HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP)Ben DiNucci threw for two touchdowns and ran for another Saturday night and James Madison routed Weber State 30-14 to reach the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game.
The Dukes (14-1) led 24-7 at halftime, added two second-half field goals let their defense take care of the rest. They will face North Dakota State, 42-14 winners against Montana State earlier Saturday, for the national championship in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 11.
Weber State (11-4) saw its playoff run end at Bridgeforth Stadium for the second time in three seasons, but unlike a last-second 31-28 loss in 2017, this one was never in question. James Madison got a field goal and two touchdown on its first three possessions, at one point held a 199-11 advantage in yards gained and gave a very modest crowd plenty to cheer on a frigid evening.
DiNucci hit Riley Stapleton for touchdowns of 18 and 34 yards and also scored on a 1-yard run. Ethan Ratke, whose field goal won that 2017 game, added field goals of 32, 37 and 27 yards, giving him a Colonial Athletic Association single-season record of 25. Stapleton had nine catches for 162 yards.
The Wildcats’ scores came on Kevin Smith’s 2-yard catch from Jake Constantine after Weber State fell behind 17-0, and Constantine’s 22-yard throw to Ty MacPherson with under 3 minutes remaining in the game.
Weber St.: The Wildcats figured to struggle offensively. They arrived 51st nationally in scoring offense and 89th in total offense and were facing a Dukes defense that led the nation in total defense (265.3 yards per game) and rushing defense (60.4).
James Madison: The Dukes took the momentum into the locker room after a bizarre sequence to end the first half. First, James Madison passed on a 46-yard field goal try on fourth-and-3 from the 29 and DiNucci hit Polk for 15 yards. The Dukes then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 32 seconds left, got a delay of game penalty, then a holding call, then an incomplete pass, another delay of game and another incomplete pass, giving them a fourth-and-30 from the 34. Ratke’s field goal try came up well short, but Weber State had called timeout before the kick, giving the Dukes another chance. This time, DiNucci hit Riley Stapleton in the end zone to make it 24-7.
James Madison will face North Dakota State, winner of seven of the last eight national championships, in the championship game on Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas. The only team to interrupt NDSU’s title dominance? James Madison, the 2016 champ.