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No. 1 James Madison defeats No. 7 UND, 34-21

(KFYR)
Published: May. 2, 2021 at 10:51 PM CDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (UND Athletics) – Top-ranked James Madison jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never relinquished it, defeating No. 7 North Dakota, 34-21, in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs of Sunday evening from Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Va.

UND (6-2) trimmed the lead down to three late in the second quarter, but it was as close as the Fighting Hawks would get in their inaugural appearance in the quarterfinals.

James Madison (7-0) used a balanced attack in the win, amassing a season-high 468 yards of offense allowed by UND this season. Percy Agyei-Obese spearheaded a three-rush attack for the Dukes with 27 carries for 128 yards and two scores.

Cole Johnson was also efficient through the air for the hosts, connecting on 14-of-17 passes for 251 yards and a pair of scores. His longest strike of the day came on a 63-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Wells Jr. to put the Dukes in front, 34-14, in the fourth quarter. It was one of two touchdown receptions for Wells Jr. on seven catches for 143 yards.

Otis Weah continued to find the end zone for the Hawks, scoring his 10th-career rushing touchdown to go alongside his 96 yards on 13 carries. The redshirt sophomore has now scored in every game that he has received a carry in his career.

Tommy Schuster finished 16-of-26 for 213 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass and threw a pair of interceptions for the first time in his career. Without the team’s leader in catches, Bo Belquist, due to injury, Garett Maag grabbed six balls for 87 yards while true freshman Marcus Preston had three catches for 32 yard.

On defense, UND was led by Devon Krzanowski and his career-high 13 tackles. The junior also came up with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Kadon Kauppinen had 10 tackles for the Hawks while Noah Larson finished with nine and a sack.

Momentum seemed to the be on the side of James Madison in the early going, as Schuster’s pass was deflected and intercepted on the game’s opening drive to put the Dukes in scoring position. The UND defense rose up the occasion, with Larson coming up with a huge sack on third down to hold JMU to a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

UND seemed to flip the field on the ensuing possession after a Cade Peterson punt hit off a JMU player and was recovered by Ty Shannon to put the Hawks at the JMU 39. The Hawks couldn’t produce any points and the Dukes answered with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 10-0 lead after one quarter.

The Hawks got it going as the quarter turned. Facing a 3rd and 1, Weah busted for 45 yards before Quincy Vaughn punched it in from 5-yards out to cap off the scoring drive and cut the deficit to 10-7 with 13:12 to play in the first half. JMU answered right back, however, scoring its second rushing touchdown of the day to move back in front by two scores, 17-7, with around six minutes remaining in the stanza.

North Dakota closed the half strong, with Weah scoring his ninth rushing touchdown of the year on a 10-play, 91-yard drive that included a fourth down conversion from inside its own 30 to cut the lead back to three, 17-14, but JMU ended the frame with a 32-yard field goal to take a 20-14 advantage into the halftime break.

After a punt from both sides to begin the second half, James Madison extended its lead back to two scores on a 15-yard touchdown pass to take a 27-14 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

UND looked to get the stop it needed on defense, but an offside call on 4th and short gave the Dukes a new set of downs. JMU did not waste the opportunity, striking for a 63-yard touchdown to take a 34-14 lead with 10:06 remaining in the game.

North Dakota closed the gap with a quick scoring drive of its own, capped off by a Luke Skokna scamper from 5-yards out, to trim the lead back to 13; however, the Dukes salted away the remainder of the game to claim the 34-21 victory.

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