The North Dakota Fighting Hawks and #3 James Madison Dukes clash in the quarterfinals of the spring FCS playoffs. UND defeated Missouri State handily in round one, 44-10, and JMU held off in-state foe VMI, 31-24.
Saturday’s contest kicks off at 6 p.m. EST inside Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, VA. The broadcast can be seen on ESPN2.
According to BetUS sportsbook, James Madison is a 2½-point favorite over the Fighting Hawks.
What to Know – North Dakota Fighting Hawks
North Dakota spent a month away from the gridiron due to postponements and cancellations but still got a nod for the postseason. UND controlled Saturday’s opener against the Bears to lock up its first victory in the FCS playoffs. The Fighting Hawks finished the spring slate with a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
UND enters the quarterfinals averaging 31.3 points per game behind 405.3 total yards of offense. Defensively, the Fighting Hawks hold opponents to 18.8 points and 343.2 yards.
North Dakota scored on their first four possessions and held the Bears to 185 yards of offense. The Fighting Hawks threw for 221 yards and added another 141 yards on the ground. UND’s defense forced two turnovers and recorded a D1 record eight sacks.
Quarterback Tommy Schuster completed 13-of-18 passes for 223 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Freshman wide receiver hauled in four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, Otis Weah carried the ball 13 times for 64 carries and one score. The redshirt sophomore has found paydirt in six straight games. Freshman reserve Creighton Mitchell added five carries for 37 yards and his first collegiate touchdown.
What to Know – James Madison Dukes
James Madison took care of business in the opening round of its seventh straight playoff appearance. The Dukes led by double-digits through most of the contest and held the Keydets to just three points in the first half. JMU’s undefeated regular season earned them the three seed in the FCS playoffs.
The Dukes score 33.3 points per game while racking up 447.8 yards of total offense. On defense, JMU allows 12.2 points and 213.5 yards per game, both top-3 in the nation.
JMU rushed for over 300 yards, including 209 in the first half, and built up a sizable lead to hold off a late comeback try by VMI to advance to the quarterfinals for the fourth time in five playoff appearances. The Dukes churned out 509 yards of total offense and were nine of 17 on third down.
Redshirt senior Cole Johnson threw for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added 28 yards on the ground. For the first time this season, the Dukes posted a pair of running backs with over 100-yards rushing, with redshirt senior Jawon Hamilton exploding for a career-high 171 yards and senior Percy Agyei-Obese chipping in 110 yards.
JMU’s defense forced three turnovers, all interceptions, and controlled the time of possession, holding on to the ball for 35:50.
The Pick is In
North Dakota looked tough in claiming its first FCS playoff win in school history. The Fighting Hawks dominated both sides of the ball and will need to step up another level on Saturday against the Dukes.
The Dukes undefeated for a reason, and their strengths were on full display Saturday. JMU is a tough out at home in the playoffs, having won its last ten postseason games at Bridgeforth Stadium.
James Madison scores a late touchdown to send UND home, winning 28-24 to advance to the semifinals.