By Matthew Dougherty
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This story is courtesy of the Patriot League and Colgate athletics
HARRISONBURG, VA. — Colgate found a way to win another close game, continuing its magic late in the season with a 44-38 victory at No. 5 seed James Madison in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium.
The Raiders (9-4) advance to the quarterfinal round of the postseason for the first time since 2003, and become the first Patriot League squad to make the quarterfinals since Lehigh in 2011.
Colgate will play Sam Houston State, which upset No. 4 McNeese State on Saturday night in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Colgate won its seventh straight game and ninth in the last 10, and earned the eighth single-digit win in that run and the seventh by a touchdown or less.
The Raiders once again got big plays late on both sides of the ball to earn the win.
Jake Melville scored on a three-yard run for a 44-38 lead with 9:15 to go, and the defense preserved the win when Josh Ford broke up a pass in the end zone with three minutes left on a fourth-and-goal play from the three-yard line.
James Holland picked up a first down on third-and-one when Colgate got the ball and the Raiders ran out the clock to secure the win.
Colgate had taken the early advantage as a field goal was followed by a two-yard touchdown run by Holland and a 10-yard pass from Melville to John Quazza for a 17-0 lead at 14:53 of the second quarter.
James Madison got back in it with the next two touchdowns, with Holland giving Colgate a 24-14 lead with a 63-yard scoring run with 4:46 left in the second quarter.
The Dukes scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter, with the second coming on an interception return, and grabbed a 28-24 lead at the half.
Colgate’s defense came up with two sacks to stop James Madison on the first possession of the second half, and Melville followed with a 32-yard touchdown run to put the Raiders up 31-28 with 11:25 left in the third quarter.
James Madison evened the score on a field goal, but Colgate re-gained the lead with Melville’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Alex Greenawalt with 5:33 left in the third.
JMU evened the score at 38-38 with 11:18 left in the fourth quarter.
Colgate quickly got in position for the go-ahead touchdown when Melville busted off a 67-yard run to get the ball to the five yard line, and the quarterback scored two plays later for the 44-38 lead.
The teams exchanged three-and-outs, and JMU reached a 1st-and-goal at the Colgate eight on its next possession. Three runs got the Dukes to the Colgate three before Ford made the key fourth-down pass breakup to keep the Raiders in front.
Holland and Melville dominated on the ground for the Raiders, with the former rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns and the latter going for 163 yards and two scores.
Colgate totaled 343 rushing yards in the game, breaking the Patriot League record for an FCS playoff game by 92 yards (Lehigh, 251 vs. Western Illinois, 2000). Melville’s 11.6 yards per carry average also set a Patriot League record for a playoff game.
Melville threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and Colgate held a 463-298 edge in total yardage. Kyle Diener led the Colgate defense with 12 tackles as the Raiders had five tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries in the game.
The Raiders also tied the Patriot League playoff record for points in a game, matching the 44 scored by Fordham against Sacred Heart in last season’s first round.
Colgate’s victory gives the Patriot League a 12-22 mark in the FCS playoffs, and a 7-14 record in the Round of 16.
The Raiders are just the second Patriot League squad to win more than one game in a single postseason, joining the 2003 Colgate team which won three contests to advance to the national title game.
This year’s Colgate team joins the 2003 squad as well as Lehigh in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2011 and Fordham in 2002 as Patriot League schools advancing to the FCS quarterfinals.
• Colgate shocked the Bridgeforth Stadium crowd by posting a 17-0 lead just one play into the second quarter.
• But James Madison answered with 28 points in that second stanza. Only a Holland 63-yard TD run kept the Raiders within 28-24 at halftime.
• Colgate bounced back with a 14-point third quarter and led 38-31 entering the final 15 minutes.
• The Dukes tied it early in the fourth but then Colgate answered with 9:15 remaining to go on top 44-38.
• Colgate missed the extra point and the six-point lead seemed to be in jeopardy, but the Raider defense held once again. Shades of the Fordham and Lehigh games – and Georgetown – and Bucknell – and New Hampshire.
Rushing Facts & Figures
• Holland and Melville had runs of 63 and 67 yards, respectively. Holland’s went for a touchdown, while Melville was pulled down at the JMU 5.
• Holland’s 63-yarder was Colgate’s longest rush for a TD since Jimmy DeCicco broke free for a 77-yard score at Cornell in 2013. DeCicco was one of many Raider football alums in Saturday’s crowd.
• Both Melville and Holland rushed for two touchdowns. Melville scored on a 32-yarder to open the third quarter and on the 3-yarder that finished the scoring with 9:15 remaining in the game.
• Holland scored from 2 yards out in the first and from 63 yards in the second.
• Holland carried a career-high 27 times to gain his 165 yards, averaging 6.1 per try.
• Melville carried 14 times for an 11.6 average.
• Colgate’s 343-yard rushing afternoon was a season high.
Melville Magic – Most of the Time
• Melville had some lucky bounces throwing the ball – and some not so fortunate.
• He finished 8-of-23 for 120 yards and two touchdowns. His first TD pass was tipped into the waiting arms of John Quazza, who stayed in bounds to make it 17-0 Raiders on the first play of the second quarter.
• But just before intermission, Melville was picked for the first time in 209 attempts. JMU’s Jordan Brown waltzed the interception 17 yards into the end zone to cap a 28-point Dukes quarter.
• James Madison led 28-24 at halftime.
• Melville’s second touchdown pass was a lob to the right corner that Alex Greenawalt hauled in from 17 yards out to make it 38-31 Raiders late in the third quarter.
• Melville eclipsed the career 1,500-yard rushing mark and now has 1,583.• He also jumped to sixth in season passing yards with 2,410. He passed Ryan Vena (2,298) and Gavin McCarney (2,372) in the process. Melville and McCarney both hail from Sparta, New Jersey.
More Key Info
• Kyle Diener‘s 12 tackles led all defenders. He increased his team-high total to 121.
• Alex Campbell added eight tackles and Charles Cairnie seven. That duo also posted the game’s only two sacks, and they came on JMU’s opening drive of the third quarter as Colgate turned the momentum.
• The Raiders won that period 14-3 to register their second straight successful third quarter in as many weeks.
• Colgate now has 36 sacks for the season.
• Nikko Armiento punted four times for a 40.8-yard average.
• All three turnovers in the game resulted in points.
• JMU fumbled a kickoff in the first quarter and a punt in the third, and the Raiders cashed in both times for touchdowns. The Dukes did the same, obviously, with the pick-six just before halftime.
• Cortney Mimms in the first quarter and Cairnie in the third had the Colgate fumble recoveries.
• Colgate finished with a 35:20 to 24:40 edge in time of possession, which wasn’t surprising because James Madison has a quick-strike offense. But the 73-59 Raider edge in plays proved decisive.
• The TD catches by Quazza and Greenawalt were their only receptions of the day.
• JMU’s Schor finished 13-of-18 passing for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
• Ravenel finished with four catches for 34 yards and five kickoff returns for a whopping 184 yards.• The Dukes finished with three scoring drives of less than 50 yards – plus the pick-six.
Don’t Leave Early
• Colgate won its seventh straight game Saturday, and all seven have come by single digits.
• Starting with the Georgetown game Oct. 17, the Raiders have won by 4, 2, 9, 7, 4, 7 and now 6.
• That’s an average victory margin of just 5.6.
• The seven-game winning streak is Colgate’s longest since the 2012 squad won its last seven of the regular season en route to the Patriot League title and NCAA playoffs.
• James Madison carried all the momentum coming out of the halftime locker room.
• The Dukes had scored 28 second-quarter points to overcome a 17-0 Colgate lead, and received the ball to begin the third quarter leading 28-24.
• But Cairnie sacked JMU’s Schor on the first play for a 12-yard loss. Two plays later, Campbell sacked Schor for another six yards to force a punt.
• Christian Hardegree returned the punt a Raider season-long 26 yards to set Colgate up at the JMU 37.
• Three plays later, Melville scored on a 32-yard scamper around left end and the Raiders led 31-28.
• They never trailed again.