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|Bowers Stadium, Huntsville, TX|
Keys for James Madison
How will JMU do in their first road playoff game
It’s an interesting place,” seventh-year Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said. “At about two o’clock in the afternoon, that sun will be beating down on their side and it’s going down behind us. We’ve had a 21-game and 23-game win streak here, so it’s a tough place to play.”
Can senior quarterback Cole Johnson has played his best over the last few games and is coming off his best game as a starter, , in which he was 14-of-17 for 251 yards and two touchdowns against North Dakota. Will he continue to perform at a high level on the road?
Will their defense continue to perform at a high level?
JMU is fourth nationally for total defense and scoring defense, third in rushing defense, and 11th in passing defense.
It is also interesting to note that Sam Houston’s (8-0) offense which averaged 44.8 points per game in the regular season, is averaging only 22.5 points per game in the playoffs, obviously due to the improved quality of the competition.
Keys for Sam Houston State
Will the defense continue to perform at a high level?
Can the Bearkats win the turnover battle?
It has been a different story through the first 2 playoff games in which they have not committed a turnover while forcing 5.
JMU ( 7-0 ) advanced with a 34-21 win over North Dakota in the quarterfinals on Sunday. It was its 11th straight win in a postseason game at home.
The Dukes combined a strong running game ( 217 total yards ) with an outstanding performance from fifth-year senior quarterback Cole Johnson, who passed for a season best 251 yards, completing 14-17 passes. That included 2 TD passes to freshman wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr., who finished with career highs of seven receptions for 143 yards. QB Johnson had been a backup prior to this season.
Injuries JMU- Starting senior CB Wesley McCormick suffered a pulled groin after intercepting a pass in the 2nd quarter and did not return. No update on status.
Senior CB Greg Ross ( a transfer from North Carolina ) returned to the lineup after missing the previous 2 games with injury.
Sam Houston State (8-0) advanced to the semifinals with a 24-20 win over defending national champion North Dakota State avenging a 55-13 loss to NDSU in the 2017 semifinals.
QB Eric Schmid scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 6-yard run with 3:39 to play. The Bearkats led 17-2 early in the second half before allowing 18 unanswered points. Two of the scores came on special team breakdowns.
Sam Houston State needed a last-minute defensive stand after NDSU drove down to the Bearkats 17 yard line.
Defensively, the Bearkats held NDSU to just 139 rushing yards on 43 carries and extended its streak to 19 games in a row without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
They also bottled up their passing game allowing only 90 yards while registering 2 interceptions.
Sports Betting Resources: Key Stats
JMU and Sam Houston State have met once before, a 65-7 win for the Dukes in the 2016 FCS national quarterfinals
The Bearkats lead the nation with 31 sacks, 77 tackles for loss and 12 fumble recoveries in seven games, while ranking second to only James Madison in rushing defense.
Sam Houston State rushed for only 86 yards on 30 carries vs NDSU, so it’s more than likely they will need to depend on their passing game to move the ball vs James Madison.
The James Madison defense has been surprisingly good given the number of players lost to injury. The Dukes lead the country in total defense, are first in the FCS for rushing defense, and are third nationally for scoring defense. “We have been through some adversity,” second-year head coach Curt Cignetti said. “And I’m not talking about the disruptions in our schedule. I’m talking about losing guys we were counting on in fall [practices] to play big roles in our defense. [Defensive end] Isaac Ukwu. [Linebacker] Taurus Jones, who was going to be a huge name this year. [Defensive end] Jalen Green. Then to lose Liam Fornadel, our All-American [offensive] tackle, for the whole season and Sam Kidd, who was starting at free safety.”
Sam Houston State has a 15-0 record at Bowers Stadium in the FCS playoffs.