FCS Playoff Game Breakdown: Northern Iowa at James Madison

Northern Iowa at James Madison
South Dakota State went right down the field and scored a touchdown on their initial drive and Northern Iowa must have been thinking, “Here comes the repeat of three weeks ago.” The Jackrabbits were held to a field goal later in the first quarter, staking a 10-0 lead. From there on, the Panthers flexed their defensive muscle, shutting SDSU out the rest of the way. The offense was held in check itself by a stingy SDSU defense. Eventually, the Panthers eroded that lead, converting a key 4th & 2 late in the fourth quarter. A long pass from freshman Will McElvain to wideout Suni Lane set up the eventual game-winning Michael Cook 18 yard field goal.
James Madison has been a defensive stalwart all season. So it was a surprise when they gave up a 93-yard touchdown run to Monmouth on the first play of the game. After the Dukes strike back quickly, the Hawks return the ensuing kickoff, again from 93 yards. After that first touchdown run, the Dukes gave up 0 yards on the last 17 carries! Quarterback Ben DiNucci was absolutely fabulous in the win, going 21 of 25 for 267 yards and two touchdowns, adding ten rushes for 66 yards and a third score. Jawon Hamilton and Percy Agyei-Obese ran for 95 and 90 yards, respectively. Agyei-Obese scored three times on the ground. The Dukes had already done a lot of damage to the Hawks and then Charles Tutt intercepted a pass, returning it 79 yards for the game’s final score.
It’s hard to imagine UNI running the ball effectively against the Dukes, when the best runner in FCS had the one explosive play and nothing else. The Panthers don’t have that kind of game. JMU is very, very experienced and you figure they will be mixing the looks up to try and confuse UNI’s young quarterback, McElvain. For there to be an upset, the Panther defense will have to hold JMU way below its lowest scoring output of the year against an FCS opponent (27 vs. Towson) to have a chance.
Prediction: James Madison 30, Northern Iowa 13