FCS Championship: Everything you need to know about the James Madison Dukes
No. 1 James Madison will get a shot at its second straight FCS Championship on Saturday after rolling to a 14-0 start to 2017-18. Now there's just one hurdle left: North Dakota State.
Get to know the defending champs ahead of their title matchup with the Bison at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas:
Main campus: Harrisonburg, Virginia
Year founded: 1908
Team nickname: Dukes
Mascot: Duke Dog
Colors: Purple and gold
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
Home stadium (Capacity): Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field (24,877)
National championship years: 2004, 2016
Notable football alumni: Gary Clark, Arthur Moats, Scott Norwood, Josh Wells, Charles Haley
Road to Frisco
Coach: Mike Houston (28-1 in two years at James Madison)
Houston left The Citadel for JMU in 2016 and immediately delivered, leading the Dukes to their first FCS title since 2004 in his first season at the helm. Houston is 71-20 overall as a collegiate head coach, including stops at JMU, The Citadel (2014-15) and Lenoir-Rhyne (2011-13). The 46-year-old Mars Hill grad signed a 10-year contract extension on Dec. 12 that will keep him in Harrisonburg for a long time.
"There's a lot more to it than just the football. There is a lot. The community here [at James Madison]," Houston told reporters in a Dec. 28 teleconference. "There's a lot to the institution, there's a lot to the people that work at the institution, the way they treat you and the way you can go about your daily life here. So I think there's just a lot of intangibles there that make this a pretty special place that will be tough to ever leave."
Record: 14-0 (8-0 CAA)
Notable regular season wins: at East Carolina (FBS) (Sept. 2); Villanova (Oct. 14); New Hampshire (Oct. 28); at Elon (Nov. 18)
Postseason results: Seeded No. 1 with first round bye; Defeated Stony Brook in second round 26-7; Defeated Weber State in quarterfinals 31-28; Defeated No. 5 South Dakota State in semifinals 51-16
Best win: James Madison clinched a trip back to Frisco with a dominating 51-16 semifinals win over South Dakota State on Dec. 16. The Dukes outscored the Jackrabbits 30-0 in the third quarter and forced a program-record 10 turnovers on the day. South Dakota State entered the matchup on a seven-game winning streak, including a 33-21 November win over the same North Dakota State Bison that will clash with JMU on Saturday.
Scoring offense: 35.9 points per game (eighth in the nation)
Scoring defense: 10.7 points allowed per game (first)
Passing offense: 230.2 yards per game (41st)
Rushing offense: 201.5 yards per game (19th)
Turnover margin: +24 (first)
Players to watch
Bryan Schor, QB: Schor will leave JMU as the program's all-time leader in touchdown passes (62), passing yards (6,930) and completions (545). In seven career playoff starts, Schor's touchdown:interception ratio is an astounding 21:4. "He has the ability to make plays when the stakes are the highest," Houston said about Schor in the teleconference. "He has the ability to make the accurate throws when there's tight coverage or when there's a lot of pressure around him. He has the ability to extend plays and does a pretty good job of ball security."
Riley Stapleton, WR: Stapleton registered 19 catches and two touchdowns in his nine regular season appearances as a relative afterthought in the Dukes' offense. But since postseason play kicked off, the redshirt sophomore has emerged as Schor's go-to target. In three playoff games, Stapleton has 16 receptions for five touchdowns. His best outing came against Weber State in the quarterfinals where he made big catch after big catch, racking up 189 yards and a score.
Marcus Marshall, RB: Marshall is another offensive weapon who has broken out in the playoffs. After splitting carries with Trai Sharp in the regular season, Marshall has taken the reins in the postseason, rushing for 331 combined yards and four touchdowns over the past two games. The Georgia Tech transfer also makes an impact on special teams as the Dukes' top kickoff returner (22.5 yards per kickoff).
Andrew Ankrah, DL: Ankrah is one of three first-team AP All-Americans on the Dukes' roster. The 6-4, 248-pounder has 54 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks this season. In last year's semifinal win over North Dakota State, Ankrah finished with three tackles. He'll look to be more involved in the Bison backfield this time around.
Jimmy Moreland, CB: Moreland was responsible for nearly one-third of the 10 takeaways the JMU defense had against South Dakota State in the semifinals, picking off Taryn Christion three times. The redshirt junior has eight picks on the year — second in the nation — and is a sound tackler (61 tackles, 2.5 for loss). NDSU quarterback Easton Stick must be very careful when throwing in Moreland's direction.
Jordan Brown, S: Who's the one player in the country that Moreland trails in the interceptions department? That'd be his own teammate, the redshirt senior Brown (nine). Brown had two picks against SDSU and has registered 74 tackles on the season. Brown joined Ankrah and offensive lineman Aaron Stinnie as first-team All-Americans.
More stats to know: The Dukes have won 26 straight games ranging back to a loss to FBS foe North Carolina last season on Sept. 17. That marks the longest current win streak in all three divisions of NCAA football ... JMU's 43 defensive takeaways on the year sets an FCS single-season record. The previous high-mark was 35 ... JMU is 1-1 all-time vs. North Dakota State, including last year's 27-17 semifinal win. Both of the previous matchups were road games in Fargo, North Dakota.