No. 3 JMU ends No. 17 Southeastern’s postseason run

Published 11:42 am Monday, December 6, 2021

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The No. 17 Southeastern Louisiana University football team’s postseason run was ended with a 59-20 defeat at the hands of third-seeded James Madison in the second round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs Saturday afternoon in Bridgeforth Stadium.

Southeastern earned its fourth trip to the postseason and finished the season with a 9-4 overall record. The Dukes (11-1) advanced to face No. 6 seed Montana in next weekend’s quarterfinals. Date and time will be announced for JMU’s battle with UM. The Lions made their third trip to the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs. SLU’s nine wins are tied for the second-most in program history.

Southeastern could not overcome five turnovers in the loss, as James Madison scored 17 unanswered points in the final 2:56 of the first half to break open the contest and increased the deficit with 21 straight points in the third quarter.

JMU quarterback Cole Johnson led the Duke offensive attack, throwing for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 12-for-22 passing, while also rushing for a score.

In his final game as a Lion, Southeastern quarterback and reigning Walter Payton Award winner Cole Kelley threw for 397 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions on 36-for-50 passing. Kelley’s top targets were Austin Mitchell (nine catches, 129 yards, one touchdown) and Brennon Dingle (6-88-1 TD).

Kelley’s final game capped one of the finest statistical seasons in the history of the FCS. The Lafayette, Louisiana native finished with 5,124 passing yards (second in FCS history) and 44 passing touchdowns (ninth in FCS history) on 406-for-552 passing. His single-season completion total sets a new FCS mark, passing the previous record set by Taylor Heineke for Old Dominion in 2012.

Kelley’s total touchdowns accounted for (44 passing, 16 rushing) gave him 60 for the year – one off the FCS record set by Willie Totten at Mississippi Valley State in 1984. His single-season total offensive total of 5,615 yards was the third-highest in FCS history.

Mitchell’s 100-plus yard performance was his school-record 10th of his career. The program’s career leader in receiving yardage (3,149) finished second in school history with 27 touchdown receptions and 192 catches as a Lion. Mitchell’s 2021 totals for receiving yards (1,184, 2nd), receptions (78, 2nd) and receiving touchdowns (10, 3rd) were among the best totals in program history.

Playing in his final game, Alexis Ramos led SLU with seven tackles. Mike Mason forced a fumble that Zy Alexander recovered for the Lions. Garrett Crawford, John Graves III and Herman Christophe all had sacks for the Lions.

After forcing a JMU three-and-out, SLU drew first blood. A 26-yard pass from Kelley to Mitchell highlighted an eight-play, 52-yard scoring drive that Mateo Rengifo capped with a 26-yard field goal to put the Lions up, 3-0, with just under nine minutes remaining in the opening period.

The Dukes answered with a quick 75-yard scoring drive that took five plays. Wells Jr. scored from 22 yards out on a short Johnson pass to put JMU up, 7-3, with 7:00 left in the first quarter.

Less than a minute later, SLU found the end zone. Dingle ran under a 54-yard bomb from Kelley to put the Lions up, 10-7, with 6:06 left in the opening period.

After the two teams traded punts, JMU jumped back on top. Johnson found a wide-open Solomon Vanhorse down the seam and he scored untouched from 63 yards out to put the Dukes up, 14-10, with just under two minutes left.

After a Southeastern punt, the Dukes padded the lead. Thornton ran down a 57-yard scoring throw from Johnson to put James Madison ahead, 21-10, with 13:06 left in the first half.

SLU pulled closer with a methodical 14-play, 64-yard scoring drive. Rengifo connected on a field goal from 28 yards out to cut the deficit to 21-13 with 4:34 left in the second quarter.

After Southeastern forced a punt, Kelley was sacked by Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey and fumbled with Kelvin Azanama recovering at the Lion 21-yard line. On the next play, Johnson found Wells Jr. for his fourth passing touchdown of the quarter to increase the Dukes’ advantage to 28-13 with 2:56 left in the first half.

On the next drive, Kelley was intercepted by Greg Ross and the Dukes took over at the SLU 35-yard line. On the ensuing play, Johnson broke free for a 35-yard touchdown run to put the Dukes ahead, 35-13, with 2:23 left in the second quarter.

Following the score, Kelley was intercepted by Tucker-Dorsey to give the Dukes the ball at the Southeastern 22-yard line. The Lion defense stiffened, but Ethan Ratke connected on a 25-yard field goal to extend the JMU advantage to 38-13 with 33 seconds left in the first half.

On the opening drive of the second half, Tucker-Dorsey stepped in front of a Kelley pass and returned the interception 43 yards for a touchdown to put James Madison up, 45-13, with 13:34 left in the third quarter.

JMU forced Southeastern to punt and then padded its lead. Johnson found Wells Jr. for his third score of the game – this one from 31 yards out – to put the Dukes up, 52-13, midway through the third quarter.

After another Southeastern punt, Thornton scored on an end around from three yards out to give James Madison a 59-13 advantage with 3:57 left in the third quarter.

Southeastern got on the board for the first time in the second half early in the third quarter. Kelley found Mitchell from eight yards out to cut the lead to 59-20 a little over a minute into the fourth quarter. The touchdown set a new FCS single-season school record for completions for Kelley.

On the next drive, Mike Mason stripped Austin Douglas and Zy Alexander pounced on the loose ball at the Lion 48-yard line. The Lions were turned over on downs, however, and neither team scored the remainder of the contest.

SLU – 10 3 0 7 – 20 (9-4)

JMU – 14 24 21 0 – 59 (11-1)

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter
SLU – Rengifo 21 FG, 8:58

JMU – Wells Jr. 22 pass from Johnson (Ratke kick), 7:00

SLU – Dingle 54 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 6:06
JMU – Vanhorse 63 pass from Johnson (Ratke kick), 1:51
2nd Quarter

JMU – Thornton 57 pass from Johnson (Ratke kick), 13:06
SLU – Rengifo 28 FG, 4:34
JMU – Wells Jr. 21 pass from Johnson (Ratke kick), 2:56

JMU – Johnson 35 run (Ratke kick), 2:23

JMU – Ratke 33 FG, 0:33

3rd Quarter

JMU – Tucker-Dorsey 43 interception return (Ratke kick), 13:34

JMU – Wells Jr. 31 pass from Johnson (Ratke kick), 7:43

JMU – Thornton 3 run (Ratke kick), 3:57
4th Quarter

SLU – Mitchell 8 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 13:49

                                                                         SLU        JMU

FIRST DOWNS                                              21           20
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)                                  25-42      31-163

PASSING YDS (NET)                                       397         321

Passes Att-Comp-Int                                          36-50-3   12-22-0

TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS                75-439    53-484

Fumble Returns-Yards                                        1-0          2-0

Kickoff Returns-Yards                                       7-70        2-42

Punt Returns-Yards                                             2-(-10)    1-13

Interception Returns-Yards                                 0-0          3-88

Punts (Number-Avg)                                           5-41.0     5-41.8

Fumbles-Lost                                                      4-2          1-1

Penalties-Yards                                                   5-45        9-70

Possession Time.                                                 35:58      24:02

Third-Down Conversions                                    5-for-14  4-for-10

Fourth-Down Conversions                                  1-for-2    0-for-0

Red Zone Scores-Chances                                  3-3          2-2

RUSHING: SLU – T. Jones 9-18, Kelley 13-11, Givan 1-6, Mitchell 1-4, Larvadain 1-3. Totals – 25-42. JMU – Douglas 5-51, Johnson 4-44, Palmer 9-32, Ravenel 1-19, Malignaggi 3-10, Bentley 1-8, Thornton 1-3, Bryant Jr. 2-(-1), Vanhorse 5-(-3). Totals – 31-163.

PASSING: SLU – Kelley 36-50-3-397-2. Totals – 36-50-3-397-2. JMU – Johnson 12-22-0-321-5. Totals – 12-22-0-321-5.

RECEIVING: SLU – Mitchell 9-129, T. Jones 7-50, Dingle 6-88, Givan 4-20, Larvadain 3-22, Kovacs 2-26, Carter 2-18, Drobocky 1-11, Britt 1-5, Dawson 1-4. Totals – 36-373. JMU – Wells Jr. 6-123, Thornton 2-72, Vanhorse 1-63, Brown 1-39, Palmer 1-14, Ravenel 1-10. Totals – 12-321.

A – 11,743.

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