Appalachian State ruins James Madison’s undefeated season, further diminishing bowl hopes

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The James Madison Dukes entered Saturday’s game against Appalachian State with a 10-0 record. But, the No. 18 team in the AP Top 25 poll suffered their first lost of the year. 

The Dukes are currently in the mandatory two-year transition period after making the jump from the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision level to the highest level of college football, the FBS. 

The school has sought waiver approval, which would grant full bowl eligibility. But those requests have been denied.

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Appalachian State wide receiver Kaedin Robinson (2) tries to outrun James Madison safety Jacob Thomas (27) after shedding cornerback Chauncey Logan (2) and linebacker Noah Holmes, right, on his way to scoring the game-winning touchdown during overtime of an NCAA college football game in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)

James Madison was hoping to improve its record to 11-0 on Saturday. The team jumped ahead in overtime courtesy of a 25-yard field goal. A video review confirmed that Appalachian State’s Kaedin Robinson did get the football across the goal line to secure the Duke 26-23 win.

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James Madison has not been included in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s weekly rankings since the team is not bowl eligible. The team is also not allowed to play in the conference championship.

The Dukes finished last season with an 8-3 record.

James Madison runs with the football

James Madison running back Ty Son Lawton (7) tries to avoid a tackle from Appalachian State cornerback Ethan Johnson (19) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.  (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)

Last month, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares wrote the NCAA a letter pleading the school’s case. He also hired a law firm that is arguing for JMU’s inclusion in bowl consideration based on the Dukes’ record, national ranking and success in its two-year process of reclassifying from the FCS to the FBS.

Miyares is a James Madison alum.

Teams have to win six games in order to be bowl eligible. There are currently 41 bowl games scheduled for the end of the season, which would put 82 teams up against each other. But, there will likely be a shortage of teams with enough wins to qualify for all the bowls this year.

James Madison quarterback throws the football

James Madison quarterback Jordan McCloud (2) winds up a pass under pressure from Appalachian State defensive end Michael Fletcher (5) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)

If there are bowl game vacancies, James Madison will likely be one of the schools at the top of the list to fill an empty spot. However, the Dukes were hoping to finish the year with an unblemished record as they were seeking consideration for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl are the FBS bowl games that make up the New Year’s Six bowls. 

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Robinson finished Saturday’s game with four catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Appalachian State quarterback Joey Aguilar threw for 318 passing yards and three touchdowns, against one interception.

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Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark praised his team for prevailing against a ranked opponent.

“It’s a big win for our program against a ranked football team in James Madison,” Clark said. “I was very proud of everyone involved. This was not an upset. This was the next game on our schedule. I think it shows you things still go through Boone, North Carolina, and we’re not backing down from them.

“You have to give credit to James Madison, they have one of the best defenses in the country,” Clark added. “They are first in yards rushing per game and we knew that. So we wanted to protect the quarterback and let Joey go through his progressions. Joey played a great game and our backs ran well enough to move the sticks, but Joey and our receivers had an excellent game”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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