James Madison beats Youngstown State to capture second FCS title

James Madison wins FCS title, beats Youngstown State 28-14

FRISCO, Texas (AP) -- James Madison still had one more game after dethroning the five-time defending champs in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Now the Dukes have their second national title.

The team that knocked off North Dakota State in the semifinals, and made the trip from Fargo to Frisco instead, won the FCS championship game Saturday. Khalid Abdullah ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns after two early TD passes by Bryan Schor as the Dukes beat Youngstown State 28-14.

"A lot of the country probably thought when we beat North Dakota State that we'd have a really great chance to win the championship," Schor said. "Something we really focused on the whole week ... we have got to earn the right to win it, and that's something we came out and I think we did today."

Schor threw two touchdown passes in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game, the first after James Madison blocked a punt and the other after a shanked kick set the Dukes up at midfield.

"We didn't start the way we wanted, and got behind the eight-ball," Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini said. "The way we started didn't help."

The Dukes won their other championship in 2004, the only other time they made it to the title game.

"It means everything," Abdullah said. "It just means that all the dreams and goals we had team came to fruition."

Abdullah finished the season with a school-record 1,809 yards rushing and an FBS-best 22 touchdowns.

The four-time champion Penguins (12-4), who finished their second season under Youngstown native Pelini, made it to the title game for the first time since 1999. Their four titles came during the 1990s under Jim Tressel, now the school's president after winning a national championship at Ohio State in 2002.

Abdullah's 1-yard TD midway through the second quarter made it 21-0. He added a 2-yard score early in the third quarter, capping a drive set up by Curtis Oliver's crazy interception after a pass that was deflected at the line ricocheted off the receiver's toe without hitting the ground.

"At the beginning of the year, every college football program has this goal," first-year JMU coach Mike Houston said. "The great thing about tournament play is, it's not up to a vote system or anything like that. You go out there and play it out on the field."

TAKEAWAY

Youngstown State: The Penguins couldn't overcome their own mistakes. The punting problems early put them in a two-touchdown hole, and their third possession ended with a botched snap on a field goal attempt. Turnovers on their only two possessions in the third quarter took away any chance of a comeback. Only Georgia Southern (six) and North Dakota State (five) have more FCS titles than Youngstown State.

James Madison: The Dukes' defense was dominating again, with five sacks while forcing two turnovers (seven in the postseason). An interception upped their FCS-best total to 21. Youngstown State came in averaging 258 yards rushing, but had only 21 yards on 31 carries.

LOST IN TALENT

James Madison TE Jonathan Kloosterman had a 14-yard TD catch less than 3 minutes into the game. It was his fifth TD on six catches in four playoff games . He had only two TDs in the regular season. "I have such great talent around me and people tend to forget about me in the red zone," he said.

END TO END

Youngstown State senior defensive ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss both had a sack. The Penguins set a school record with 49 sacks, led by Rivers' 15 and Moss' 11. "The emotion I have now is not because of the outcome of the game, it's because my last time playing with these guys in that locker room," said Rivers, who finished with 41 career sacks. "I wouldn't trade the season we had for anything."

UP NEXT

Youngstown State will travel to ACC opponent Pittsburgh on Sept. 2 for its 2017 opener.

James Madison, whose only loss this season was at North Carolina in the third week of the season, will open its 2017 season at East Carolina on Sept. 2.

© The Associated Press James Madison head coach Mike Houston, left, watches as running back Khalid Abdullah (32) holds up the most valuable player award after their 28-14 win over Youngstown State in the FCS championship NCAA college football game

A secret ingredient in JMU football’s rise to FCS championship: Peanut butter

FRISCO, Tex. — He gained 60 useful pounds at college, from 255 to 315, and to the question of how a human might do that, he replies, “I’d say peanut butter, a hundred percent.” He played guard all along but also defensive line as a sophomore, an edifying quirk he calls “my study-abroad program.”

After a Division II program told him he was too small to play guard, he moved up a tier in college football as a walk-on, and he rocked a mullet to make himself stand out to coaches. Now he’s a fifth-year senior joining teammates he clearly loves in an outright dreamscape, and he’s about to spend the winter and spring seeing whether he might get a place in the NFL.

“It just seems like a perfect ending,” he said.

Matt Frank, from Fairfax High School in Northern Virginia, is a reminder that college football churns with lives and biographies and stories in all its tiers and that these stories often shine with steep upward arcs. On Saturday the James Madison Dukes won the national title in the Football Championship Subdivision with a thorough 28-14 defeat of Youngstown State.

This after a quarterfinal game on Dec. 9 in a Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal, when Frank and the Dukes took the team that spent the season ranked No. 1, Sam Houston State, and throttled it, 65-7. On Dec. 16 in a semifinal, they outdid themselves, going into the fearsome forest of the Fargodome, tangling with the beast coming off five straight national titles and beating North Dakota State, 27-17.

And on Saturday here in the upper-right corner of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the Dukes (14-1), who lost this season only at North Carolina of the top tier, toppled Youngstown State (12-4), whose head coach, Bo Pelini, used to coach Nebraska and whose president, Jim Tressel, used to coach Ohio State. In one 315-pound case, it’s a testament to determination, confidence, novelty, mullets and peanut butter.

“I told my [younger] brother [Daniel], ‘I’m going to be 300 pounds in college,’ ” Frank said. “ ‘I’m going to hit that mark.’ He said, ‘I don’t believe it.’ Because no one in our family’s even close to it.”

He had food-foraging obstacles. Without a scholarship until last year, he had a standard 19-meal student plan, so he held jobs — at a Boys & Girls Club and cleaning homes for a man who rented them out — to help get the extra snacks and meals he so achingly required.

Turkey and chicken help. “Cheeseburgers probably aren’t the best way, but they’re efficient; trust me,” he said. But of peanut butter, he said, “That’s something that will really help you keep weight on, and add it.” He recommends it to younger players and feels for those with nut allergies.

He got to 320 at one point, pared to 300 and, with the current training staff, re-reached a 315 that feels less heavy, with more endurance, than his former 315.

“This recent [staff], they’ve been helping me kind of fix my weight a little bit,” Frank said. “So it hasn’t been bad weight, but they’re kind of moving it around, with [strength and conditioning coach] Big John [Williams], Coach Markus [James], they’ve been working so that I’m able to hold the weight in a way I should. I think that’s why this year, I’ve had the year I’ve had.”

Further, a player who can’t remember missing a practice in five years has smartened, more comfortable in the unsung position of guard. His rare detour through the defense helped.

“So with defense, it opened my eyes entirely,” he said, “because I had been the offensive lineman for two years, and it’s like, ‘I didn’t even realize this was why the D-tackle was crossing on this blitz, because the D-end’s coming to fill his gap, so he has to go.’ So on the offensive line I’m saying, ‘If I know that D-end’s coming across, if I know he’s going B-gap, I know that the D-tackle can’t go B-gap as well, so I might as well fit the A-gap because I know he’s trying to come.”

Eventually he took a deepened knowledge of the 22-man game — he raves about offensive line coach Jamal Powell’s help — into the Fargodome, where North Dakota State had never lost in 18 previous FCS playoff games. By then, and particularly after fifth-year center and fellow former walk-on Kyle Rigney got hurt in the first quarter, Frank could guide the freshman and redshirt freshman alongside him. Running back Khalid Abdullah rushed 23 times for 180 yards against the Bison and said: “I probably could have put my mom in. She could have run through some of those holes that big Matt Frank created.”

It was a long way from P.E. class at 14, when a teacher he remembers as “Ms. [Jenny} Bonk” saw him run once and remarked that the last big guy who ran like that had ended up playing for the Redskins. That had been Will Montgomery at Centreville, and ever since then, Frank had a feeling that if he put in the work, who knew?

A batch of schools rang — New Hampshire, William & Mary, Penn, Franklin & Marshall, others — and when Frank chose James Madison as a walk-on, a coach told Doug Frank that they couldn’t get Matt much, maybe a laptop. Now Matt has crushed the adjective “undersized” and zoomed clear to Frisco and to age 22, comfortable in his skin, accepted into James Madison’s graduate education program, yet eager to find out first whether he might play football for a living.

First there’s this whopping game, and there’s the enviable sadness of the ending of the good, as when Rigney noted on the team flight that they just held their final practice at Bridgeforth Stadium. All through the vast quilt of college football, you run into cases of journeys where it all worked out, though seldom so smashingly as this.


James Madison wins FCS title, beats Youngstown State

FRISCO, Texas -- Khalid Abdullah ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns as James Madison won its second Football Championship Subdivision title by beating Youngstown State 28-14 on Saturday.

It is the first time in six years that a team other than North Dakota State has raised the FCS championship trophy. James Madison (14-1) was the team that made it from Fargo to Frisco instead, winning its semifinal game on the road against the five-time defending champion Bison.

"A lot of the country probably thought when we beat North Dakota State that we'd have a really great chance to win the championship," Dukes junior quarterback Bryan Schor said. "Something we really focused on the whole week ... we have got to earn the right to win it, and that's something we came out and I think we did today."

Schor threw two touchdown passes in the opening 5:30 of the game, the first after James Madison blocked a punt and the other after a shanked kick set the Dukes up at midfield.

"We didn't start the way we wanted and got behind the eight-ball," Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini said. "The way we started didn't help."

Abdullah finished the season with a school-record 1,809 yards rushing and an FCS-best 22 touchdowns.

The four-time champion Penguins (12-4), who finished their second season under Youngstown native Pelini, made it to the title game for the first time since 1999. Their four titles came during the 1990s under Jim Tressel, now the school's president after he won a national championship at Ohio State in 2002.

Abdullah's 1-yard TD midway through the second quarter made it 21-0. He added a 2-yard score early in the third quarter, capping a drive set up by Curtis Oliver's crazy interception after a pass that was deflected at the line ricocheted off the receiver's toe without hitting the ground.

"At the beginning of the year, every college football program has this goal," first-year JMU coach Mike Houston said. "The great thing about tournament play is it's not up to a vote system or anything like that. You go out there and play it out on the field."

TAKEAWAY

Youngstown State: The Penguins couldn't overcome their own mistakes. The punting problems early put them in a two-touchdown hole, and their third possession ended with a botched snap on a field goal attempt. Turnovers on their only two possessions in the third quarter took away any chance of a comeback. Only Georgia Southern (six) and North Dakota State (five) have more FCS titles than Youngstown State.

James Madison: The Dukes' defense was dominant again, with five sacks while forcing two turnovers (seven in the postseason). That included an interception, which upped their FCS-best total to 21. ... TE Jonathan Kloosterman had his fifth TD catch of the playoffs, a 14-yarder less than 3 minutes into the game. He had only two TDs in the regular season. ... JMU won its other title in 2004, the only other time the team made it to the championship game.

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