JMU bounced from FCS playoffs by last-second Colgate field goal

jmuJMU football coach Mike Houston, apparently on his way out the door, dialed up a confounding fake punt that didn’t work, and opened the door for a short Colgate drive and game-winning field goal, in a 23-20 Dukes’ loss on Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

JMU (9-4) was also beset by five interceptions thrown by quarterback Ben DiNucci, who did redeem himself with a 7-yard TD run with 8:22 to go in the game that tied the score at 20.

After the Dukes defense forced a Colgate (10-1) punt, JMU got the ball back at its own 35 with 6:16 to go, and moved the ball into Red Raiders territory.

A DiNucci pass on third-and-5 at the Colgate 41 was incomplete, and Houston sent his punt team onto the field, ostensibly to pin Colgate back deep in its territory.

But the play call was actually a designed run by punter Harry O’Kelly, who only gained two yards, turning the ball over on downs to Colgate.

Two plays later, Grant Breneman connected with Owen Rockett on a 26-yard pass play that put the ball at the JMU 35.

James Holland picked up a first down with a four-yard run on a third-and-3 with 42 seconds left to get Colgate into field-goal range.

One more Holland run preceded a 38-yard field-goal try by Chris Puzzi that seemed to start right of the uprights before drawing back through as time expired.

JMU outgained Colgate 391-330. DiNucci was 19-of-33 passing for 192 yards, and ran for 76 yards on 10 carries.

Now the focus shifts for JMU fans as to the fate of Houston, who acknowledged on Wednesday that he had been in talks with Charlotte about its head-coaching vacancy, then on Thursday was connected to the vacancy at East Carolina.

On Friday, Charlotte withdrew its offer to Houston, but the ECU job remains very much in play for Houston, who has a career record of 80-25, including a 37-6 mark in three seasons at JMU.

Story by Chris Graham

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