Montana ends JMU run
The game went the way James Madison coach Mickey Matthews expected it would. Except for the four JMU turnovers.
“This is the first time in my 32 years in coaching that I’ve been in a game where we never punted and lost. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of that,” said Matthews, whose Dukes lost three fumbles, two on Montana kickoffs, en route to a deflating 35-27 loss to the Grizzlies Friday night in the I-AA national semifinals.
Matthews also lost senior quarterback Rodney Landers on the final series of the first half to an ankle injury. Backup Drew Dudzik availed himself well after a jittery start, throwing an interception inside the Montana 5 at the end of the first half that killed an important JMU scoring opportunity.
Dudzik scored from 10 yards out on Madison’s de facto first possession of the second half – which came after back-to-back Montana scores that were aided by the second of two JMU fumbles on Grizz kickoffs – to cut the Montana margin to 28-17 midway through the third. Montana QB Cole Bergquist connected with Mike Ferriter on a 9-yard pass for a TD to make it 35-17 at the end of three, but JMU rallied in the fourth to make a game of it, forcing a safety on a bad punt snap and then scoring on the ensuing possession on an 18-yard Dudzik run that Dudzik capped with a captivating two-point conversion run for the highlight reels that had him helicoptering through the air into the end zone. The officials initially ruled Dudzik down before reaching the end zone, but the call was reversed after an instant-replay review.
The Dukes’ defense held Montana on its next series, giving Dudzik one more chance, but after a questionable holding call negated a first-down pass at the Montana 38, two Dudzik passes fell incomplete, and Montana kneeled to run out the clock.
“The turnovers were crucial. I’m sure Mickey will be very disappointed that that was huge in the outcome. But it is in big games,” said Montana coach Bobby Hauck, who will be making his second appearance in the I-AA national championship game. The first came four years ago against JMU in a game the Dukes won by a 31-21 final.
Friday’s game was the finale for Landers, who had to watch the final two quarters of his college career from the sidelines after his second-quarter injury.
“It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. First because it’s the end of our season. Secondly because it’s my last game. It’s just a frustrating feeling being on the sideline and watching your teammates giving 110 percent, and you feel helpless over there,” said Landers, who ran for 84 yards on 17 carries, but only completed one of his four pass attempts for 15 yards in his final game in Harrisonburg.
Dudzik ran for 88 yards on 12 carries and was 6-of-13 for 70 yards throwing the ball in relief of Landers.
– Story by Chris Graham