HARRISONBURG - This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. Not this year. Certainly not to this team.
Colgate quarterback Jake Melville rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more to lead the Raiders to a 44-38 upset of No. 5-seeded James Madison in Saturday’s second-round FCS playoff game at Bridgeforth Stadium.
But happen it did. Melville passed for 120 yards and rushed for 163. Included in his rushing exploits were two of the game’s biggest plays: a 32-yard touchdown run early in the third period and a 67-yard fourth-quarter keeper that set up Colgate’s game-winning score. Melville’s 3-yard run with 9:12 remaining put the Raiders ahead to stay.
“He’s very talented and he’s very smart,” JMU coach Everett Withers said. “They don’t ask him to run many plays” in an offensive scheme that bears a more-than-casual resemblance to Georgia Tech’s triple option. “But the plays he runs, he runs very, very well.”
Too well for the Dukes. Melville’s performance brought JMU’s season, a season that once offered promise in abundance, to an ashen conclusion. Players struggled to cope in the game’s aftermath.
“It hurts. It definitely hurts,” said junior wideout Brandon Ravenel, who returned five kickoffs for 184 yards. “When you’ve got a group of guys like this — a group of brothers, almost — the bond is very special. Football becomes second, almost. Family — which is what we are — comes first. That’s why it’s such a painful experience. It really hurts.”
Said offensive guard Austin Lane, a redshirt senior: “Every single one of us, every single person on that field, bleeds and sweats and cries for everyone else.”
It showed. Ravenel seemed unaware of his remarkable numbers. “I wish I could have done something else. I wish I could have done more,” he said.
Wideout Rashard Davis, who caught three passes for 45 yards and a pair of scores, said the Dukes “just couldn’t get things rolling. There were times when we’d do what we wanted, and there were times when we’d shoot ourselves in the foot. We just couldn’t seem to get past those times.”
This likely was a reference to a pair of lethal turnovers in the kicking game. Dukes senior Deane Cheatham (Hanover) mishandled the kickoff after Colgate’s first-possession field goal. The Raiders turned that gift into a touchdown. JMU sophomore John Miller muffed a punt at the midpoint of the third quarter. That gaffe, too, led quickly to a Colgate touchdown.
“You just can’t turn the ball over twice in the kicking game — and we did,” Withers said.
Nonetheless, the Dukes (9-3) didn’t surrender. JMU roared back from a 17-0 second-quarter deficit to take a 28-24 halftime lead. And it answered each of Colgate’s second-half scores with one of its own — each except the last, that is. Needing 6 points to tie and 7 to win, the Dukes drove to fourth-and-goal at the Colgate 3 with just over three minutes remaining.
But there would be no Hollywood finish. Bryan Schor’s high floater to Ravenel was broken up in the end zone by Josh Ford, a reserve defensive back for Colgate.
“I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind that we were going to get a stop,” Colgate linebacker Kyle Diener said. “We’ve been in that situation a lot this year. When our backs are against the wall, we always feel like someone’s going to make a play.”
The Dukes once felt that way about redshirt senior quarterback Vad Lee, the CAA offensive player of the year. Lee watched Saturday’s game from the sideline, his surgically repaired left foot still encased in a protective boot. Lee was injured in JMU’s Oct. 24 game with Richmond.
Colgate 10 14 14 6 — 44
James Madison 0 28 3 7 — 38
Colg–FG Bowman 21, 11:21.
Colg–Holland 2 run (Bowman kick), 9:06.
Colg–Quazza 10 pass from Melville (Bowman kick), 14:53.
JMU–Abdullah 2 run (Maglio kick), 12:28.
JMU–Schor 7 run (Maglio kick), 5:40.
Colg–Holland 63 run (Bowman kick), 4:46.
JMU–Davis 18 pass from Schor (Maglio kick), 3:14.
JMU–J.Brown 17 interception return (Maglio kick), 2:16.
Colg–Melville 32 run (Bowman kick), 11:25.
JMU–FG Maglio 40, 8:58.
Colg–Greenawalt 17 pass from Melville (Bowman kick), 5:33.
JMU–Davis 28 pass from Schor (Maglio kick), 11:18.
Colg–Melville 3 run (kick failed), 9:15.
First downs 17 16
Rushes-yards 50-343 41-157
Passing 120 141
Comp-Att-Int 8-23-1 13-18-0
Return Yards 30 45
Punts-Avg. 4-40.8 4-45.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 2-23 0-0
Time of Possession 35:20 24:40
RUSHING–Colgate, Holland 27-165, Melville 14-163, Russell 5-13, Wingenroth 2-10, Team 2-(minus 8). James Madison, Abdullah 14-73, C.Johnson 13-48, Schor 14-36.
PASSING–Colgate, Melville 8-23-1-120. James Madison, Schor 13-18-0-141.
RECEIVING–Colgate, Maddaluna III 3-9, Ives 2-55, Wingenroth 1-29, Greenawalt 1-17, Quazza 1-10. James Madison, Ravenel 4-34, Davis 3-45, Taylor 2-33, Abdullah 2-22, Cheatham 1-5, J.Miller 1-2.