#4 ODU dims #13 JMU’s playoff hopes with 38-28 win
Fourth-ranked Old Dominion made the discussion moot, outscoring the Dukes 28-7 in the second half to post a 38-28 win that puts a roadblock in front of the JMU playoff bandwagon.
Madison (7-4) is still in decent position to land a berth in the 20-team FCS playoffs, but if it does get a playoff spot, it would likely be on the road. ODU (10-1), meanwhile, is a lock for a first-round playoff bye in its swan song in I-AA.
The Monarchs are on their way to I-A in 2013, and as a result were not allowed to compete for the CAA conference title in 2012. JMU, with a win, would have tied Villanova for the regular-season crown, but with the loss the Wildcats wrapped up the conference title and its automatic bid into the FCS playoffs.
The Dukes were close to dominant in the opening 30 minutes Saturday night, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns and a third score through the air from quarterback Justin Thorpe to lead 21-10 at the break. Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and the Monarch defense took control in the second half. Heinicke threw four second-half touchdown passes and finished with 357 yards passing on the night, surpassing the 4,000-yard mark on the season in the process.
The defensive effort was a bit of a surprise. ODU had come into the game ranked 81st in FCS in total defense (397 yards per game) and ranked tied for 70th in scoring defense (28.4 points per game). The Dukes, however, were only able to manage a single score in the second half, a touchdown on a short field after a third-quarter Heinicke interception, and just 84 yards of total offense in the game’s final 30 minutes.
The bulk of those yards came on a fourth-quarter drive that ended inside the ODU 10 when Thorpe came up short on a fourth-and-inches play with 7:09 left. Thorpe took the snap in shotgun formation and was tripped up in the backfield as he made his way back toward the line of scrimmage, stumbling toward the first-down line before coming up a foot-and-a-half short.
ODU was able to run more than four minutes off the clock on its ensuing drive, and JMU turned the ball over on downs near midfield inside the twp-minute mark to effectively end it.