Northern Iowa’s defense was good, but James Madison’s was better.
The nation’s third-best scoring defense didn’t allow any points in an effort to lead the second-seeded Dukes to a 17-0 shutout over the visiting Panthers in the FCS playoff quarterfinals on Friday at Bridgeforth Stadium.
JMU (13-1) is onto the national semifinals for the third time in four years while the season is over for Northern Iowa (10-5).
The Dukes limited the Panthers to 114 yards and only seven first downs as senior defensive end John Daka racked up two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Senior linebacker Dimitri Holloway led JMU with eight tackles to go along with 3.5 tackles for loss.
Northern Iowa had eight three-and-outs, allowing the Dukes to dominate time of possession 42:09 to 17:51.
Before Friday, the Panthers hadn’t been shutout since a 27-0 loss at Iowa State on Sept. 25, 2010. It was the first shutout for JMU in its playoff history.
The opening score was the difference maker as JMU quarterback Ben DiNucci connected with wide receiver Brandon Polk for a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter. It was Polk’s ninth touchdown in as many games.
JMU added a 42-yard field goal from Ethan Ratke in the second quarter and a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Percy Agyei-Obese in the fourth just one play after Dukes defensive tackle Mike Greene notched a sack of Northern Iowa quarterback Will McElvain to turn the Panthers over on downs.