 to come back from a 10-point deficit.
JMU quarterback Justin Thorpe didn’t fare as well.
The fifth-year junior — who declined to attend the press conference — completed 10 of 17 passes for 155 yards (50 of which came on about a 12-yard pass that Dae’Quan Scott turned into a long touchdown) with one touchdown and no interceptions. Thorpe also rushed for 85 yards on 26 carries, but most of his success came in the first half, and again, he struggled to throw it.
On the Dukes’ final possession, Thorpe was sacked twice — the second coming on fourth-and-12 from the ODU 38 with 1:40 left in the game.
Old Dominion would have secured the CAA’s automatic playoff bid with its win Saturday, but the Monarchs are ineligible because they’re leaving the league for I-A Conference USA next season. Villanova got the bid instead.