JMU defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter (Photo courtesy of JMU Athletics)
Virginia’s hottest football program faces off against a dynasty in NDSU
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
#2 James Madison (14-1) vs. #1 North Dakota State (15-0), Noon Saturday at Frisco, Texas (ABC)
This is the game that James Madison has worked so hard to reach.
The Dukes go into Saturday’s game against North Dakota State with a 14-game winning streak after losing their season opener to West Virginia.
North Dakota State comes in as defending National Champions on a 35-game winning streak. The Bison haven’t lost a game since the regular season of 2017 when they dropped a 33-21 loss to rival South Dakota State.
These two teams have the longest winning streaks in FBS football. Not only does NDSU have the longer streak, they have the longer track record when it comes to winning big games.
James Madison and North Dakota State last met in the 2017 National Championship Game. NDSU won that one 17-13. When JMU won their 2016 National Championship, they knocked off the Bison in the semifinal round.
So there’s a history here. James Madison and North Dakota State will meet for the fourth time. All of the previous meetings have come in the post-season, and NDSU holds a 2-1 advantage.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
James Madison: defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter (6-3 269) is a consensus All-American for the 2019 season. The redshirt senior started in all 15 games, had 59 total tackles (27 solo), 25.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, one forced fumble, 13 quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
Offensively, the Dukes will rely on the leadership of senior quarterback Ben Dinucci (6-3 210). Dinucci has started all 15 games this season and he leads the nation in completion percentage at 71.3%. Ben has completed 246 of 345 attempts for 3,237 yards and 27 touchdowns with five interceptions. In the run game, Dinucci has rushed for 560 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He is an AFCA First Team All-American and was the CAA Offensive Player of the Year.
A record 10 Dukes were named All-Americans this season. Joining Carter were Liam Fornadel, John Daka, Ben DiNucci, Dimitri Holloway, Adam Smith, D’Angelo Amos, Percy Agyei-Obese, Mac Patrick and Ethan Ratke.
North Dakota State: Bison quarterback Trey Lance has attempted 278 career passes without an interception. He’s the Division I FCS Offensive Player of the Year after piling up a gaudy stat line of 2,714 passing yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for 934 yards and 13 scores as a redshirt freshman.
NDSU has a 35-2 record in the FCS playoffs. They’ve won 15 national championships in football, including seven of the last eight FCS championships.
The Bison average 37.9 points per game while only surrendering 11.8 points per game, which leads the nation in scoring defense.
Both head coaches are in their first season leading their program.
NDSU is coached by first year head coach Matt Entz, who was elevated from defensive coordinator to head coach after the departure of Chris Klieman. Klieman took the head coaching position at Kansas State after winning four national championships in five years for the Bison, with an overall W-L record of 69-6 in his tenure with the program. Entz is in his 22nd year as a college coach.
Like Entz, James Madison’s Curt Cignetti is in his first year as the head coach. Cignetti came to the program after a successful stint as the head coach at Elon University where the Phoenix were 14-9 in his two seasons there. Prior to Cignetti’s arrival at Elon, the Phoenix had suffered six straight losing seasons. Coach Cignetti had Elon ranked as high as #6 in the nation and knocked off James Madison, ending JMU’s 22-game CAA Football winning streak. He is in his 37th year of coaching and his ninth season as a college head coach.
With a win, the Bison would be the first team to win 16 games in a season since Yale did it in 1894. Last year’s 15-0 North Dakota State team was the fifth to go undefeated and untied in winning the FCS championship, joining Eastern Kentucky in 1982 (13-0), Georgia Southern in 1989 (15-0), Marshall in 1996 (15-0) and NDSU in 2013 (15-0).
The Dukes will have their hands full with North Dakota State. Their last meeting was a defensive battle and NDSU does not give up many points. The weather in Frisco on Saturday is expected to be partly cloudy with no chance of rain and a temperature of 45 degrees.
– Andy Hilton