For roughly the first seven minutes of the FCS championship game, quarterback Ben DiNucci methodically led the James Madison University football team down the field.
The 17-play drive culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Riley Stapleton, leading to fans in Urgie’s Cheesesteaks on East Water Street in Harrisonburg to erupt with applause.
“I loved it,” said Jason Gochenour, assistant director for the university’s admissions department. “We looked like we had North Dakota State scrambling.”
Gochenour was among a few dozen people to jam into the bar, which served as the Friendly City’s official watch party for the JMU Alumni Association.
Unfortunately for the crowd, it was the only lead the Dukes would have, falling to the North Dakota State Bison 28-20 for the FCS crown in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday.
Despite the loss, the fans said they’re still proud of their Dukes.
JMU alumni John and Carol Rosenberger come from a JMU family. Besides them, 25 other family members attended the university.
Their son, Ben Rosenberger, graduated from JMU in May with a degree in marketing.
All three watched the game at Urgie’s, instead of attending the game in person. The trio attended the previous JMU championship games in Frisco.
“We thought it would be nice to celebrate in Harrisonburg,” said Ben Rosenberger, who now works as JMU’s sustainability coordinator for dining services. “This season has been incredible.”
While she was hoping for the team to win the title, Marian Ziemba said the season is not just about wins and losses.
The adjunct professor in kinesiology has been following the team all season. She said she’s watched players become better people.
“It’s been a wonderful season,” said Ziemba, who has had two children attend JMU. “These boys are becoming better men because of [Coach] Curt Cignetti.