JMU roundup: Dukes fall to Wildcats

Daily Staff Reports – sports@nvdaily.com

DURHAM, N.H. – No. 18/22 James Madison could not overcome an early 14-point deficit and ended up dropping its fourth straight road game this season, losing at No. 25 New Hampshire, 33-17, in Colonial Athletic Association action, Nov. 9. With the loss, the Dukes fell to 6-4 and 3-3 in league action, while the Wildcats improved to 5-4 and 4-2 in the conference.

The tone of the game was set early, as New Hampshire got on the board first on the opening drive, taking the ball 75 yards on eight plays. Quarterback Andy Vailas hit R.J. Harris over the middle from 18 yards out for the score. UNH also had another good chance in the first but the Dukes’ defense shut down UNH on four straight tries from the JMU 1 to keep it at 7-0.

Madison had a solid drive going in the second quarter and got to the Wildcats’ 21-yard line. However a holding penalty and sack took JMU out of field goal range. After a 5-yard punt gave UNH the ball at its own 35, the Wildcats hit on the second play as a halfback pass from Nico Steriti to R.J. Harris that covered 52 yards put the home team ahead 14-0 at the halftime break.

JMU did a little of its own trickery on the first play of its second drive of the second half as redshirt-senior running back Dae’Quan Scott took a lateral from Michael Birdsong and threw it to redshirt-senior wide receiver Quintin Hunter for a 69-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 14-7 UNH with 11:33 left in the third.

UNH answered on its ensuing drive with a 29-yard field goal from Mike McArthur and then Starke hit a 25-yard field to make it 17-10 through the third quarter.

UNH hit a 35-yarder to stretch it to 20-10 in the first minute of the final stanza. The Dukes then got as close as they had all game on a 3-yard pass from Birdsong to Hunter to make it 20-17 with 12:22 to play in the contest.

The offenses kept churning as the Wildcats marched 69 yards in 10 plays, capped off by Harris’ third TD catch of the game, this time a 7-yarder. However the PAT hit the upright and the margin was 26-17 with 9:19 to play. JMU had a chance deep in UNH territory to score but Cameron Starke’s 38-yard attempt was long enough but went wide right with 6:01 left. UNH then added a 3-yard touchdown run by Chris Setian with less than two minutes to seal the win.

Birdsong finished the game 24-for-43 for 214 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Hunter is first JMU receiver with a 100-yard game this year and first 100-yard game of his career, finishing with seven receptions for 139 yards and two scores. Scott completed the day with 15 carries for 63 yards.

For UNH, Vailas finished the game going 28-for-49 for a career-high 397 passing yards and two touchdowns. Harris had his ninth career 100-yard receiving game and first since he did it against Rhode Island on Oct. 27, 2012, finishing with 10 catches for 183 yards and three scores. Justin Mello also finished with 10 catches for 123 yards.

JMU returns home next week for Senior Day at Bridgeforth Stadium, hosting Stony Brook, Nov. 16. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. as the game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Regional.