The last trip Shane Montgomery made to Frisco, Texas, didn’t allow for him to leave with a win.
“I was on the other side at Youngstown State,” Montgomery, the first-year James Madison offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said.
For eight seasons, Montgomery held the same job for Youngstown State and was in that role when the Dukes topped the Penguins 28-14 on Jan. 7, 2017 for the 2016 FCS national championship.
The title was the second in school history for JMU.
Next month Montgomery could help the Dukes earn their third. Though many JMU players have matched up with North Dakota State in the 2016 semifinals and 2017 national championship game, no coach on staff has more experience against North Dakota State than Montgomery because of his stint in the Missouri Valley Conference with the Penguins.
The Dukes (14-1) and Bison (15-0) meet on Jan. 11 in Texas for this year’s crown.
“I know we got our work cut out for us,” Montgomery said. “But you know what you’re going to get with ‘em. They’re solid. They don’t hurt themselves. They’re going to be a very physical team. Their defense will probably be very similar with what I saw over eight years.”
In eight games from 2010 through 2017 against North Dakota State, Montgomery’s Youngstown State offenses averaged 18.1 points, 335 total yards, 157 rushing yards and 197 passing yards per game against the Bison.
JMU enters the championship bout with the second-best scoring offense (41.3 points per game) in all of FCS.
Montgomery said the Dukes need efficiency in all areas to beat North Dakota State.
“Offensively, they’re probably a little bit different,” Montgomery said. “They’ve got an electric quarterback [Trey Lance] right now that’s a little bit better athlete than [former quarterback] Easton Stick was and he hasn’t turned the ball over all year and that’s unbelievable for a freshman.
“But we’re here and it comes down to a one-game season. The talk was that it would come down to us [JMU and North Dakota State] and you never know because you’ve got to take it week to week, but both of us have taken care of what we needed to do, and it’s 60 minutes of football to see who wins it all.”
Backup LB Proves Reliable
The FCS national semifinal wasn’t an overwhelming setting to deal with, according to JMU redshirt sophomore linebacker Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey.
“I just have full confidence in myself and my guys have the same confidence in me,” Tucker-Dorsey said after JMU beat Weber State 30-14 last week to advance to the Jan. 11 title game against North Dakota State. “When I get in, it’s no different. They feel like it’s Dimitri [Holloway] in there and I’m just trying to do what I do.”
Tucker-Dorsey was needed when Holloway, an All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team choice at his position, went down with an ankle injury late in the second quarter.
After the game, Dukes coach Curt Cignetti said Holloway could’ve played if he was really needed.
But the backup, Tucker-Dorsey, filled in nicely and finished the game with five tackles, which were tied for the most on the team.
He’s stepped in for both Holloway and senior linebacker Landan Word on occasion throughout the year.
“When you’re playing behind guys like that there’s not too much you can do,” Tucker-Dorsey said. “You just got to stay down and be ready when your number is called.”
The Lake Taylor High School product also had five tackles against New Hampshire and five against Morgan State earlier in the year.
Various Dukes Earn All-America Honors
Last week, nine James Madison players were named to various All-American teams released by different organizations.
Senior defensive end Ron’Dell Carter earned first-team selections from the Associated Press, FCS Athletic Directors Association, STATS FCS, American Football Coaches Association and Hero Sports.
Junior offensive tackle Liam Fornadel was a first-team choice by STATS FCS, AFCA and Hero Sports and a second-team selection by the AP. Other first-teamers were senior defensive end John Daka (STATS FCS), senior quarterback Ben DiNucci (AFCA) and junior punt returner D’Angelo Amos (AFCA).
Daka, Holloway, Amos and DiNucci earned second-team honors from Hero Sports. Senior safety Adam Smith claimed third-team selections from the AP, STATS FCS and Hero Sports. Hero Sports also gave third-team nods to junior kicker Ethan Ratke, junior running back Percy Agyei-Obese and senior center Mac Patrick.