Neither team was supposed to have made it this far. A game of two underdogs, there was no obvious team to root against in this game. James Madison defeated the mighty North Dakota State Bison to get to this championship game, while Youngstown State won their last two playoff games in nail-biting fashion.
There were plenty of storylines to get excited about. With a hotly contested game expected, Youngstown State’s plan was to stay within striking distance into the second half, then take control.
It worked well enough for them through their playoff run, and there was no reason to suspect that it wouldn’t work in the championship game also. That failed to materialize, and Youngstown State put on a poor show in the final game of the season.
James Madison led the entire game. They did enough on offense to win, but the real story for them was their defense.
Kings of #FCS!
The James Madison Dukes are NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/hpEW0kQ9mp
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) January 7, 2017
The Dukes ended up winning this game by two touchdowns, but it wasn’t nearly that close. They held the Penguins the entire game, frustrating them at every turn and leaving them to exhaust all of their offensive options with no success.
Offensively, the Dukes were steady, led on the ground running back Khalid Abdullah who became the schools all-time leading rusher with a 101 yard performance and two touchdowns. The Penguins were able to manage another touchdown before the game ended to make the score look less crooked, but the result was already decided by that point.
The final score: 28-14.
— JMU Football (@JMUFootball) January 7, 2017
For Youngstown State, the silver lining would be that this is the beginning of another era of dominance, reminiscent of their dominance in the 90’s. But with a number of seniors graduating, it will take a huge reloading effort by Pelini to get his Penguins to the championship again.
Photo Credit: Twitter