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James Madison topples Weber State, will take on North Dakota State in FCS title game

Credit: James Madison

Redshirt senior Ben DiNucci threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another as second-ranked James Madison University (14-1) defeated third-ranked Weber State 30-14 in Saturday’s second FCS semifinal game before a crowd of 10,487 at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Va.

DiNucci, a Pitt transfer, completed 19 of 26 passes for 255 yards and rushed for an additional 62 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run, capping a 9-play, 65-yard scoring drive to start the second quarter.

Wide receiver Riley Stapleton, a 6-5, 230-pound redshirt senior from Indiana, Pa., caught nine passes for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Dukes, who led 10-0 after the opening quarter and by a 24-7 margin at the intermission.

JMU amassed 467 total yards in the contest compared to only 256 for visiting Weber State, which finished the season with an 11-4 record.

With the victory, James Madison advances to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) title game against two-time defending champion North Dakota State in Frisco, Texas, on January 11th

Top-ranked North Dakota State has won the FCS championship in seven of the past eight seasons.

ALSO: North Dakota State routs Montana State 42-14 to advance to FCS championship game

The Dukes advanced to Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Weber State of the Big Sky Conference by mauling Monmouth 66-21 in the second round of the playoffs and shutting out Northern Iowa 17-0 in the quarterfinals.

This will be James Madison’s fourth appearance in the championship game.  The Dukes, whose only loss this year occurred in their season opener when they were narrowly defeated by FBS West Virginia 20-13 in Morgantown, won the 2016 national championship when they beat Bo Pelini’s Youngstown State Penguins 28-14. 

The Dukes lost the title game the following year, falling to perennial power North Dakota State 17-13 when Bryan Schor’s last-ditch toss to the end zone on a fourth-and-long fell incomplete with less than a minute to play.   

JMU captured its first national championship in 2004 — a year the Dukes outscored Montana 31-21 in the title game in Chattanooga.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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