And this JMU Duke couldn’t be more excited.
It’s happened before, and it’s happened as a bigger upset, but I have never been more excited to see an FCS (1-AA) school beat an FBS (1-A) school.
James Madison University, currently the 12th ranked school in FCS, upset the Virginia Tech Hokies, 21-16 in Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech came into this season with BCS and outside national title hopes. Well they can forget that now, the national title hopes especially.
Thanks to the magic of the interwebs (God bless ESPN3.com) I was able to watch the entirety of this game. I’ll admit, I fully expected my Dukes to get smoked. After watching Tech chew of seven minutes of clock and methodically move down the field on their first possession, I was almost certain it was going to happen.
Tech added a field goal before JMU showed a bit of life. Quarterback Drew Dudzik threw a screen to Jamal Sullivan. Sullivan broke tackles, danced on the sideline, and then outran the Hokie defense to score a 77-yard touchdown. The Hokies got another field goal and led at halftime 13-7.
I figured, as usually happens in these match-ups, that Virginia Tech’s depth and size would wear JMU down and it was only a matter of time before the Hokies started scoring in bunches.
JMU had other plans. Was there some luck involved? Sure, especially two huge penalties committed by the Hokies. (One was a defensive holding that gave JMU a first and goal at the seven. The other was a roughing the punter when Tech was about to get the ball back with seconds to go to try and get a desperation drive. That last one put JMU in victory formation.)
But more than anything, JMU earned this victory. They caused three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception. Some might say the constant rain during the game had something to do with that and that might be true, but JMU didn’t commit any turnovers. Those three plays were huge. Also, in the second half the Dukes’ offensive line simply outplayed Tech’s defensive line, especially on the left side. The left side of JMU’s line was constantly blowing up Tech’s defenders and creating huge running lanes. Dudzik scored twice on running plays in which he faked a hand-off right, boot legged left, and took off up the field.
Whatever the reason, the rain, the turnovers, the fatigue from having just played Boise State on Monday, Virginia Tech didn’t do what they needed to do in the second half to win the game. JMU did.
So where does this rank historically? I think it is easily on the short list of biggest upsets in college football history. It’s not the biggest, but it is up there. As far as JMU history this is one of the top two events in their athletic history, depending on your perspective (the other being when they won the 2004 1-AA football title.) From an outsider’s (non-JMU fan) perspective this is probably the biggest, because this one puts JMU on the national map. This one will be talked about on all of the networks and websites and blogs. Ten years from now more people will remember that JMU beat no. 13 Virginia Tech.
Today was the most excited I have ever been as a JMU fan. More than the national title game. More than the 21-point comeback win over Appalachian State two years ago. More than last year’s close call against Maryland. I started attending JMU in 1998 and supported them through some lean years. Aside from one playoff berth in 1999 the team was awful, even by 1-AA standards, and people usually went to the games to see our incredible marching band. Frankly, the band put a better product on the field. That all changed in 2004 when JMU won the title. They have been near the top of the FCS rankings ever since.
Today was huge though, and a day that all of us who bleed purple will remember forever.
About the Author
Written by Gabriel Rodriguez
Born in Germany, early childhood in NYC, raised in the D.C. area, currently reside in Charlottesville, VA. Big fan of the NY Giants and San Antonio Spurs.