Luepke’s 2 TDs help NDSU beat JMU 20-14 in FCS semis

Dec 17, 2021, 7:45 AM | Updated: 9:46 pm

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Hunter Luepke had touchdown receptions of 32 and 22 yards to bookend the scoring and added 106 yards rushing on 17 carries to help No. 2 seed North Dakota State beat James Madison 20-14 on Friday night in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs.

North Dakota State (13-1) plays the winner between No. 8 seed Montana State and unseeded South Dakota State — which handed the Bison their only loss this season, 27-19 on Nov. 6 in Brookings, South Dakota — for the national championship in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 8.

NDSU has won three straight, and four of its five all-time, meetings with the Dukes, all in the FCS playoffs, and is 31-1 at home in postseason — the lone loss coming against JMU, 27-17 in the 2016 semifinals. The Bison beat JMU for the 2017 and 2019 national titles, winning 17-13 and 28-20, respectively.

Miller scrambled for an 11-yard gain on third-and-12 and then lunged forward on a QB sneak to convert on fourth-and-short on a 15-play, 74-yard drive that took more than 6 minutes off the clock but ultimately ended when Jake Reinholz made a 20-yard field goal that made it 13-0 with 2 seconds left in the second quarter.

JMU’s offense, which was limited to three first downs and just 71 yards in the first half, faced just one third down on an 13-play, 80-yard drive on the first possession after halftime that culminated with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Antwane Wells Jr. with 8:51 left in the third quarter. Cole Johnson hit Devin Ravenel for a 4-yard score and JMU, which went into the game 11-0 this season when leading at the end of the third quarter, took a 14-13 lead into the fourth.

Luepke had three consecutive touches — a 34-yard reception, a 4-yard run and then a 22-yard TD catch — to give the Bison a 20-14 lead with 13:44 to play.

Johnson was 25-of-34 passing for 210 yards. The sixth-year senior, who went into the game having thrown just two interceptions this season, was picked off in the end zone by Dawson Weber early in the second quarter and Destin Talbert snatched a leaping one-handed interception in the end zone with 3:05 to play.

The Dukes (12-2) begin their transition to the FBS.

Wide receiver Christian Watson did not play for NDSU. The 6-foot-5, 208-pound senior, a projected mid-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft, missed the first two playoff games with a hamstring injury.

North Dakota State, which has won eight of the last 10 FCS national championships, limited the Dukes to their fewest points since West Virginia beat JMU 20-13 on August 31, 2019.

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Luepke’s 2 TDs help NDSU beat JMU 20-14 in FCS semis