Dukes fall to Raiders in playoffs

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University had the match-up it wanted.

With the game on the line, JMU’s top receiver, Brandon Ravenel, was one-on-one against Colgate University backup cornerback. Colgate senior Josh Ford made the big play, halting a late JMU drive and giving the Raiders a 44-38 victory in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

“That was a really good play by the (Ford), but I’ve been able to make that play before,”Ravenel said.

Trailing 44-38, JMU moved the ball to the Colgate 8-yard line. JMU’s Khalid Abdullah ran three times and moved the ball to the Colgate 3-yard line, setting up fourth-and-goal and one last shot for the Dukes.

JMU quarterback Bryan Schor threw the ball to Ravenel, but Ford was able to knock the ball away and virtually seal the game with three minutes remaining.

Colgate head coach Dan Hunt said that Ford was playing due to an injury to their usual starting corner.

“That’s a senior going into that position as the backup,” Hunt said. “He’s been around. He’s seen some football. …I’m just happy for him that he was able to do it. He’s played a lot of football for us, and he made the play.”

“I was getting pressured. It was fourth down. I was just trying to give it a shot,” Schor said. “…It was not my best throw.”

The (9-3) overcame a 17-point first half deficit, but turnovers proved costly in the end.

Colgate (9-4) also ran its offense very effectively throughout the game.

The Raiders ran for 343 yards on 50 carries.

With the game tied at 31, JMU fumbled a punt and Colgate’s Charles Cairnie at the JMU 23 with 7:15 left in the third quarter.

The Raiders needed only three plays to take the lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jake Melville to Alex Greenwalt.

The Dukes tied the game with a six-play 65-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. Schor threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Davis with 11:18 left in the game.

Colgate’s running game took over on the next drive. Melville, who finished with 163 yards on 14 carries, ran for 67 yards to the JMU 5.

“There was some pressure from that backside, and both defenders actually over ran me a little bit. So I was able to sneak right through,” Melville said. “There was a bunch of daylight. I just saw the hole and hit it.”

Two plays later Melville scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to give the Raiders a 44-38 lead with 9:15 left, after a missed extra point.

Things couldn’t have started much worse for JMU.

Colgate went 69 yards on 10 plays to start the game. The Raiders converted twice on third down, including a 44-yard pass from Melville to Thomas Ives. That play moved the ball to the JMU 6-yard line. The Dukes were able to hold the Raiders to a 21-yard field goal by Jonah Bowman with 11:21 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff JMU’s Deane Cheatham fumbled the ball and Colgate recovered at the JMU 19-yard line. Five plays later, Colgate’s James Holland scored on a 2-yard touchdown run for a 10-0 lead with 9:06 left in the opening quarter.

The Raiders stretched the lead to 17-0 on their next possession. Melville connected with John Quazza on a 10-yard touchdown with 14:53 left in the first half. The play capped off a 13-play 92-yard drive which ate up over six minutes of clock time.

“We spotted them 17 points and couldn’t recover,” JMU senior offensive lineman Austin Lane said.

The Dukes responded as Ravenel took the ensuing kickoff back 66 yards to the Colgate 25-yard line. The Dukes used six plays to go 25 yards and Abdullah capped hings off with a 2-yard run to cut the lead to 17-7 with 12:28 left in the first half.

JMU kept the momentum going as Schor scored on a 7-yard touchdown run with 5:40 left in the first half to cut the lead to 17-14.

The Raiders answered with a 63-yard touchdown run by Holland for a 24-14 lead with 4:46 left in the opening half.

Ravenel had another big kickoff return to move the ball to the Colgate 47-yard line. Ravenel gave all the credit on his kick returns, he had 184 yards on five returns, to his teammates.

“I saw the other 10 guys giving everything they had, blocking really well,” Ravenel said. “I had the easy job. They did all the hard work. They went out there, and they did exactly what coach told them to do. All I had to do was run to daylight.”

The Dukes needed only four plays to score. Three running plays of three, 16 and 10 yards set-up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Schor to Davis with 3:14 left in the first half.

JMU’s defense stepped up on the next possession. JMU’s Jordan Brown intercepted a Melville pass and returned it 17 yards to give the Dukes their first lead of the game, 28-24, with 2:16 left in the first half.

“Late in the half that was definitely nice. That’s a big momentum changer,” JMU redshirt junior linebacker Gage Steele said. “…I’m proud of the way we played. It’s just unfortunate the way it turned out.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com