The Dukes are now the crowned kings of the FCS.
James Madison cruised to the FCS national championship on Saturday, stuffing former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini and his Youngstown State team by a 28-14 score Saturday in Frisco, Texas.
The Dukes jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Bryan Schor opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Jonathan Kloosterman, then followed with an 18-yard toss to Rashard Davis. Khalid Abdullah, the game’s leading rusher at 101 yards, pushed the lead to 21 with a 1-yard plunge at the 8:17 mark of the second quarter.
Youngstown State pulled within 14 with 3:35 to play before halftime when Hunter Wells hit tight end Shane Kuhn for a 17-yard touchdown.
Abdullah pushed the lead back to 21 with a 2-yard score early in the third quarter. The Dukes’ 28-7 lead held until Youngstown State added a cosmetic score with 10 seconds left in the game.
Youngstown State out-gained James Madison 292-254 and held a 23-15 first downs edge, but lost 4.5-3.7 on a per play basis and ceded two turnovers while claiming none.
James Madison (14-1) entered the playoffs with the No. 4 seed and cruised to wins over No. 22 New Hampshire (55-22) and No. 5 Sam Houston State (65-7) before ending No. 1 North Dakota State’s streak of five straight national championships with a 27-17 upset in the Fargodome on Dec. 16.
Youngstown State (12-4) did not earn a national seed or a bye; the Penguins beat Samford 38-24 in the opening round before upsetting No. 3 Jacksonville State 40-24 on the road. Youngstown State survived a missed field goal to beat Wofford 30-23 in overtime, then got a late touchdown to beat No. 2 Eastern Washington 40-38 on the road in the semifinals.
The win clinches James Madison’s second FCS national championship; the Dukes defeated Montana to win the 2004 crown.
For Pelini, the loss marks eight times in nine seasons his teams have finished with exactly four losses.
The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.
Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.
“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”
Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.
Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.
In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.
It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.
Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.
While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach, al.com, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”
Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.
The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.
One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.
“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”
At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.
It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.
Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.
The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.
Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.
The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.