James Madison stuns Bison with 27-17 loss

Forum News Service Khalid Abdullah of James Madison carries against North Dakota State during their NCAA FCS Semifinal football game Friday in Fargo.

FARGO — The North Dakota State football team’s six-year run of playoff perfection came to an end Friday night against the team it all started with.

James Madison University claimed a 27-17 semifinal win in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before a raucous and stunned crowd of 18,282 at the Fargodome. The upset marked the first FCS playoff loss since 2010 for the Bison — which began its 22-0 playoff run in 2011 with a 26-14 opening-round Fargodome win over James Madison.

So instead of NDSU aiming for an unprecedented sixth straight national championship, James Madison will advance to the Jan. 7 FCS title game in Frisco, Texas, with hopes of winning its second title and first since 2004.

Clinging to a 20-17 lead late in the game, James Madison’s offense — shut down for much of the second half — came to life. Khalid Abdullah, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior from Newport News, Va., who rushed for 180 yards, broke free on a 55 -yard run to the Bison 25.

NDSU drove to the James Madison 37 before a fourth-down incompletion ended the drive with 3:53 remaining. NDSU got the ball back on its own 18 with 2:19 remaining but picked up only two first downs before giving up the ball with 57 seconds remaining.

On third down and 10, quarterback Bryan Schor found an open John Miller in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to give James Madison a 27-17 lead with 6:59 remaining.

Trailing 17-7, NDSU scored on its first two possessions of the second half to tie the score.

The Bison took the opening drive of the second half to produce a 45-yard field goal, cutting the James Madison lead to 17-10 with 11:24 remaining of the third quarter. Lance Dunn broke free for a 22-yard gain plus a late-hit penalty on quarterback Easton Stick put the Bison on the Dukes’ 28 before the drive stalled.

On its next drive, NDSU capitalized on another late-hit penalty to move into James Madison territory. Darrius Shepherd made a falling catch for a 23-yard pickup to the Dukes’ 17. On second down, King Frazier ran through a big hole on the left side for a 16-yard touchdown run to help tie the score with 5:53 remaining of the third quarter.

With 11:46 remaining of the game, Tyler Gray hit a career-long 45-yard field goal to give James Madison a 20-17 lead. Facing fourth-and-19, it appeared quarterback Bryan Schor was sacked but James Madison had called timeout. Facing fourth-and-19 again, Schor punted but NDSU was whistled for offside setting up the field goal.

In the first half, Abdullah accounted for 175 (124 rushing, 51 receiving) of James Madison’s 301 total yards. The Bison offense was limited to 164 total yards. It all helped the Dukes build a 17-7 halftime lead. Here’s how they did it.

The Dukes got on the scoreboard first, after a 50-yard punt pinned them on their own 13. But on first down, Khalid Abdullah broke free for 29 yards. A facemask penalty put the Dukes on the Bison 43. On the next play, Abdullah ran for 28 yards to the 15.

On second down, quarterback Bryan Schor faked a handoff to Abdullah and threw a 14-yard scoring strike to tight end Jonathan Kloosterman. With 1:18 left of the first quarter, James Madison had a 7-0 lead.

The Dukes had a chance to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter after Ishmael Hyman hauled in a 34-yard catch to the Bison 5. But the Bison defense tackled Schor for a 5-yard loss on a third down run, and the Dukes settled for a Tyler Gray field goal to make it 10-0 with 11:59 remaining.

NDSU threatened to score on its next possession when running back Chase Morlock hauled in a 51-yard pass down the left sideline. But after two incompletions and a 2-yard run, Cam Pederson’s 45-yard field goal attempt was wide left.

James Madison’s high-powered offense marched right down the field on its next possession. On third-and-7, Schor dumped a pass to a wide open Abdullah for a 41-yard gain. On second down from the Bison 10, Schor found Abdullah wide open again for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Dukes a 17-0 lead with 6:51 remaining of the first half.

Facing their biggest deficit all season, the Bison responded by marching 73 yards in 11 plays to cut the lead to 17-7. Tight end Jeff Illies caught two passes for 25 yards on the drive before Morlock scored on a 3-yard run with 1:36 remaining.