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JMU earns top seed in FCS playoffs

Bryan Schor

HARRISONBURG — It was no surprise, but still a special moment for James Madison University’s football program on Sunday.

The Dukes were chosen as the No. 1 seed for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs by the FCS playoff selection committee. The pairings were announced Sunday morning on ESPNU. It is the second time in program history that JMU has been selected as the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The only other time was 2008.

JMU, the reigning FCS national champions, will have a bye in the first round and will host the winner of the Stony Brook-Lehigh game at 2 p.m. on Dec. 2.

JMU senior quarterback Bryan Schor said it definitely feels a little different this year than last year, when JMU was the No. 4 seed.

“Last year we were kind of sitting downstairs (in the club level of Bridgeforth Stadium),” Schor said in a news conference Sunday. “We didn’t really know where we were going to be or what was going to happen. (Sunday) we kind of woke up and we kind of knew we probably would be the No. 1 seed. With that being said, it’s still pretty exciting to get the No. 1 seed. And to know that we’re going to be home in Bridgeforth for our playoffs. So we’re really excited about that.”

Andrew Ankrah

The Dukes (11-0) gathered as a team Sunday morning in the club level at Bridgeforth Stadium and watched the selection show together. Both JMU head coach Mike Houston and Schor did interviews with ESPN during the one-hour show. ESPN also showed the Dukes celebrating the announcement.

The Colonial Athletic Association had four teams selected in the playoffs. Stony Brook, Elon and New Hampshire joined JMU in the 24-team field.

North Dakota State was chosen as the second seed, while Jacksonville State is the third seed and Central Arkansas is fourth.

JMU senior defensive lineman Andrew Ankrah said it’s a good feeling to be the top seed.

“It’s definitely a blessing to just be at the top right now,” Ankrah said. “This is exactly where we wanted to be. Starting off in the summer we set goals — we wanted to be the CAA conference champions. And we knew that if we played every game the way we wanted to play it, and that’s by going out there and giving it our best effort, we’ll have a good shot at that. So right now we’re sitting on top undefeated and conference champions.”

JMU won the CAA title outright with its 31-3 victory over Elon on Saturday. It was the second straight year that JMU has won the title outright and the third straight year the Dukes have won at least a share of the title.

JMU became the first-ever school to go 8-0 in the conference in back-to-back seasons.

Schor said winning the CAA title was a great feeling.

“I think it was special,” Schor said. “I think you see the pictures and you see the excitement and just the overall passion and everything that you see at the end of the game with our team. You realize how much was put into it, and how much everybody gets out of it. And we’re just really blessed to have each other, really a close, close locker room. And it meant a lot to us. And it was really special to celebrate together.”

Houston said the team will spend a day this week at practice focusing on Stony Brook and a day focusing on Lehigh. The Dukes did not play Stony Brook this season.

JMU has won 23 straight games, and has been ranked No. 1 in both FCS polls all season. Houston said the Dukes have taken every team’s best shot all season, and he expects more of the same in the postseason.

“The thing is once you get into the tournament everybody’s good,” Houston said. “You’re going to see a quality team, I don’t care who it is. And you’ve just got to take it. And you got to put everything you have into that one game, and hopefully you come out on top. And if you come out on top then you get ready for whose next.”

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